One of the most notable events of the proceedings was the withdrawal of Simone Biles from the gymnastics following a case of the ‘Twisties’. This appears to be a well-known condition where gymnasts lose their spatial awareness when in the air that can be disorientating and therefore potentially dangerous. So here we have a top athlete with many years of experience who for some unknown reason, can no longer perform to her known ability.
But what caught the headlines was her publicity of this issue, and her openness to describe it as a ‘mental health’ problem. Admission to mental health issues has for many years been a taboo subject, yet in recent years the willingness of public figures to explain their struggles has brought this topic into wider consciousness. She was courageous enough to go public and received many plaudits for her candor. Yet some may say she has such a strong track record that her competence would not be undermined by this potential issue. Many of us who are in weaker positions still fundamentally feel we may face discrimination and a career blockage if we admit any weakness, especially in the mental health arena.
But without some form of communication to someone who can help, we can be authors of our own demise. Obtaining social support and accepting our struggles is the first step to improving the situation and requires far more courage than pretending everything is fine. Without this, the suppression of pent-up emotion can become a pressure cooker that will simply explode in a far more spectacular way down the line. When we model secrecy and invincibility it creates a façade that becomes a cultural norm and helps no one in the long run. We may not choose to go to the international media to communicate our own difficulties, but it can be helpful to others to know they are not alone nor unique is facing personal challenges, and is the first step to honest dialogue of a way forward.
Where do you need to have more courage to admit vulnerability?
What needs to happen to help you do this?
Who needs you to role model this courage in vulnerability?