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Black female Olympians are under extra pressure to perform

Simone Biles doesn’t want to let the Black community down

Chicago --- Black female Olympians are under extra pressure to perform and not let the Black community down, says Northwestern Medicine psychologist and book author Inger Burnett-Zeigler.

She discusses why these athletes feel more intense stress and anxiety and how gymnast Simone Biles, who took herself out of the competition, is a stellar example of self-care.

Burnett-Zeigler’s new book is “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen: The Emotional Lives of Black Women.”

To interview Inger Burnett-Zeigler contact marla-paul@northwestern.edu.

“As a world-class athlete, Simone Biles certainly is under intense pressure to perform as she doesn't want to let herself, her team and her country down,” said Inger Burnett-Zeigler, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “As a Black woman, of whom there are so few in the elite sport of gymnastics, she likely faces the added pressure to not let the Black community down. She knows she is a representative of the collective greatness of Black women, our ability to overcome adversity and that so many are looking up to her. 

“The pressure to perform, and meet the expectations of others, can lead to significant stress and anxiety that can be debilitating and ultimately impact performance. What's more is that Simone Biles has a history of childhood trauma and sexual abuse, which increases her vulnerability to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Simone Biles’ acknowledgement of her mental health needs and willingness to take the necessary steps to take care of herself, despite what others may think, is a radical example of self-care.”