Is Our Desire to Be the Best More Important than Our Mental Health?

The world witnessed one of the most courageous acts of vulnerability in Olympic sports, and we should all take note. 

Danielle Goodrum

US artistic gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympics and decided to say no to the mental and physical disconnect a stressful year and overbearing pressure caused, and yes to her mental health. 

Biles was very open with her decision, and it is a much-needed reminder that we can be the best (or the G.O.A.T) and still not be okay: “It’s been a long week. It’s been a long Olympic process. It’s been a long year. Just a lot of different variables, and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out, but we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.”

While many people, including the US gymnastics team, stood beside her in support, others have vocalized a very dangerous opinion: that Simone and other athletes should be able to handle the pressure that comes with competing at this level. 

These expectations – to “simply deal” with high-stress levels, anxiety and mental fatigue – are unfortunately emulated outside of the sports world. 

This mentality and its implications are more common and hazardous than you might think. Mental Health America (MHA) reports that most youth and adults who need mental health treatment aren’t receiving it. The reasons? On the one hand, many don’t even know they could use help – or are too proud to accept it. Shame, fear and outdated ideas of failure prevent them from doing so. On top of that, many business environments have a culture that only makes the above misunderstandings more likely. This often makes getting off the hamster wheel seem unrealistic, even disadvantageous for the rest of your life. Until it goes bang.

Better ask yourself: Are there times when you put your career, success or pursuit of greatness ahead of your mental health? If so, pause, reflect and take steps to prioritize your mental health and well-being. 

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