When she was in high school, Lizzie Velasquez was dubbed “The World’s Ugliest Woman” in an 8-second-long YouTube video. Born with a medical condition so rare that just two other people in the world are thought to have it, Velasquez has no adipose tissue and cannot create muscle, store energy, or gain weight. She has zero percent body fat and weighs just 60 pounds.
In the comments on YouTube, viewers called her “it” and “monster” and encouraged her to kill herself. Instead, Velasquez set four goals: To become a motivational speaker, to publish a book, to graduate college, and to build a family and a career for herself.
Now 23 years old, she’s been a motivational speaker for seven years and has given more than 200 workshops on embracing uniqueness, dealing with bullies, and overcoming obstacles. She’s a senior majoring in Communications at Texas State University in San Marcos, where she lives with her best friend. Her first book, “Lizzie Beautiful,” came out in 2010 winning the hearts of many around the world and her second, “Be Beautiful, Be You,” was published earlier September and In 2013 she’s hoping to write her third book.
“The stares are what I’m really dealing with in public right now,” she told Dr. Drew Pinsky in an interview on CNN’s Headline News. But I think I’m getting to the point where… instead of sitting by and watching people judge me, I’m starting to want to go up to these people and introduce myself or give them my card and say, ‘Hi, I’m Lizzie. Maybe you should stop staring and start learning’.”
Velasquez was born in San Antonio, Texas; she was four weeks premature and weighed just 2 pounds, 10 ounces. “They told us they had no idea how she could have survived,” her mother, Rita, 45, told the Daily Mail. “We had to buy doll’s clothes from the toy store because baby clothes were too big.” Doctors warned Rita and her husband, Lupe, that their oldest child would never be able to walk or talk, let alone live a normal life. (Her two younger siblings were not affected by the syndrome.)
Instead, she has thrived. Her internal organs, brain, and bones developed normally, though her body is tiny. Since she has no fatty tissue in which to store nutrients, she has to eat every 15 to 20 minutes to have enough energy to get through the day. One brown eye started clouding over when she was 4 years old, and now she’s blind in that eye and has only limited sight in the other.
When I think of commitment, I think of a story about a young handicapped black child by the name of Wilma Rudolph. She was born premature, weighing four and one-half pounds, on a farm in the backwoods of Tennessee. At the age of four, she was stricken with double pneumonia and scarlet fever. The deadly combination left her with a paralyzed and useless left leg. Doctors told her mother that Wilma would never walk, at least not like a normal child. Her mother’s only response was a line from a favorite hymn. Wilma could “climb her highest mountain if she only did it one step at a time.”
The first step was very painful. Wilma’s doctors had to teach her to walk with a burdensome steel brace. That took five torturous years. At first, walking was impossible, but Wilma’s mother continued to massage the impaired leg until one day she achieved a slight step. The difficult and painful process continued, sustained by the patient dedication of Wilma’s mother, who ingrained in her daughter’s mind the words, “Never give up!”
On her ninth birthday, Wilma amazed her doctors by taking a step without the steel brace. She had spent the past five years developing her broken, limping step into a smooth, rhythmic stride. Doctors hoped that she would eventually walk without a limp. But what happened in Wilma Rudolph’s life amazed the medical world but not her mom.
When she was 13 years old, three things happened to Wilma. First, she entered a Tennessee high school. Second, she joined the track team. And third, she assumed the nickname “limpy Rudolph” because she limped into last place in every event in which she competed.
At first, her friends encouraged her, but when it became apparent to them that she would never compete effectively and that she was suffering abuse from teammates and opponents alike, they urged her even begged her to quit.
Wilma continued to enter every race and continued to limp into last place each time, but she always finished. She never quit. One day, a miracle happened. She surprised her teammates by coming in next to last in a race. Another day she finished third from last. One day she finished second from first, and one day she won a race!
Now, with a feeling of victory in her blood, she began to run with a reckless abandon until one day she won every race she entered. That day, she won herself a new nickname, “lightning Rudolph!”
This unknown athlete came to the attention of Coach Ed Temple at Tennessee State University, and he was impressed. Coach Temple asked Wilma to come to his school and run for him. Wilma said, “If running will get me an education, Coach, I will come to your school, and I will run harder and faster than I have ever run in my entire life. I promise you . . . I’ll never give up!”
While away at school, things were about to change again for Wilma. No longer could she depend on the motivation of her mother. Motivation had to come from within. Wilma was brilliant in her college career. In 1960, both she and her coach received the honor of being picked for the Olympic track team that was to compete in Rome.
Wilma had never traveled outside Tennessee, except to compete with the track team. A dramatic stage had been set for this poor black child who had fought her way out of the shackles of a leg brace to compete in the Olympics. Those in the stadium that year in Rome thought that Wilma Rudolph looked a bit lonely. She was an unknown black athlete. Something was seriously wrong with her left leg because she hobbled with a limp. Some observers were asking aloud, “What’s she doing here? What is the United States trying to prove?”
It took exactly 11 seconds for the world to find out what Wilma Rudolph was doing in Rome that year. When the starting pistol cracked in the 100-meter dash, Wilma tore up the cinder path in world-record time to capture her first gold medal.
Her second race was the 200-meter dash. No one could figure out why Wilma would even enter this race. Germany’s Yetta Hynie was heavily favored to win it. She held the world’s record in the event. No one expected to beat Yetta, no one but Wilma Rudolph.
