How Simone Biles Is Influencing The Mental Health Conversation
“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard.”
How many of you out there in corporate America have either said this or felt this way? These words may have been spoken by a new supervisor who isn’t getting the support they need to be successful, or a team manager placed on a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) because they weren’t trained correctly. Or how about the employee who wants to take time off for their mental health but knows that they cannot because everything will fall apart if they are not in the office. But these words didn’t come from an employee in corporate America.
They came from Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles...
Oh, how relatable these words are to the everyday person! It leads to a bigger conversation…a conversation that I have been advocating for out of the darkness and into the light. It takes athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles to talk about their mental health for the rest of the world to know what everyday people go through. We look at these athletes as million-dollar celebrities who are in peak shape who can just “buy” better mental health. However, as they gain more popularity, we are finding out that they are just like us.
The pressures that we feel in the workplace should be continually researched and treated accordingly. What I have experienced in corporate America is the more money you make, the fancier your title, the bigger your office…the more stressed you are as an employee. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard.” The higher we climb up the corporate ladder the more responsibility we are given. Asking for help is a sign of weakness, and we have been conditioned to suffer through challenges instead of asking for help.
Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are two minority women. I don’t even need to begin to talk about how underrepresented women are in leadership positions in corporate America. The fact that they are minorities make people doubt their ability to lead even more. Not calling it racism, but some people are ok with the idea that minorities are better suited for support roles and not leadership. Osaka and Biles are two minority women who carry their countries on their backs. Millions of people supporting and cheering for them and expecting for them to perform at the highest level and bring back medals, trophies, and honor to their respective countries.
Sounds like the same type of stress we have in the workplace, doesn’t it? Leaders are expected to perform regardless of what is going on in their personal lives. Some people are calling Biles a quitter. “She doesn’t have the courage to continue” is what a lot of people on my timeline are saying. “She quit on her country” is what others are saying. Judgement from people who aren’t in leadership positions saying what the people who are can or can’t handle mentally. I’ve talked with many managers who stated that they don’t feel supported in the workplace and that if they say something it will look like a sign of weakness.
Ironically, I am writing this blog during minority mental health awareness month. Minorities deal with multiple issues in the workplace that impact their mental health. With Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka being minorities, I’m sure they deal with some of the same issues other minorities deal with. Of those issues, being a woman in position of power is an issue that has a negative impact on mental health. Simone Biles is only 24 years old, and Naomi Osaka is 23. These are two very young women who are under intense pressure to perform. The world watches their every move and is quick to scrutinize their performance. That can be a lot of pressure on people that young.
The same things happen to us in our respective workplaces. Leaders are under intense pressure to produce results for their employers. This pressure to perform can be detrimental to mental health. Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka took time off for their mental health and it shocked the world. This is because putting your health first seems to be out of the norm. I once talked with a manager of a Fortune 100 company that stated she couldn’t take time off for her mental health because her company needed her too much. She suffered greatly until she was found by one of her employees crying in her office. The employee went to HR and she was forced to take time off.
Ok…here it is. CALL TO ACTION!!!
Talk about your mental health. It shouldn’t be the elephant in the room. Eventually the elephant will knock the entire house down. Tell your employer if you need time off for your mental health. The job will always be there, you may not be.