Dancing With the Stars has truly been a transformational experience for Mary Lou Retton.
The iconic Olympian broke down during judging in Monday's episode of the ABC competition, after she and pro partner Sasha Farber performed an emotional contemporary dance to "Reflection" from Mulan.
The former gymnast has been incredibly tough on herself throughout the competition, which she blamed on her background in gymnastics. But before this week's dance, she and Farber worked on some radical self love.
"I'm gonna promise to you, I'm not gonna be hard on myself this week," she told her partner, who responded, "Be kind to yourself."
The song "Reflection" resonated especially with Retton.
"The whole message of Mulan, it's about loving yourself. It's about knowing you're enough," she explained. "This song is spot on for me. When I reflect on how I was when I first came into this dance competition, I'd lost myself. And this journey is really helping me to find myself. I'm finding confidence again, my self esteem is rising, I'm really happy with the improvement I've seen within myself, within my soul. That woman that I lost over the years is starting to peek out and I like who I see. I really do."
After a stunning performance of the dance that earned a 25/30 from the judges, Retton was clearly getting emotional, even appearing to shed a few tears. When asked what the reason for her emotional breakdown, she was honest with the audience.
"One of the first things I told Sasha was that one of the biggest challenges is to be vulnerable, and I'm feeling it," she explained. "I'm making so many changes in this show."
Farber agreed, saying, "She came in all broken and scared, and now she's standing on her own two feet. She's powerful and I'm just so proud of her. I mean she's inspiring me every day."
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba was clearly touched by the confession. "This is the beauty of our show is these kinds of moments," she said. "I live for these kind of moments, because they're real. You're having real transformation through the dance, which is incredible."
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Photo Credit: ABC / Eric McCandless