Don’t Let The Bullies Define You
Hello from my newly renovated website! My original blog was mostly my quirky little thoughts about bodybuilding, weight loss and dealing with small children. As I was working with the web designer to create a new look for my blog I had to really think about how I wanted to define my little section of cyberspace, and to a certain extent, how to define myself with it.
You wouldn’t think it would, but the process really freaked me out. (Hence there is a reason why the blog is named “ShesLosingIt.com”). Am I presenting myself as primarily a bodybuilder? Do I want to only be thought of standing in a red bikini? Or am I the mom who went from frumpy to fit? Should I be less familiar-toned in my writing and make my voice that of an expert? I used to just write for me, but now that my readership has grown to over 40,000 views per month should I try to be more of what I think y’all want me to be?
Luckily I ran into Lizzie Velasquez at just the right time at last weekend’s R3 Summit put on by Prevention Magazine. Lizzie’s speech at TEDx went viral and has been viewed millions of times, she has authored three books, given motivational speeches to live crowds of over 10,000 and the documentary of her life, “A Brave HEart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story” won the Audience Awards at SXSW and Traverse City film festivals and the BFF Spirit Award.
Her success lies in her answer to the question, ‘How do you define yourself?’ As a teenager she was looking for some music on YouTube and stumbled upon a thumbnail that looked familiar to her. She opened it to discover someone had taken images of her and labeled her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” It had over 4 million hits. She didn’t begin to cry until she realized that her mother had seen it too.
As one of only three people in the world with a rare syndrome that does not allow her to gain weight, she is only 65 lbs. The syndrome also rendered her blind in her right eye and requires her heart to be monitored carefully.
“Kill it with fire”
“Her parents should have aborted her”
“Do yourself a favor and just kill yourself”
the comments read. No one defended her. No one.
Think of that. How many of us feel bad if someone says the mildest criticism. Can you imagine how it would feel if hundreds of people you never met wished you were dead? I don’t know if I could handle that as an adult and she experienced this as a teenager.
She could have said nothing. She could have lashed out in anger. She could have listened to the anonymous people and committed suicide. Thank God she did none of those things. She fought back in a different way.
“I refused to let these cyberbullies define me,” she said, “I choose to define myself by my accomplishments.” She decided to start her own YouTube channel and made it a positive one explaining her condition and why bullying hurts. She decided to leave the comments section open to everyone, even the bullies, thinking that perhaps those were the people who needed to hear her voice most of all.
So many things about this young woman of 26 amaze me. She looks to the bright side of everything. Yes, she’s blind in one eye, “but I can see in the other.” She will never weigh more than 65 lbs., but she can eat as much junk food as she wants. Bullies torment her online to this day and she uses it to uplift others.
Her honesty is refreshing. She not only relates the loneliness she felt as a child to be teased but also the anxiety she sometimes feels now in her fame. As a child she was isolated due to looking different, as and adult she is on pedestal and feels pressure to constantly be inspirational or she might let people down. She fights this mental burden by showing everything in her documentary.
She videoed days when she was sick on Capitol Hill fighting for anti-bullying legislation as well as on days she felt good and visited children in hospitals. She showed comments from people saying they love and tweets from people saying “You’re ugly” before she’s about to give a motivational speech.
In short, she accepts all of who she is: the good, the bad, the ugly and the achingly beautiful. May we all be as accepting of ourselves and each other.
As for me and my little blog, I promise to continue to talk about everything: the good, the bad and all the quirky things that make me…me.
For a little inspiration, here’s her speech from TEDx Austin.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two.
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