Simone Biles is opening up about her journey to embrace balance in her life as the young adult continues to train for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics while also enjoying time spent with friends and her boyfriend, football player Jonathan Owens. But while doing so, the 24-year-old admitted to being resistant to getting the help that she ultimately needed for her mental health.
"One of the very first sessions, I didn’t talk at all," she told Glamour magazine of going to see a therapist for the first time. "I just wouldn’t say anything. I was like, 'I'm not crazy. I don’t need to be here.'"
Biles's therapist quickly explained that therapy isn't just for "crazy" people but instead would benefit the athlete in processing all of the things she has going on in her life. "I thought I could figure it out on my own, but that’s sometimes not the case. And that’s not something you should feel guilty or ashamed of," she continued. "Once I got over that fact, I actually enjoyed it and looked forward to going to therapy. It’s a safe space."
Of the things that Biles was dealing with at the time, gymnastics was likely at the top of her list, especially after her training was halted during the pandemic as Texas went into total lockdown. "I got to process all the emotions," she told the publication. "I got to go through being angry, sad, upset, happy, annoyed. I got to go through all of it by myself, without anybody telling me what to feel."
She admitted that in the moment, "I wanted to give up," but ultimately decided not to "because I've worked way too hard."
Still, what she calls the "hardest part" was knowing that after the Olympics were postponed, she'd have to continue to train for longer than anticipated as a member of USA Gymnastics (USAG) — an organization that failed to protect athletes from sexual abuse, including Biles. And while she considers her presence a source of pressure for the governing body to further investigate and improve upon its abusive culture — "We have power behind it," she said —it's also tough on the athlete to continue to perform for USAG while speaking out about the abuse she and so many others have suffered.
"Probably by compartmentalizing," she said of her survival tactic, "I try not to think about it because I can’t afford to — if I let them rule me, they’re winning."
Biles has also been focusing on finding things that fulfill her outside of the gym.
"Before I would only focus on the gym. But me being happy outside the gym is just as important as me being happy and doing well in the gym. Now it’s like everything’s coming together," she said, noting that she felt pushed to find a new hobby during quarantine. "I’m just really trying to find who I am."
Still, she has no plans to leave the sport behind while embracing the joy in other parts of her life. She's even found freedom in knowing that, unlike much earlier in her life, the decision to compete is all hers. "I’m not a little girl anymore. It’s definitely up to me. Nobody’s forcing me," she said. "Whenever you’re younger, you feel like it’s a job, and you have to be pushed. But now it’s like, this is what I want to do, so that’s why I’m here."
And with that strength, Biles is ready to fully step into her power and to share it with the world — as she's doing with a new Facebook watch docuseries Simone vs Herself. She even has a new addition to her leotards — a goat named "Goldie," representing that Biles is the greatest of all time.
"The idea was to hit back at the haters. I didn't feel like it was necessarily fair how they could keep saying whatever they wanted, but then if I said something, it wasn't fair. [The haters] were joking like, 'I swear, if she put a goat on her leo, blah, blah, blah.' That would make them so angry. And then I was like, 'Oh, that's actually a good idea. Let's make the haters hate it, and the fans love it.' And so that's exactly what we did and why we did it," she told Marie Claire of the new sequin detail. "I just hope that kids growing up watching this don't or aren't ashamed of being good at whatever they do. And that's my problem: when people kind of harp on other people that are good at something. And it's like, everybody can say you're good, but once you acknowledge it, it's not cool anymore. And I want kids to learn that, yes, it's OK to acknowledge that you're good or even great at something."
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