Finding Your Own Identity: Lizzie Velasquez, Plus

Finding your own identity is the theme of  24-year-old author and motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez in her inspirational TED talk. Her point? You don’t have to be what others perceive about you or how they want to define you. Finding your own identity can be significantly challenging, but it’s a process worth undertaking.

Lizzie knows of what she speaks, having lived with an extremely rare kind of disorder all her life that prevents weight gain and has blinded her in one eye. It’s believed that what she may have is Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome, “a condition that causes accelerated aging and fat loss from the face and body” (The Huffington Post).

Because of how she’s been perceived, Lizzie has been the victim of widespread bullying—she was once called “The World’s Ugliest Woman” in a YouTube video watched by millions.

Lizzie, however, has risen above. One major and positive factor in her development has been her parents, who’ve always given her full support—indeed, to the point that she didn’t know when she first started school why others reacted to her so differently.

Below, Lizzie’s recent TED talk:

How does one actually become oneself? Sounds easy, but usually it’s not at all. Writer Anne Lamott has some advice and words of wisdom in her article called “How to Find Out Who You Really Are.”

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

Other Selected Quotes On Finding Your Own Identity

Harvey Fierstein: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Choke: “We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.”

George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

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