Again, the starting pistol cracked. Wilma and Yetta jumped to a commanding lead, leaving the remainder of the field behind to quarrel among themselves for third place. As the pair made the turn, the crowd was on its feet screaming wildly. The two raced neck and neck, stride for stride, to the finish line. With a burst of speed on the backstretch, Wilma pushed out to the lead, snapped the victory tape, and captured her second gold medal with a stunning upset of the world champion.
Several days later, Wilma would be competing again against a revenge-seeking Yetta Hynie. But this time the race was the 400-meter relay, and the German foursome, featuring Yetta as the anchor runner, was the heavy favorite. They held the world’s record. No one dared to challenge the Germans, no one but Wilma and the Americans.
The starter’s pistol cracked, and the first leg of the race began with a burst. Apparently this would be a duel between the Germans and the Americans. The first runners handed the batons cleanly to the second. The second runners made a clean exchange with the third.
Wilma and Yetta were on the anchor leg. When the third runners made the exchange of batons to Wilma and Yetta, Wilma dropped hers, allowing Yetta to coast all alone toward the victory line for what seemed a sure-fire gold medal for the German foursome.
No one knows what happened in that next instant. Perhaps, for a moment, Wilma looked beyond that Roman cinder path; beyond the walls of that stadium, and sent out a cry to her mother back home in Tennessee. And a still, small voice came back . . . “Never give up! Never, never, never give up!”
We do not know if that actually happened, but we do know what Olympic records tell us did happen. Wilma was hopelessly behind. With less than ten seconds to go and less than 100 yards from the finish line, Wilma reached down, picked up the baton in one fist and began her comeback.
She raced neck and neck, stride for stride, to the finish line, 75 yards to go . . . 60 yards to go . . . 25 yards to go. With a burst of speed at the finish, she pushed out to the lead, snapped the tape, and captured her third gold medal. She was the first American woman in the history of the Olympics ever to win three gold medals.
One hundred thousand screaming fans were on their feet yelling wildly because they knew they were not just watching another race; they were witnessing a miracle, the miracle of Wilma Rudolph.
(Taken from a book “The Toastmasters International Guide to Successful Speaking” by Jeff Slutsky and Michael Aun)
Hope this story inspires you.
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. (Michael Jordan)
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. (Hannah More)
If we examine every stage of our lives, we find that from our first breath to our last, we are under the constraint of circumstances. And yet we still possess the greatest of all freedoms, the power of developing our innermost selves in harmony with the moral order of the Universe, and so winning peace at heart whatever obstacles we meet. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me. (Carol Burnett)
You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight. (Jim Rohn)
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. (Henri Bergson)
Never underestimate the power of other people’s love and prayer. When you put someone else at the center of your frame, the entire world changes for you. (Tony Snow)
Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. (William James)
Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine. (Kathleen Norris)
Our only security is our ability to change. (John Lilly)
Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. (Stephen Covey)
If you take a single step toward positive change, that divine energy will take a hundred steps toward you. New worlds and unbelievable possibilities will open up for you. The synchronicities that will begin appearing in your life will become a source of delight and amazement. (Joan Borysenko)
There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change. (Euripides)
All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. (Wayne Dyer)
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. (Mahatma Gandhi)
I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it. (Maya Angelou)
There is nothing permanent except change. (Heraclitus)
A great attitude does much more than turn on the light in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before we changed. (Earl Nightingale)
Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right. (Jane Goodall)
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. (Henri Bergson)
I have accepted fear as part of life -specifically the fear of change. I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says turn back. (Erica Jong)
Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change. (Erick Golnik)
Do not become the candle that gives light to others but itself remains in darkness. Do not follow the desires of your lower self. Should the Lord wish, He himself will pick you out and prompt you to be a source of guidance. He Himself shall endow you with the inner strength to endure the changes of fortune and will instill within you infinite wisdom. (Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jillani)
When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’
She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.
Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking.
‘I want a divorce.’ I raised the topic calmly.
She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, ‘why?’
I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, ‘you are not a man!’
That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; I had lost my heart to a lovely girl called Dew. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!
With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, 30% shares of my company and the car. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Dew so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.
The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Dew. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.
In the morning she presented her divorce conditions:
she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a months time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.
This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day. She requested that everyday for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy.
Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request. I told Dew about my wife s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. ‘No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce,’ she said scornfully.
My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy.
Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding mummy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms.
She closed her eyes and said softly; ‘ don’t tell our son about the divorce.’
I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office. On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest.. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.
On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning… This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me.
On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Dew about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by.
Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger. She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.
Suddenly it hit me; she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart.
Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.
Our son came in at the moment and said, ‘Dad, it’s time to carry mum out.’
To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day. But her much lighter weight made me sad.
On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. I drove to office…jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind… I walked upstairs.
Dew opened the door and I said to her, ‘Sorry, Dew, I do not want the divorce anymore.’
She looked at me, astonished. Then touched my forehead.
‘Do you have a fever?’ She said.
I moved her hand off my head.
‘ Sorry, Dew, I said, I won’t divorce.’
My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other any more. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding
day I am supposed to hold her until death does us apart.
Dew seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote:
‘I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us part’.
The small details of our lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, the property, the bank balance that matters. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give appiness in themselves. So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy.
If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that is a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you the rest of your life. (Chris Evert)