• What struck me about Biles though, was the confidence with which she explained her decision to withdraw. (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
In the end, like Biles, I had to call time and say that it just wasn't worth it to stick it out.
Zoe Victoria

28 Jul 2021 - 2:13 PM  UPDATED 18 Oct 2021 - 6:44 PM

We often grow up being told 'don't give up'. And I was no exception. So, in adulthood, when I'm faced with situations where I might encounter difficulty or obstacles, I think "If I could just persevere a little more, maybe this won't be so hard." And there's something to be said for overcoming adversity. But how much struggle is too much?

It's a question that I've been reflecting on in the wake of Simone Biles' shock withdrawal from the Olympics gymnastics team final earlier this week. Biles is widely recognised as the greatest gymnast of all time and her withdrawal, citing mental health concerns came as a surprise. 

In a press conference after the event, Biles explained that she decided to withdraw in part because of the heightened stress she's experiences during the Olympic Games. She told reporters, "I say put mental health first because if you don't then you're not going to enjoy your sport and you're not going to succeed as much as you want to."

Her words were like a revelation to me. It's only in the last 12 months that I have begun to learn that success in your job is dependent on feeling mentally well and finding fulfillment in your work. But it was not an easy lesson to learn.

My parents raised me to follow through when I commit to doing something. And until last year, I must admit that I thought it was good, solid advice. That was until I walked into my first full-time job fresh out of university and resigned six months later due to the mental toll that the job had taken on me.

The decision to resign was one fraught with guilt. I had graduated mid-pandemic and was one of the lucky few in my graduating class who had immediately landed a full-time job. Who was I to walk away from that just because I couldn't hack it?

It's a feeling that I think is familiar to many women; the idea that no matter the hardship, our self-worth is dependent on our ability to simply keep going. That is, until we burn out.

And that's exactly what I did. I was constantly on edge at work. I would wake up in the morning and feel sick to my stomach at the thought of having to be in the office for eight hours of the day. In the end, like Biles, I had to call time and say that it just wasn't worth it to stick it out.

What struck me about Biles though, was the confidence with which she explained her decision to withdraw. When I left my job, I felt cowed into shame. Explaining to my extended family that I had quit my job felt like the scariest thing in the world.

But watching Biles speak at the press conference, it's clear that she's entirely unapologetic about her decision. She doesn't flinch at the flurry of questions she faces, instead answering with admirable grace and clarity. It's evident that she knows her decision was the best one for her.

That steadfast confidence has resonated with people the world over. While some have criticised her choice, social media users have overwhelmingly praised Biles for setting an example of how to recognise your own limits and enforce appropriate boundaries. 

A number of Black women also took to Twitter to laud Biles for shifting the definition of the 'strong Black woman'. They praised Biles' refusal to work herself to exhaustion and celebrated her decision to put her mental health first. 

My own decision to quit my job gave me space to rediscover joy in my work and reflect on what success would look like in my own career. Biles also appears to be reflecting on her next move, indicating that she will continue to take a "one day at a time" approach to the Olympic Games as she decides whether she will compete in the individual events. No matter her decision, it's guaranteed that her commitment to protecting her mental health is changing attitudes across the globe.

Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at beyondblue.org.au. Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 


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