Despite being one of the world’s most decorated gymnasts, Biles shared that she’s not immune to feeling pressure when it comes to unrealistic expectations about her appearance. In a lengthy note that she shared on Instagram, Biles detailed what has become “almost a daily challenge” for her.
“In gymnastics, as in many other professions, there is a growing competition that has nothing to do with performance itself,” she began. “I’m talking about beauty. I don’t know why, but others feel as though they can define your own beauty based on their standards.”
Biles, who became a household name during the 2016 Olympics when she won both individual gold medals and a gold medal as part of the USA women’s team, noted that she’s put on a brave face in the past.
“I’ve learned to put on a strong front and let most of it slide. But I’d be lying if I told you that what people say about my arms, my legs, my body … of how I look like in a dress, leotard, bathing suit or even in casual pants hasn’t gotten me down at times,” she continued.
“As I think about it, I don’t have to look very far to see how common this judgment has become. I’m tired of everything in life being turned into a competition, so I am standing up for myself and for everyone else that has gone through the same.”
Biles then called for an end of the constant comparison and criticism, stating, “Today, I say I am done competing VS. beauty standards and the toxic culture of trolling when others feel as though their expectations are not met … because nobody should tell you or I what beauty should or should not look like.”
The gymnast’s emotional post was in partnership with prestige skin care brand, SK II, who teamed up with Olympic athletes to change the conversation around beauty standards.
But this is far from the first time the gymnast, who plans to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, has spoken out about the pressure she’s faced. In her 2016 autobiography, Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance, Biles detailed her experiences with body shaming.
In 2016, she also shared with People, “It’s hard growing up in a sport where you compete with very little clothing on your body and everyone is staring at [your body],” she said.
“No matter how good you are at the sport, people will always say you don’t look good enough,” Biles added, noting that she and her other 2016 Olympic teammates had experienced similar incidents of being body-shamed. “It just taught me to rise above and to love my body no matter what.”