— Todd Herman (@todd_herman) July 28, 2021
“Something’s gotta give when it comes to people’s behaviors online, and maybe this post can be a little reminder to encourage everyone, not just the winners. Because they sure need it right now. The conditions inside the Olympic village isn’t fun or healthy for most. (Btw – I chose this photo of Simone to celebrate her brilliance and not the photos being shared in media & news stories of her looking stressed. I choose to see her this way. Free, strong, and graceful. Because that’s what she is.)” ~ Todd Herman
It is time people—for us—to realize that the anonymity of social media makes people far more brazen than they would dare to be in person.
We need to do better.
These athletes have worked for the last four years and likely most of their lives for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. It’s their moment.
Do you really think Simone Biles “felt a little nervous,” so she bailed on her country? Her decision was not made lightly. She knew it would draw haters far and wide. I am honestly surprised and pleased that she is receiving so much support. Good for us.
A few years ago, I had a health crisis of my own, which led to some pretty staggering anxiety and depression. Two creatures I had never met before—and they were wicked. When pressure is too great, people feel like they’ll crack. The good news is that some people don’t crack up, they just crack open. When they arrive on the other side of that, they are stronger and wiser. I can vouch for that, and I can tell you it’s a process.
Did people really think that after Simone didn’t compete yesterday, she’d just bounce back and compete Thursday? She didn’t stub her toe.
Simone is someone’s daughter.
She is someone’s best friend.
She is someone’s girlfriend.
And she’s an actual role model to so many young women in this country. She is intelligent and savvy.
That she had the wherewithal to face disappointing millions and millions of fans and still do what she needed to for her own health tells me she is tougher than any of us ever realized. Others may have muscled through and faced much darker consequences.
“She won nationals with broken toes, won worlds with a kidney stone, and has carried the burden of being the face of sexual assault survivors as a national institution failed to support them.” ~ Kavitha A. Davidson
We’re not talking about some cream puff who just didn’t feel like being uncomfortable. She has proven what she’s made of, over and over again.
Making the decision to withdraw from competition might just be the most difficult choice she’s ever made in her entire life. The work that comes now will be as hard as anything she’s done. There is fallout from fans and athletes alike. She may be so vulnerable that she starts to believe the nasty comments that social media haters write in the comfort of their own home, perhaps forgetting she’s an actual human being first.
If this was your child or mine, we’d hope she’d be brave enough to do what she felt was necessary. I am sure there is profound disappointment, and sadly, not instant relief from what was weighing her down. The pressure these athletes live with is staggering.
You’ve read Todd Herman’s words above. These are kids and 20-somethings. We need to support their effort, not their results. Their life has been about commitment and sacrifice. How many of them went to their prom? How many grew up away from their families so they could train? How many of them have a circle of girlfriends who keep them afloat? We need to be proud of them, even if they stumble, and most especially if they do.
These kids have lived their lives to please. Now it’s our turn to be grateful for every win and every runner who got lapped in a race, or was pegged to win, and didn’t even place. They are dealing with their own kind of hell.
I, for one, am in awe of Simone’s ability to do the unthinkable with her usual grace and sparkle.
She has become a bigger hero than she ever was on the mat. She is teaching us what it means to listen to the voice inside your head when it’s calling out to you. Let’s reward her courage with our deepest empathy, not sympathy. We are a “What have you done for me lately?” culture. Let’s think about what she has done since she dazzled us that very first time. We must find a way to make sure she knows that we support her when she’s wearing a medal and when she’s feeling that the weight of that medal is just too heavy to carry. She’s been wearing so many for so long, it finally got to her. She’s entitled to be exhausted.
I give her a perfect 10 for her being so human. She is showing our children how it’s done.
And now we can encourage the conversation that can save so many lost souls. There’s always a way out. Suicide rates are astronomical and I always tell people who are struggling, “There’s always a way out.” In Simone’s case, it was through—while the whole world watched in shock. In 10 years, will any of this be so important to us?
I am grateful she summoned the strength to execute a decision that may have felt impossible until she made it happen. Somehow, under the bright lights and the raised eyebrows, she created an emergency exit for herself. I only wish I had been there to hold the door for her.