Today is August 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you brave with your life and believe you are worth of your dreams?” On Friday, August 6, 2021, while participating in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, American track and field champion Allyson Felix wrote an Instagram post entitled “Fear.” In her post Felix mentioned how she is nervous, even afraid, when she lines up for a race. But that fear never stopped her from racing, competing, or losing. As Felix noted “I’m not afraid of losing. I lose much more than I win. That’s life and I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’ve found that I learn more from my losses and that I have gained much more value in the journey toward a goal than achieving that goal. I’ll line up, I’ll give my best and I will either win or lose and that doesn’t scare me.”
Reflecting on her career on the night before her final individual Olympic final, Felix wrote realized how she let her past performances define her worth. In a moment of clarity, self-care, and self-awareness, she proclaimed “I’ve been afraid that my worth is tied to whether or not I win or lose. But right now, I’ve decided to leave that fear behind. To understand that I am enough.” Felix ended her post by explaining that she published her post entitled “Fear” for athletes who define themselves by their medal count, women who base their worth on their marital status or if they have children, and for anyone who thinks the people on TV are somehow different. “I get afraid just like you,” Felix added, “but you are so much more than enough. So, take off the weight of everyone else’s expectations of you. Know that there is freedom on the other side of your fear. Go out there and be brave with your life because you are worthy of your dreams.”
As the only female track and field athlete to ever win six Olympic gold medals and the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history, with a total of 11 Olympic medals, Felix has navigated the chaos of being brave with her life and recognizing she is worthy of her dreams. Her life and career, however, also illustrates the necessity of creating new dreams, using one’s voice, and allowing life to unfold in ways previously unimagined. That’s what happened to Felix when she and her husband decided to start a family after her double-gold medal performance at the 2017 World Championships. Her contract with Nike was up at the end of that year, and she was pregnant in the early months of 2018. Negotiations were not going well, with Nike wanting to pay Felix 70 percent of what it had been paying her previously, despite no real decline in her performance. When she asked for pregnancy protections, and also for her pay to stay the same even if her performance wasn't up to her usual standard in the months after childbirth, Felix was told no.
In 2018 Felix gave birth to her daughter Camryn, born premature at 32 weeks. After going through a difficult pregnancy and delivery, the Olympic champion started to share her story with other expecting parents to help raise awareness for the signs of pregnancy complications and highlighted how complications can happen to anyone at any time but there are places that you can access support and information. Felix also got involved with Better Starts For All whose mission is to increase access to high-quality healthcare for all expecting parents, to spread information about pregnancy complications and improve the lives of pregnant people and their babies.
While Felix was adjusting to life as a mother and caring for her premature baby, she was also dealing with her longtime sponsor in Nike. In a May 22, 2019, New York Times op-ed entitled: “Allyson Felix: My Own Nike Pregnancy Story: I’ve been one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes. If I can’t secure maternity protections, who can?” Felix accused Nike of penalizing her and other pregnant athletes, including World Championships medalist Alysia Montaño and Olympian Kara Goucher, in contract negotiations. The move was fraught. Felix risked losing her primary source of income and could have been blacklisted from major meets. Felix soon left Nike and signed with Athleta, becoming the women-focused apparel brand’s first athlete sponsor.
While Felix dedicated her time to raising the profile of pregnancy complications, she was also raising her newborn baby and preparing for the 2021 Olympic games. She’s been open in the past about what she called "the enduring status quo around maternity.” She said that following the birth of her child she felt that she had to choose between a sport that she loves and her family. The publicity surrounding how Nike was treating Felix and other pregnant athletes demonstrated the power of her voice. As Felix recalled in an interview “I never would have thought that using my voice would have led to Nike changing their maternity policy for athletes and I definitely never would have thought it would lead to creating Saysh (@bysaysh), a community-centered lifestyle brand that creates products for, and by, women.” Felix used her voice so that pregnant women “never have to train at 4:30 a.m. while five months pregnant to hide their pregnancy from a sponsor. So that you won’t have to fight someone so much bigger than you for a right that should be basic. I took that on for you, and I didn’t do it alone, but it was for you.”
Felix continued her work to break down barriers. In July 2021 she announced that she’d be working with her sponsor Athletica and the Women’s Sports Foundation to create the Power of She Fund. This is a $200,000 grant distributed between athletes who are also mums to ensure that they can pay for the resources and support they need to ensure that their families are taken care of, and they can focus on their events without the mental stress of juggling home pressures. Due to her outstanding work on behalf of women Felix was selected as one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people of the year in 2020.
How often are you brave with your life and believe you are worthy of your dreams?
Is someone holding you back from feeling worthy of your dreams?
Are you preventing yourself from being brave?
Do you recognize how even world champions like Felix need to navigate the chaos?
What steps can you take, no matter how small, to demonstrate to yourself you are brave, you are strong, and you are worthy of your dreams?
Have you stopped dreaming? If so, why is that?