Tennis player, Naomi Osaka and Olympic gymnast, Simone Biles, have recently made headlines for opting out of competitions and appearances, choosing to prioritize their mental health. Though of course as women and as black women they’ve received harsh backlash and criticism for their decisions, their actions could serve as an example to us all.
As discussed by Biles, athletes are often told to “push through”, even when their physical and mental health may be in jeopardy. Sadly, this is a widely held belief in our society. Many of us are told in one way or another to ignore our health needs and remain productive, especially those who are part of marginalized groups. The mental health and emotional needs of the black community are often dismissed, along with our humanity. So it’s time we take our health in our own hands and prioritize our well-being. And in order to create this cultural shift, we need to collectively assert our right to say no to situations that jeopardize our health. It’s time to assert our wellness boundaries and take back ownership of our healing.
Osaka and Biles essentially and bravely decided not to do their job, because they knew the risk to their health wasn’t worth it. Many of us in the black community have been led to believe, particularly in the workplace, that giving our all will somehow prove our earnest loyalty and benefit us in the end. But oftentimes it doesn’t. Frequently we wind up giving our best while being overlooked for opportunities and wind up feeling used and resentful. And, many times our health suffers. The stress of feeling pushed and oppressed can cause and increase a host of health problems including:
- high blood pressure
- compromised immune system
- irregular menstrual cycles
- digestive problems
And our wellness boundaries shouldn’t be limited to the workplace. Though it can be hard to say no, it’s important to prioritize our health and limit other obligations that threaten it as well.
If you’re able to enforce your wellness boundaries that’s an amazing act of self-care. If not, now can be the time you choose to work on saying “no” to things that harm your well-being and “yes” to preserving yourself. Remember, you are your best gift.