On the Naomi Osaka Situation

I am not even a tennis fan, and yet it caught my attention when Naomi Osaka, one of the top tennis players in the world, withdrew from the French Open (one of the biggest tournaments of the tennis season) last week as a result of a dispute with event organizers about her decision not to speak with news media during the event.[1] There can be disputes between athletes and the press, but seldom (if ever) does it get to a point that a star athlete withdraws from a major event.

However, it was no ordinary dispute between an athlete and the press. Osaka has made it clear that her decision to avoid the press was due to the impact press conferences had on her mental health—something that should not be taken lightly given the fact that the tennis star noted that she has suffered from “long bouts of depression” for years. And yet, in spite of the fact that she made it clear that the decision was made in order to take care of her mental health, she was given a $15,000 fine from the organizers of the French Open and was threatened with expulsion from the tournament.[2] As a result of all of this, Osaka withdrew from the tournament entirely.

As someone who knows people who battle depression, I am personally sympathetic to Osaka. Others have been much less sympathetic. However, regardless of where your own sympathies lie in this instance, there are some things that I think all of us should try to learn from this situation:

  • Successful people can struggle with their mental health. This should be the first, and maybe most obvious, thing that people should get from this whole situation. Osaka is a world-class tennis player, a winner in four “Grand Slam” tournaments,[3] and considered one of the top women’s tennis players in the world right now. And yet she goes through long bouts of depression. This goes to show that depression is not just for people who are struggling with life in general—highly successful people can go through it too.
  • Even successful people can have certain things that give them a ton of anxiety. For Osaka, it is speaking with the press—she said that she feels “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking with the press.[4] In other words, successful people are human too!
  • Different people process similar events or situations in different ways, and that is okay. To see how this can be the case, look at how Osaka and one of her tennis competitors, Serena Williams, deal with invasive and inappropriate questions from the press. Some people argue that since Serena Williams can weather through the pressure of such press conferences, so should Osaka. But, the fact is that Williams and Osaka are different people with probably different things that have an impact on their mental health.
  • Punishing someone for avoiding a certain obligation out of self-care puts that individual into a box: either forcing them to do the certain thing they’re avoiding out of self-care, or simply going in a different direction entirely. When the organizers of the French Open (who, in my humble opinion, should be ashamed of themselves) gave the punishment they did to Osaka, those were the two options she had: she could’ve avoided self-care by facing the press (which she decided not to do) or go in a different direction (which, in this case for Osaka, meant withdrawing from the French Open). Either way, punishing someone’s attempt at self-care as they’re battling something like anxiety or depression is not wise, and if one is not careful, could put someone’s life in peril.

These are just a few of the takeaways I have from the Osaka situation, though if others have other takeaways, feel free to let me know in the comments section below. Regardless, I want, and hope, that the situation with Osaka can be an opportunity to think not just about the mental health of athletes, but about mental health in general.


[1] Read more about the dispute here: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/may/31/naomi-osaka-withdraws-french-open-press-conference-fines-tennis

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Grand Slams” are the biggest tournaments on the tennis calendar, the tournaments with the most prestige. Those Grand Slams are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open.

[4] Ibid.

Another Reminder that Self-Care is Not Selfish

Nearly two years ago, I wrote a post that served as a reminder that self-care is not selfish. Given the extent to which many of us are struggling with self-care during the coronavirus, I think the message of that old post is as relevant as ever.

Usually, when I feel that the message of an old post is relevant again, I republish the post. However, the original post was made under a set of circumstances that don’t exist now, so republishing the post would likely result in my significantly editing the post in a way that I think the post would become less powerful.

As such, instead of republishing the old post, I’m posting a link here to my original post on self-care. You can read the original post below.

Original post: Self-Care is Not Selfish

Self-Care is Not Selfish

If you told me at this time last year that I would have the above statement anywhere in my writing, let alone as the title of a blog post, I might call you crazy.

Needless to say, life circumstances can change your outlook.

The past year has been an absolute whirlwind for me. From changes and promotions professionally, to the loss of two relatives (including my grandpa, who was the sort of person I aspire to be), to having yet another relative experience worsening Alzheimer’s, I have experienced many changes in my life. Those changes, both good and bad, were so great and happened so quickly that they ended up taking a major toll on my own mental health.

But, even as my mental health was on the decline in early autumn, I had this attitude that “I should take care of others and not really worry about myself.” I was worried about others instead of myself.

And then, a good friend of mine gave me a nice little reality check through what she said: “I know you want to worry about everyone else and make sure they’re taken care of, but you need to take care of yourself too Brendan. You need to take some time for yourself.”

Thankfully, that reality check came at the right time (a time when my mental health was quite poor) and with someone who really was looking out for my best interests. She knew that I was really worried about others and not caring enough for myself. And, of course, she knew that I was wrong to think that way.

I was wrong to think that way for so many reasons, but I will touch on a couple of major reasons that might resonate with people who, like me, always look to help others no matter how they are doing themselves. For one thing, it is hard to take care of others when you are not doing well, physically or mentally. For another thing, if you personally are not doing well physically or mentally, then the biggest help you can often be to friends is to take care of yourself.[1]  Ultimately, even if you’re someone like me (someone who wants to help others all the time), the biggest help you can be to those you want to help is to take care of yourself.

As such, I therefore hope that what I’m about to say is also coming at the right time for someone out there: “Whether you are struggling or not, you need to take care of yourself physically and mentally. You need to exercise self-care, and self-care is not selfish.”

Note: As taking care of oneself is something I consider “blindly just,” this is a “blindly just” post.

[1] Believe me…after the occasions I kept roommates awake at night because of my coughing when I was sick, I truly believe that sometimes, the biggest help you can be to friends is to take care of yourself.