Aly Raisman On Self-Image, Anxiety, and Overcoming Sexual Abuse
"Together we are creating an army."
It's basically impossible not to be inspired by Aly Raisman. She's notoriously body-positive and persistent in drawing attention to the issue of sexual abuse. And there's the whole Olympic gold medalist thing.
Since Raisman's clearly definition #goals, Playtex Sport called on the Olympian to share her advice as the face of its "Play On" campaign. At three vending machines around the country, you can earn a box of tampons printed with her advice in exchange for using the hashtag #PlayOn. But if you're not near one, no worries. We sat down with the gymnast to score some of her pieces of wisdom.
The career tip that's stuck with her: "Stuart Weitzman told me 'don't let the Olympics be the highlight of your life,' and it's something that I always think about now. Obviously, when I competed I was 18 and 22, and so I was so young so still had my entire life ahead of me. I think a lot of athletes obsess about one goal their entire life and when it's over they think 'what am I supposed to do next?' It was life-changing to realize that my entire life is ahead of me and I have so much more that I want to accomplish."
How she deals with insecurities: "Everyone struggles with some insecurity. I know sometimes people act like they don't, but I think it's really important to remember that everyone struggles with it no matter who you are. We live in a world where on social media everyone's life seems perfect, but it's not. The best advice I would give is to just remember that it's okay to feel off, it's okay not to be okay." (Here's Raisman's advice about body image.)
Her workout goals (that have nothing to do with losing weight): "Right now I am working out for more therapeutic reasons. I'm working out just for myself and to feel refreshed afterward. I did boxing last night and I also love cycling, or running or walking outside. I've also been playing tennis a little bit. I'm not very good, but it's fun to try. I think it's important that we shift the focus. There are so many ads about weight loss and working out to lose weight, and I think we need to shift the conversation to focus on how working out can be therapy and can make you feel good." (FYI, Raisman's proud of her muscles.)
How she manages her anxiety: "I think when dealing with anxiety, it's important to talk about it even though it's uncomfortable. I see a therapist and I also speak about it with my parents or friends. Or I'll do something that takes my mind away from what's making me anxious. I'll watch a fun TV show, read a book, color, or meditate with an app on my phone. Everyone's different, so it's about finding what works for you, but that's what's helped me." (Related: Prevent Night Anxiety with These Tips for Better Sleep)
Why she shared her sexual abuse story: "I know I have been outspoken, I know I have done a lot of interviews about the abuse, but it doesn't mean it's easy for me. It doesn't mean that it gets easier every time I speak about it. But I got this great advice from my mom: 'If you're going to write a book, it's important to include the best moments of your life, but also the hardest moments of your life, because they are part of the fabric of your life.' I felt like if I was going to write a book, it was important to include because although it was horrific what I and so many others went through, I think that together we're creating an army. You've seen all the brave women and all the brave girls who are speaking at the sentencing this week. I think we're going to change the sport forever. And hopefully, we can get to a point where no one in the future has to say 'me too' ever again."