Watching her perform, you could tell that something was off. Her strong aura of confidence that usually shines so bright... was missing.
If you looked at her face and more so, her eyes, there was sadness. It wasn’t as much a look of defeat, as it was withdrawal. A subdued appearance of someone overpowered and broken. Like she was just hanging on by a thread.
Supporting Olympian Simone Biles and the hard decision she made is the most American “thing” we can do. She stepped away from something that wasn’t working for her. She wasn’t feeling psychologically safe in her work environment, so she made an extremely difficult decision. She chose to make her mental health and well-being, her top priority. Dr. Timothy Clark defines psychological safety as, “an environment of rewarded vulnerability.”
In a working environment, it’s when you form an alliance with your teammates where you each have the ability to learn, be yourself, contribute and trust each other – for the ability to be vulnerable.
Without that vulnerability, trust and support, you become restricted. You stop performing. When there is a crack in your perceived psychological safety, your vulnerability is penalized. Your capability disabled. And what happens then? Your productivity is reduced.
Can you even imagine the pressure Simone was feeling being labeled, “greatest of all time” 🐐 female gymnast? Yes. She has mad skills and 100%+ earned that title. But along with the title, I am sure, came a ton of pressure about being perfect and the inability to make mistakes. The strain to live up to the expectation not only for the United States, but for the world.
I can’t imagine the weight of that heaviness.
In a non-psychological safe environment when you are told you that can’t make mistakes, you may start to reluctantly accept things without protest – you get into your head, hide your mistakes and live in a world of fear. It’s a vicious cycle that women in particular, are forced into.
And yes, because of her decision, there are haters. Because in their mind she didn’t make an effort to do more, to suck it up, to stick with it and bring home the gold, as was “the plan.”
In my mind, she IS gold. It goes beyond bravery and courage. I am sure it felt like a life or death decision. One not taken lightly because her sport, and the Olympics, are her life; her entire world. I’m sure it felt black and white, an either or... For her to have come this far and have it come to this, I am sure there was no grey zone.
More should take heed. We can all learn from her.
You already are. It’s time To Be.