“I am human… of course those things are going to hurt… (but) I’m not going to let those things define me.”
Lizzie Velasquez was born in 1989, 4 weeks premature and with all odds against her. At first, doctors were amazed that she had even been born alive, and they doubted that she would ever be able to live a fulfilling life.
Her condition is so rare that only two other people in the world are believed to have it, which means that there are many mysteries surrounding Lizzie’s life. For one thing, her body does not hold on to any fat or develop muscle mass, but her internal organs, bones, and brain developed normally. When she was 4 years old, she became blind in one eye, which is why one is blue and the other brown.
Despite the challenges of her small size, weak immune system, and different appearance, her parents chose to raise her like any other child. Their support has had a great impact on Lizzie’s drive and outlook on life. Through many years of bullying, going all the way back to kindergarten, she has managed to turn hateful comments into a source of motivation.
However, one episode stands out from all the rest and left Lizzie devastated. At age 17, she did an interview which was posted on Youtube under the title “The World’s Ugliest Woman”. By the time Lizzie found the clip, it already had 4 million views and an endless thread of terrible comments. Although this was a major blow to Lizzie’s confidence, she bounced back from the incident, stronger than ever.
“One of the biggest lessons I had to learn was to stop comparing myself to others. It’s so easy to fall into a hole of doubt but if you stay on top of it and remind yourself of something you do like about yourself, eventually it will become second nature.”
Today, Lizzie has great success as a motivational speaker, author and youtuber. She has devoted her life to spreading kindness and speaking out against cyber-bullying. Her TEDx talks on self-definition and happiness have been watched by millions of people, and she also starred in the biographical documentary “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story” from 2015. So far, she has written 3 inspiring books – the most recent one, “Dare to Be Kind”, was published in 2017. In this book, Lizzie “presents the path to acceptance, love and tolerance, and offers a blueprint for how to lead a resilient life and, ultimately, forge a radically compassionate world.”
Setting an example for all, Lizzie Velasquez redirects negativity and finds strength in what other people might perceive as weaknesses. She turned around the word ‘disabled’ and coined the term ‘differently-abled’, illustrating her relentless effort to encourage a positive tone, even when being confronted with harmful misconceptions.
By Ida Larsen , WAVE Intern