Chalking Up Resilience

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

Simone Biles was back on the floor this past week in Antwerp, Belgium, along with all the other apparatuses of women’s gymnastics.

She won the World all-around competition for the sixth time.

It was just two years ago when Ms. Biles withdrew from the Olympic competition when she experienced the “twisties” while doing her vaults, a phenomenon where the gymnast loses their kinesthetic sense of where she is in the air. She shared that she needed to step away from competition and to pay attention to healing her mental health.

Biles shared that she grew up in an abusive home, learned her sport at a time when training involved harsh abuse like hair pulling and unhealthy eating habits. She also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of team physician, Larry Nassar. On top of the demands of being the top global elite athlete in her field, it was a good time for her to take time off and focus on her recovery.

Her return to competition has led her to share some of the tools she’s used for healing:

  1. Professional Care: Biles entered into therapy and smiles when she shares about her two hour a week session.
  2. Support System: Simone married just last April and has leaned on her network of family and supporters.  She made a special effort to steer clear of her detractors on social media and found respite from those who believe in her.
  3. Redefining success Simone shifted her focus to her well-being by returning to the joy she gets from gymnastics competition rather than a sole focus on winning.
  4. Legacy: Supporting younger gymnasts is an important theme for her throughout her career and now as senior leader of the US Team, she steps into that role with greater commitment.
  5. Activism: The controversy surrounding USA Gymnastics led her to use her position and knowledge to advocate for change.

The amazing thing about resilience is how it is built into each one of us. It is part of our survival mechanism. For some people, like Simone Biles, with her resources and talent, it operates at a higher level. For others, it may take more time and focus but each of us can heal ourselves.

It’s time to do it© Richard Citrin 2023

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