Simone Biles is not alone in fighting demons

Lorraine Murray

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Lorraine Murray

Watching female gymnasts fly through the air reminds me darkly of elementary school, when I would have preferred anything to the terrors of performing physically.

Unlike the graceful gymnasts competing in the Olympics, I was fat, awkward and terrified of the mat.

I prayed God would make something happen, so my turn wouldn’t come — World War III, an earthquake, even the end of the world. I wasn’t choosy.

When these events didn’t materialize, I would glumly attempt a somersault, then flop over on my side like a floundering walrus.

The kids would laugh, I would die inside, then go home and beg my mother to write a note, so I could avoid class the next day. She usually acquiesced and my teachers probably marveled at the many maladies I endured as a child.

And even though I have little in common with gymnast Simone Biles, who is lauded as the “Greatest of All Time,” I still empathize with her.

She said she withdrew from the Olympics gymnastic team competition partly because she was fighting inner “demons.” These aren’t the ones with with horns, but mental voices that tried to undermine her self-confidence.

Biles said it was awful that “you are fighting with your own head. You want to do it for yourself but you’re just too worried about what everybody else is going to say, think, the internet.”

These voices sometimes preyed on me when I was a college teacher. As I was lecturing, I saw many attentive faces, but when I’d spot someone who looked like they’d rather be at the dentist, I’d doubt myself, wondering, “Why is she frowning? Is my lecture boring?”

The New Testament story about Peter stepping out of the boat reminds me of the thoughts that can shatter our confidence.

When Peter clasped Jesus’ hand, he could do the physically impossible — walk on water — but when Peter started doubting, he began sinking.

We can imagine Peter’s inner voices: “You’re going to drown!!”

Why do we doubt God? We get afraid, we forget what he’s done for us in the past, we talk ourselves into believing he won’t rescue us.

We listen to the wrong voice in our head. One voice urges us to leave the little boat of our fears, while another pushes us back inside.

We get caught up in constantly changing news reports and forget the eternal truths. We dwell so much on worldwide catastrophes, that we overlook the wonders right in front of us.

Simone Biles evidently conquered her mental demons and won a bronze medal in what was hailed as a remarkable comeback.

She’s a reminder we can do wonderful things, when we resist the negative voices and turn toward the light.

I’d like to tell you I eventually became proficient at somersaults, but that would be a giant lie.

In truth, I learned to listen to the positive voices of family, friends and teachers, who assured me I had other talents.

And while other kids were perfecting somersaults on the mat, I was polishing my essay on “What I Did Over Summer Vacation.” And you can bet it wasn’t gymnastics.

Lorraine is the author of eight books, available online. Her email is

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