How Olympian Chloe Kim Overcame "Toxic" Pressure to "Feel Perfect All the Time"

Chloe Kim gets candid about letting go of impossible expectations and how therapy and other Olympic athletes have helped her mental health journey.

By Tionah Lee Nov 08, 2021 6:48 PMTags
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Chloe Kim knows that if it doesn't serve you, let it go!

The snowboarder got candid about letting go of the mounting pressure that came with her newfound fame after she won gold at just 17 years old in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. "I felt pressured to be perfect all the time, and it drained me. I was genuinely angry for a while because I was so concerned about what everyone else would think about me," she told SHAPE.

"It became toxic. That's when I realized, I need to take better care of myself, and if I don't want to do something, I can't force myself to do it," she said. "It was very empowering for me, feeling like I finally had more control over my life. Right now, I'm in a much better place." 

What helped her get to that better place? Therapy.

Jaw-Dropping Photos from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

"I'm learning to open up more and communicate my feelings with people around me," Chloe, now 21, told the outlet.

In addition to feeling as though she has to be "on" all the time, Chloe noted the pressure that came with the world looking to her as a voice amid rising anti-Asian hate and violence in the United States. 

"In my everyday life, if something bothers me, I have to be really comfortable with a certain person to share my discomfort.," the Korean American athlete said. "So you could imagine how I felt when everyone was pressuring me to do it on social media." 

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

For Chloe, she had amazing role models within her Olympic community to be an example of standing up for what you believe.

"I was really proud of Simone Biles, and Naomi Osaka as well, for prioritizing their mental health," she noted. "I hope that people realize that as athletes and Olympians, we face a lot of pressure. It's important to slow down, take a step back, and validate your emotions. Respecting yourself is so important."

The snowboarder, who is prepping for the Winter Games in Beijing, says she is proud of the identity she has made for herself on and off the mountain. "I definitely think I switch mentally," she said. "I completely tune out, and I become a different person. I'm Chloe Kim, the snowboarder. But when I'm home, I'm Chloe Kim, the Cali girl. There's a different Chloe when I'm on snow, and I love her. She's the best."