In another generation, athletes and students might have been reluctant to admit their struggles with the pressures they face, and it was even more unlikely for people to recognize their vulnerabilities and adjust themselves accordingly. Way back when, people were silent about their struggles, giving off the impression to others that the wars waged within their minds didn’t exist. But now, the increasing willingness of people to be transparent has created a society that is more aware of the importance of self-care.
Simone Biles, a world-renowned American gymnast, revealed herself to be a perfect example of why prioritizing one’s mental health can essentially only yield positive results. This summer, Biles dominated at the U.S. gymnastics championships, winning her eighth national all-around title, an accomplishment that no American gymnast has ever received.
Biles’s journey to success has never been easy. From the pressures of being considered one of the greatest of all time to having to constantly extend herself physically and mentally, Biles has become both motivated and exhausted. This August, Biles presented herself as an advocate for mental wellness after rising to receive coverage in the media following her withdrawal from multiple events in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Despite the endless amount of backlash she faced for her decision, her victory is proof that rest and self-care are necessary for individuals in all careers and walks of life to truly achieve greatness.
At the time, Biles was suffering from a case of the “twisties.” This is a phenomenon where gymnasts are suddenly unable to perform a skill they are familiar with. Even if they’ve done the skill plenty of times before, they are unable to keep track of their body in the air. The official term is proprioception, which is defined as the body’s ability to track its movements and position in the air. Biles had lost her sense of control while maneuvering through the air, which is extremely dangerous.
When Simone announced her withdrawal from several events in the 2020 Summer Olympics, it was disheartening to see that she was receiving negative backlash from people who claimed that she was being selfish and letting her teammates down. In reality, she was listening to her mind and body when they were insisting that she take a step back.
The Olympic medalist’s triumph would not have been possible if she hadn’t listened to her own body and her intuitions, especially while reporters were shaming her for putting herself first. And while it is still early in the semester, college students should adopt the same mentality and retire the win-at-all-costs ideology, learning from Biles.
Students and athletes are alike as they both face overwhelming pressure to remain resilient, despite feeling the need to rest and rejuvenate. With a society that has encouraged people in the past to work beyond their limits, it can be easy to listen to the voices that are loudly dictating how to approach a situation. However, this prevailing narrative must be challenged.
As we approach the fall semester, all students need to recognize the importance of putting themselves first, even above their grades. While it’s ideal to achieve academic success, it should never be at the expense of one’s well-being. College is an environment meant for students to further their knowledge and pursue a career in a field of their choosing— it is meant to be educational and fun. As the semester progresses, students should adopt Biles’s powerful mindset to resist the unrealistic expectations and listen to their mind and body’s intuition above all.