A Woman Who Physically Can’t Gain Weight Bravely Overcame Criticism and Learned to Embrace Herself: "Being Different Is Unique
Lizzie Velasquez, 33, went through a difficult period in her life when she became a target for online trolls due to her rare health condition. Despite the online hate, Lizzie was able to take the opportunity to raise awareness and inspired many to be kinder to others as well as themselves.
She was diagnosed with a rare health condition as a child.
Born in Austin, Texas, Lizzie Velasquez was diagnosed with a rare condition, neonatal progeroid syndrome, which prevented her from gaining weight and affected her eyes, bones, and heart. Lizzie didn’t realize she was different in any way from anyone else since her parents never treated her any differently. “They loved me in the face of so many unknowns.”
She only realized she was different when children in kindergarten appeared scared of her, but Lizzie says her parents supported her through her tough times, saying, “There is nothing wrong with you, you are just smaller than the other kids. You are beautiful and smart and can accomplish anything.” Eventually, by the time Lizzie was in high school, she became more confident and outgoing and found herself being more positive.
She found herself becoming a target for online hate at just 17.
However, in 2006, when Lizzie was 17, she found a YouTube video referring to herself as “The World’s Ugliest Woman” with over 4 million views and many negative comments. Lizzie, who had become more confident at the time, felt that “within 2 seconds, everything that I had worked for up to that point was just sort of knocked over and done.”
At first, Lizzie was distressed by the onslaught of criticism she received. But as she later realized, the video changed her life forever. “I didn’t want to retaliate — it was a waste of time. I just wanted to prove them wrong.” Once she had her mind set on this goal, Lizzie used this moment to redefine her life completely.
She didn’t let the criticism get to her and instead used her platform for good.
In 2013, Lizzie gave a TEDx talk in Austin about her experience with online hate in an attempt to raise awareness. The talk was extremely successful, and in 2015, Lizzie received the opportunity to have a documentary made about her experience called A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story. Soon, she spread her positive message to a huge online following on her social media platforms as well.
Lizzie tries to remain open as possible, saying she stays positive by letting herself be vulnerable and honest with herself and others. “I want to remind people that at the end of the day, yes, I am an inspiration and motivation for people, but I am human. It’s okay to show your vulnerable side, and people won’t see you as weak,” she said.
She hopes her story can inspire others to overcome hate as well.
Lizzie Velasquez took a negative thing in her life and turned it into something to inspire others. “Awful things happened to me, but I am still here, smiling and happy.” The motivational speaker continues to use her platform to fight against online negativity and encourage people to be kinder, saying, “I hope with my story I’m able to be that reminder to other people that no matter your circumstance, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.”
What part of Lizzie Velasquez’s story inspired you the most? If you have advice on how to combat hate and negativity, share it with us in the comments!