The 4-time Grand Slam champ’s interview with SELF initially kicked off a few weeks ago, shortly after hecklers accosted Osaka at the Indian Wells Open in California. It also comes less than a year after the athlete made waves within the tennis world by straight-up refusing to participate in any press during the French Open.
“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health, and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” she wrote. “If the organizations think that they can just keep saying ‘Do press or you’re gonna be fined’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation, then I just gotta laugh.”
As a result of Osaka‘s stance on the matter, the Grand Slam tournaments released a joint statement blasting the young athlete’s decision, ultimately fining her $15,000. However, Osaka also inspired various other athletes, such as Simone Biles, to prioritize their mental well-being.
“After I opened up about struggles…I spoke to a lot of athletes that told me they too had quietly been suffering,” Osaka recalled. “I am glad it gave others the opportunity to also speak up, even if that wasn’t my intention or what I expected. It started a conversation that I think we all needed to start having.”
“I just didn’t feel like I had to do things for others,” she added of her decision to speak out. “I wanted to start listening to myself and doing things that I needed to do to protect my mindset.”
In addition to being an outspoken mental health advocate, Osaka has also been vocal about using her platform to support Black Lives Matter.
“Speaking up on issues that aren’t always easy to talk about is new to me but something I am really glad I am starting to do,” Osaka noted. “For me, it was just important to tell people how I was honestly feeling at the moment.”
On the note of being open and honest about her feelings, Osaka also spoke on how consistently seeing a therapist has been beneficial.
“I have seen therapists in the past, but not consistently until now,” she shared. “I’m super happy that I found the right person who really understands me and has been incredibly helpful.”
“It’s kind of a scary first step to take…but I think it can be helpful to everyone in some shape or form and especially so to a large section of people,” she continued. “It doesn’t mean you are broken.”
Introducing our May cover star, @naomiosaka! The tennis star spoke to @MorganJerkins about how setting boundaries became a personal practice, and the necessary steps she’s taken to prioritize her mental health to find her inner peace. https://t.co/eZR0Hytbbv pic.twitter.com/4SzEenHxE8
— SELF (@SELFmagazine) May 8, 2022
In addition to therapy, Osaka also finds refuge in journaling, self-reflection, and gaming. She’s also begun to take on a different perspective about life, as well.
“At this stage in my life, I feel very content in my mental health journey. I feel comfortable in who I am and where I have come from,” Osaka said. “There have been ups and downs and I wouldn’t change a thing, which really helps to give me inner peace.”
“My main goal used to be winning. Lately, I have tried to ask myself questions like, ‘Will this make you happy?'” she added.