Aly Raisman fulfilled her Olympic dream in 2016 with dedication, leadership, and incredible sportsmanship. But in 2017 she's shown why she's a champion outside the gym. Raisman has become an outspoken advocate for all survivors of sexual violence and shared her own personal story about USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was recently sentenced to prison time for both child pornography and sexual assault charges.
Raisman is only 23, but people of all ages can learn a lot from her words of wisdom on myriad issues (which is why I'm totally visiting the young adult section to snag a copy of her new memoir, Fierce).
Case in point: At an Aerie store opening in Miami this weekend, Raisman partnered with the women's career platform Create & Cultivate to speak out about empowerment and body positivity. She briefly touched on her past struggles by noting, "I learned with every hard time I went through, I always came out the other side stronger."
Many of us can relate to feeling uncomfortable in our skin and comparing ourselves to models and actresses we see in the pages of magazines, on our TV screens, and as we scroll through our Instagram feeds. Raisman has been there, too, and over time she's learned to approach herself — and others — with a lot of empathy. As she later told Refinery29 over email:
“This is something I’ve been trying to talk about a lot the last month. That everyone has a story. Everyone’s battling something. Everyone is a survivor of something, and no matter what it is, we have to be supportive of each other and be there for each other. No more social media where everybody’s life looks perfect. We have to start talking about things.”
And maybe she's not saying we should walk away from social media entirely, forever, but it can't hurt to take a break if the negative messages seem to be drowning out the positive ones. Putting down the phone to talk to someone before making any snap judgments can make all the difference in the world. As Raisman points out, however things appear online, we can never know what's real in someone's life without having a conversation with them about it. So, let's start there.
Ed. note: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Raisman's statement.