Simone Biles Reminds Us What’s Important


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Image: Tom Weller/DeFodi Images

A gold medal in courage.

You’ve seen by now that Simone Biles, the United States’ most prominent and talked about gymnast, has withdrawn from the 2021 Olympics, citing the need to focus on her mental health.

I don’t write or speak about sports and athletes, but I do write and speak about mindset, identity, and purpose.

And Simone Biles has just given a masterclass in what it looks like for internal strength to overcome external influences.

Welive in a world where even the average person walking the streets feels a sense of pressure.

We feel pressure to look, dress, act, walk, or talk a certain way based on whatever society thinks is appropriate for us.

We feel pressure from family and friends or coworkers to achieve a certain level of “success” without them asking what success really means to us.

Social media has made all of us vulnerable to hateful commentary, criticism, and a (literally) never-ending stream of other people’s opinions.

Now; consider magnifying all of the pressure the average person feels up to a global scale.

If you Google “Simone Biles”, 32,700,000 results appear in .7 seconds.

Everyone has been, and is especially now, talking about her.

Prior to the games, I would see headlines about Simone being the only person in the world who could accomplish XYZ in gymnastics. The only person in the world.

She is the most decorated U.S. women’s gymnast ever with 31 World/Olympic medals.

And, she’s only 24 years old.

When it comes to athletes, or any high-performance public figure, we as a society put immense pressure on them without considering the mental and emotional factors of doing so.

These are people who — yes — train and discipline themselves every single day to handle the physical and mental pressure of their chosen endeavor, but that doesn’t make them any less human than the rest of us.

They’ve excelled to the top of their fields because of the relentless work they’ve done on themselves and their skillset.

They’ve worked to become the person capable of achieving their goals.

And one must ask — if the public can push the world’s highest achievers to the breaking point by applying so much external pressure, how do regular people feel just going about their day?

Most of us aren’t trained to handle the pressures of the world.

On top of it, most of us don’t voice our concerns or reach out for help, either.

This is why Simone Biles reminds us what’s important:

Shutting out the noise and being true to one’s self.

Simone knew that the situation had become dangerous. Her mind and body were sending different messages and she could easily become injured as a result.

Someone who is willing to sacrifice themselves to please others would simply push through and take the risk.

But, Simone is smarter than that.

She stood up and did what she had to do: She withdrew.

Knowing she would face criticism from the public.

Knowing everyone online would have an opinion.

Knowing she’d open herself up to ridicule and rhetoric.

And probably most of all — knowing that all of the work and training she’d done to get to this point was going to be forfeited.

But in the face of all that, she still made the decision to prioritize her own identity, mental health, and well being.

The truth is that Simone Biles has nothing left to prove. She has done the work, won the medals, achieved the accolades.

Making the decision to withdraw allows her to keep the power of choice. The power to exit on her terms instead of being forced out by a potential injury.

Unlike many of us — she knew when to stop.

Consider this the next time someone you admire falters, or slips up, or bows out altogether. Ask yourself what pressure they might be facing that takes the fun away from what they love to do.

Our society does this every single day. Many people idolize athletes and celebrities to the point where they seem immortal. Images are created in the minds of the public that illustrate a person who doesn’t even exist.

A fictional character based on someone or something that we’ve never personally encountered.

While many call themselves “fans,” taking it too far can dehumanize the very person they claim to be a fan of.

They’re not a product.

They’re not a god.

They’re not here to serve us as entertainment.

They are humans with wants, needs, desires, fears, and stresses — just like the rest of us.

They are not immune to the weight society hoists onto their backs — and while they understand it “comes with the territory,” that gives none of us the right to feel entitled to their performances if it’s damaging their mental health.

Now, consider this the next time you talk to a colleague, or friend, or family member who is under stress or pressure.

Are we, also, putting unrealistic expectations on those around us?

Are we putting them on ourselves?

Simone Biles reminds us what’s important.

Not the medals.

Not the cheering crowds.

Not the name up in lights.

What’s most important is how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself, and no matter how many people will be disappointed if you change course — none of them are inside of your mind with you.

Simone Biles showed us that you can remain true to your own identity even if it means disappointing (literally) millions of people.

Opening up further conversation about mental health may be an even greater legacy for Simone than her unmatched athletic accomplishments — simply because she had the courage to reject external influence when it became internally harmful.

Ask yourself: What toxic energies and influences do you need to shed from your life? What is bringing you more pain than joy? How can you express your needs in order to get them met?

Courage is the key, and may Simone’s be an inspiration to us all.


James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.

Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 38 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.

James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.

This article was originally published on Medium.


  1. sandra gipson on July 28, 2021 at 9:21 am

    I agree her mental health is more valuable than a medal

    • James Michael Sama on July 28, 2021 at 9:23 am


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