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Lessons Learned From Gabby Douglas

“Each of us has feelings, and not to have feelings is not to be fully alive.”
 – Anne Wilson Schaef

Gabby faced severe criticism at this 2016 Olympics in Rio for failing to put her hand over her heart during the national anthem, and for seeming to be distant from teammates as they pursued Olympic glory.  Too often, those on the outside fail to see that even elite athletes, in pursuit of perfection are people as well; people who feel, people who hurt.  The world, the great audience of judges, may give the lowest scores when we are who we were created to be human.

Like Gabby, none of us are invincible. When Gabby’s heart was criticized and hurt she showed an inner strength and dignity that transcends the opinions of people. Clearly her identity and self-worth rise from a deeper source. But it doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt.

In the black community, showing vulnerability is frowned upon. As black women, all too often, we are hurt and in pain. Sadly, we suffer in silence. We hold our head high and act as though it doesn’t hurt. Let’s stop the cycle. Gabby showed us that you can be a true Olympian, a star, a super woman and still be hurt and human. She was vulnerable with us when she shared her hurts and pains. She was human.

At 20, Gabby knows that she can be a strong black woman and still show her pain. She knows that she’s not invincible and she doesn’t have to pretend to be. When we wear the mask of invincibility, we minimize the love, support, and beauty that can come our way. Yes, Gabby has many haters, but she also has many supporters of all ages who love her. Women don’t just look up to her just because of her athletic ability, but because of her ability to be vulnerable and still strong.

The greatest lesson we can take from Gabby Douglas during the 2016 Rio Olympics is that it’s okay to feel. Your feelings belong to you and it is okay to openly express them. You are human.

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