Simone Biles, Me, and the Pressure of Perfection

In middle school, I was one of the “gifted” kids. For those three short years, I felt like I was on top of the world. A genius, even. I was able to even use my “gifted” title to get accepted into a prestigious private high school, something I’d never anticipated.

Then high school began.

All of a sudden, I was no longer at the top of my class. Teachers didn’t look to me for the correct answer. I was the person with no idea as to what was going on during group projects. My papers were filled with corrections in the margins, not praise. Suffice it to say, the straight-As on my report card were quickly disappearing.

My family and friends from my hometown didn’t understand. From what they had known about me when I was younger, they thought that I was academically perfect, and therefore I had to be perfect all the time. Why was I suddenly struggling in history class when I had received nothing but 100s on every essay prior? I even questioned my identity–who was I, if not the perfect scholar?

My parents’ concern grew—they began to search for tutors and would constantly interrogate me as if they were trying to find out what was wrong with me. My concern grew too—the pressure to live up to their expectations only became greater and I found myself constantly stressed, anxious, and worrying about school.

Watching Simone Biles pull out of the Olympics this past week reminded me of this feeling. Simone Biles: perfect, spectacular, the GOAT. Everybody was watching her every move. Lightyears beyond her competitors, despite all of the hardships and trauma she has faced. She was our go-to girl for the group project that is the Olympics–if there was any one person we knew we could count on to win gold in her event, it was Simone.

But that kind of pressure is suffocating. Imagine having to practically carry the Olympics on your back because all of the United States feels as though they can rely on you.

However, unlike me and my freshman-year identity crisis, Simone recognized the pressure she was under. She had the bravery and self-reflective skills to be able to realize that the pressure of perfection was too much for her–or any person, for that matter–to handle.

Simone Biles has taught me a very important lesson: to be the greatest person of all time, mental health must come first. Instead of getting down on myself for not performing the way I wanted to, I need to take a note from Simone and be kind to myself, taking a break or asking for help if need be. Taking care of yourself and your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, if the GOAT can do it, so can we!