Twice Simone Biles has represented U.S. Women’s Gymnastics at the Olympic Games. In addition to the Olympic Games, Biles has won numerous world championship medals and is the U.S.’s most decorated gymnast. During the Tokyo Summer Games, Biles withdrew from competition citing mental health concerns and that she was struggling with “the twisties,” a condition in which gymnasts lose their sense of where they are in the air during twisting elements. Often, in life’s stressful moments, it is hard for any of us to know “which way is up.”
Biles’ decision to withdraw from competition resulted in both backlash and commendation from fans, viewers, and the media. As part of an invalidating environment, systemic invalidation happens when an entire system invalidates a person’s worth or the legitimacy of their decisions. In the face of invalidation, self-validation is a powerful way for us to acknowledge our own wisdom and tend to our needs, even when others may not.
In DBT, we practice observing our own limits and considering what is best for us in the long-term. Our own personal limits, needs, and capabilities naturally change over time and across situations. Deciding when to observe our limits and when to stretch them can be challenging and requires us to use a DBT skill called “Wise Mind.” Wise mind asks us to consult our own inner wisdom, our personal values, and our long-term goals so that we can act in our own best interest.
Following our wise mind can sometimes be a lonely experience, and the environment around us can push back and invalidate our need for space, a break, or limits. Imagine how difficult it would be to do this while the world is watching! Biles’ determination to prioritize her own well-being during a time of immense pressure to push herself further than she thought wise, is laudable and a wonderful example of self-validation in action.