Above: Lizzie Velasquez. All images: Facebook
If you’re having a low self-esteem day, struggling with self-image, or facing bullying in your school or workplace, a Lizzie Velasquez Youtube video could be your best medicine.
An inspirational author and motivational speaker, Lizzie was born with a rare congenital disease called neonatal progeroid syndrome which prevents her from accumulating body fat. It affects her eyes, her bones, and her heart. She is very thin, and is blind in her right eye.
As a result of her thin, aged appearance, Lizzie began to experience bullying while she was growing up. When she started using social media as a teenager, she began to experience the extremes of cruel cyber-bullying, once being dubbed the “World’s Ugliest Woman” in a hateful video posted on YouTube in 2006—when she was just 17.
And yet Lizzie constantly finds ways to overcome and rise above ignorant, abusive words.
Since giving a TEDx talk in 2013 that went viral (10.8 million views to date), Lizzie has gained worldwide attention about her story and turned what was once a bad situation into a very positive one.
Faith as a Firm Foundation
In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Laura and Duncan, Lizzie explained that her Christian faith was one of the key ingredients that has helped her to withstand the cruelty of teenage bullying.
Being brought up in the Christian faith, she knew that she was unconditionally loved by God and that became an important foundation in her life.
“My faith journey has been through ups and downs but at the end of the day it’s always been something I can rely on,” she said.
With the Good Comes the Bad
Watch: Lizzie featured in a series of videos by Allure titled ‘Dispelling Beauty Myths’
Lizzie’s parents gave her advice before she signed up with a social media account: “With the good will come the bad, if you don’t think you can handle something that may not be nice; then you may not be ready for the next step”.
This advice helped her during the time when cyberbullying was introduced to her at the age of 17 and it’s the advice she starts out with whenever she speaks.
Living in the Spotlight
It was in high school when Lizzie gave her first motivational talk. Before going on stage she expected that nobody would be able to relate to what she was going through because her condition was so rare, and no-one had been in her shoes.
After her speech, though, she soon realised that many were able to relate to the self-esteem and bullying issues that had touched her life.
It set her on a path to become a motivational communicator full time.
Once her TED talk went viral it gave her a platform to influence a generation dealing with cyber bullying.
She now has a Youtube Channel with more than 700,000 subscribers, more than 800,000 Facebook followers and more than 600,000 followers on Instagram.
She supports and promotes antibullying initiatives such as @Later_haters, Real Players Don’t Bully, and National Bullying Prevention Month. This year she also launched a DVD sharing her story called A Brave Heart, as well as a book called Dare to be Kind.
Wisdom in using Social Media
Lizzie still struggles with her emotions about ‘haters’ online, but uses it to fuel her motivation for doing what she is called to do.
“When I’m prepared emotionally and mentally, I’m able to focus on why I’m on earth and what my purpose is…”
”When you post something online you can’t erase it”, says Lizzie. “At the end of the day, I’m human and even now when people say things, it really gets to me, but when I’m prepared emotionally and mentally, I’m able to focus on why I’m on earth and what my purpose is in order to keep going”.
The advice she offers for people using social media is to “Always think twice before posting, there’s someone on the other side whose reading your words and you don’t know what that person is going through, be gentle about what you write”.
Lizzie hopes her story will help people feel like they are hearing elements of their own life, and give people the confidence to overcome the pain of being bullied.