A Letter to Simone Biles: From a Former Olympian
Being an Olympian is something so few people get to experience and thus, not many people understand the complexities of being an Olympian. There is pressure—both internal and external to perform at your best. More than that, there is the struggle of understanding that you are more than your body.
In one of your tweets, you said that you were beginning to understand that you were more than an athlete. Yes, you are. We all are, but that is so hard to grasp when everybody praises and adores you for your athleticism. In the moment of being the greatest, it is easy to forget that you are more than a gymnast.
Most Olympians visualize, train, and breathe the dream. They sacrifice time, friends, family, education, and careers for the dream. Somewhere in the dream, they forget, like I did, to be a human being. It is easy to get lost in the accolades, trophies, honors, and awards, especially when everybody else sees you as THE ATHLETE…and for you, the GOAT.
Pretty soon, you forget that you are more than an Olympian. If you don’t win a medal or break a personal best or an Olympic Record, then you are forgotten. Your vision of you is wrapped up in the perception of others.
Perhaps the greatest journey you will take is far beyond the medal podium. This is the journey of unconditional self-love, which means no longer having conditions on your performance as a deciding factor of whether you are loved. You were born a winner. You don’t have to do anything to prove that.
It is easy to get lost in the words that other people feed you—words that are based on conditions. “I will love you more IF YOU….” You get trapped in the conditional love and adoration that people show for you.
When other people use words consciously or unconsciously for the purpose of conforming you to their visions, ideas, and beliefs, this is conditional acceptance. Acquiescence of other people’s versions of you means that you judge yourself based on THEIR opinions.
You are more than a Gold Medalist, a World Champion, and an Olympic Champion. It doesn’t matter if anybody else knows that. What matters is when you recognize that this part of your life was amazing, beautiful, wonderful, and miraculous, but that feeling doesn’t have to stop because you are no longer an Olympian.
The true WINNERS in life are those people who recognize their self-worth does not come from actions, money, or titles. Self-worth is internal. This is the real gold—when you align yourself with the awareness that the only person who you need approval from is yourself and that withholding that approval or giving that approval is a choice.
**Sherry Winn is a Two-Time Olympian, National Championship Coach, and an in-demand leadership and inspirational speaker. www.TheWinningLeadershipCompany