Written by therapist Madeleine Mears

When Simone Biles withdrew from competing in the Tokyo Olympics, many were left shocked and confused. Biles was favored to win multiple gold medals, including the all-around title. With stakes this high, most cannot conceive of wanting to ever withdraw from the competition. Because of just how high the stakes are, Biles’ decision to step away is even more powerful. We all have a lot to learn from Simone Biles’ actions in how we approach our mental health and setting good boundaries. 

Mental health is more important than we think

Biles prioritizing her mental health even in the face of the Olympics attests to just how important mental health is. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for good mental health was minimized. The old school way of thinking very much emphasizes physical health overall. However, unchecked mental health concerns have the potential to harm even more horrifically than any physical limitation. When Biles cited mental health concerns as being the reason for her withdrawal from the Olympics, she sent a much bigger message to the world. That message is that mental health is much more important than life events and circumstances, even ones as big as the Olympics. 

Biles’ message has the potential to resonate with the entire world. While most of us cannot relate to competing at the Olympics, we all know what it is like to be stressed and under pressure. Some stress is a normal and healthy part of life. In fact, our body reacting to stressful situations is its way of trying to protect us from perceived harm. When stress can go unchecked, or the pressure of a situation becomes overbearing, it can manifest in a host of mental health concerns. Following her shaky vault routine, Biles’ choose to listen to her body and make an educated decision on what is best for her. 

Personal boundaries are more than okay!

While she cited mental health concerns as to her reason for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics, Biles did not specify about the specifics of the situation – and this is okay! Mental health is an extremely personal topic. Each person is under no obligation to share their personal information with anyone they do not wish to. By first withdrawing from the competition, and then choosing to share only what she wishes to, Biles is showing us all an excellent lesson in implementing and maintaining boundaries. 

Just as with a boundary on a property line, an emotional boundary is a limit or rule you set which separates you from others. A boundary is the point at which you draw the line for your own participation. Boundaries can look like a host of things. In Simone Biles’ case, it looks like her choosing to draw the line with how much personal information she is willing to share publicly, as well as drawing the line at which she does not want to compete. 

Recognizing when someone has implemented a boundary can sometimes be uncomfortable and met with mixed reactions. Herein lies the hard part in boundaries; it’s not just enough to make them, you need to enforce them with practice! Simone Biles is a great example of being attuned enough to her body to understand when there is something not right and then in the face of insurmountable odds, she was still able to enforce her personal boundaries. This should be a learning lesson for all of us. Whether it is a difficult relationship, unhealthy family dynamic or a gray work life problem, setting and enforcing boundaries is imperative to protect your own mental health. 

If you need help setting and or maintaining your boundaries, take a note from Simone Biles and please don’t hesitate to reach out! We have a team of therapists who would love to join you on that journey. Call today!

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Articles by our Optimum Joy Staff