***TRIGGER WARINING*** Brief mention of sexual abuse
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast of all time. And three days ago, she had the courage to quit the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Why? Simone had “the twisties,” the feeling of not having mind and body in sync while doing gymnastic stunts she has practiced hundreds, if not thousands of times.
In follow-up interviews, Simone explained that it would have been dangerous for her to continue – for her health and mental health, as well as the success of her team.
While some fans have been supportive of Simone, others have been critical.
One of the harshest tweets came from Piers Morgan: “Athletes are now deemed more courageous, inspiring & heroic if they lose or quit then if they win or tough it out, which is ridiculous… The real world doesn’t think like that.”
‘The Real World’ should Celebrate Quitters
Piers Morgan does have a point: The real world does not celebrate quitters.
But it damn well should.
Simone Biles has devoted her entire life to this sport, and indeed this event itself – The Olympics. She is acutely aware of how important it is, and how many people look up to her.
Simone continued in gymnastics even though gymnastics did not protect her from a sexual predator. I’m speaking, of course, about Larry Nassar, a doctor for the U.S. gymnastics team who sexually abused literally hundreds of athletes, and was finally imprisoned in 2017.
In some ways, I suspect it would have been easier for Simone Biles to grit her teeth and continue performing, knowing that an injury was inevitable.
Instead, she had the courage to put her needs first in a world that is constantly putting them last.
The Stigma of Quitting
“Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”
How often have we heard sayings like this growing up – in sports of course, but really, everywhere?
The reason quitting is not “the easy way out” is that it’s often met with a tidal wave of questioning and judgment, such as…
“You can’t quit now!”
“Are you sure you’ve tried everything?”
“Come on, tough it out! Don’t be a wimp.”
People may hear these statements from others, or from themselves and their own internalized stigma about quitting.
The Courage to Quit
In order to quit, people have to trust their own instincts over others’ judgements and expectations.
Trusting your own instincts can be incredibly tough to do. Especially if others have doubted and criticized you throughout your life.
Quitting is important anytime your health and well-being is at stake.
The Courage to Quit a Job
Okay – here goes a little self-disclosure.
The last job I worked before opening my private practice made me burned out and miserable.
I came home from work every day angry – at my workplace, at the world, and at myself.
It took months for me to build up the courage to start my own practice.
(That’s the other thing people don’t realize about quitting – people often think about doing it for a looooong time before they actually take steps to do so).
Since quitting my previous job, I’m much happier. It has been better for me personally and professionally.
That said, there were times I asked myself if it was selfish to quit.
Why Quitting Isn’t Selfish
By withdrawing from the Olympics, Simone Biles made space for her team to be more successful. She may even be returning to compete in the final days! Chances are, she will perform a lot better than if she would have if she had pushed herself.
When I quit my previous job, I became a lot happier. But I also became a better therapist, wife, and person.
Quitting isn’t selfish because doing what’s right for you indirectly helps the people around you.
Our well-being impacts our communities, great and small, like a ripple effect. Happiness spreads, it inspires people, and it makes the world better.
I hope this post inspires you to quit something that is no longer serving you!
Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.