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You are the one that decides what defines you
January 14, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe

When I was in high school I found a video that somebody posted of me labeling me the world's ugliest woman. There were over 4 million views of this video.

Lizzie Velasquez, born with an extremely rare genetic condition which prevents her from gaining weight, and blind in her right eye, talks about finding a YouTube video of herself entitled ‘World’s Ugliest Woman’, and deciding not to let it define her.

How Do YOU Define Yourself - Lizzie Velasquez at TEDxAustinWomen via this comment from K.P.
posted by still_wears_a_hat (21 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
At about 7:48 she says about waking up everyday in middle school and wishing she were someone else.

"And every day i was disappointed."

Yep. Been there done that. It's a hard lesson to learn. Guess i never realized how much i used to do that til i heard her say that.

I am very glad to not wake up disappointed anymore. I'm glad she isn't doing that either.
posted by sio42 at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


Colour balance on the video is all wrong. Causes eye leakage.

She's pretty fucking awesome.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:25 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


To everyone who posted negative comments about Lizzie or her appearance on that video, I have this to say, "No! No! Bad human being! What the f*** is wrong with you?! Now go to your room and don't come out until you're not an asshole any more!"
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:33 PM on January 14, 2014 [17 favorites]


That's heartbreaking. And inspiring. Though one of the things it inspires me to do is to beat the crap out of the kid who posted the "world's ugliest woman" video. And the people who wrote assholey comments.
posted by EllenC at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


that kinda stuff builds character. As someone who got bullied a lot in high school i can say self esteem is overrated :-0
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know someone who is intolerant and judgmental, who thinks herself perfect and is rudely critical of her fellow humans' flaws. It's pretty egregious. But when she was in high school roughly a decade ago, her photo was mocked as a photo-of-the-week on a vile, misogynistic, and heavily trafficked website. Knowing that about her gives me mixed feelings about her personality now. On one hand, you can't treat people the way she does. On the other hand...I can understand something like that messing a person up.

This was a really cool speech, and I'm glad I watched it. It's inspirational. Not because of any disability or genetic condition, but because what she's talking about resonates with all of us.
posted by cribcage at 3:20 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Exactly. Everyone is awkward in middle school. She managed to come out ok. And that awesome regardless of anything else.

If everyone made it out unscathed we wouldn't need movies like Mean Girls.
posted by sio42 at 3:22 PM on January 14, 2014


that kinda stuff builds character

Being forced to shovel snow by Calvin's dad builds character. Being told that 4 million people think you're the ugliest person in the world is, in itself, character destroying. I know it would have beaten me down so hard that I'd scarcely be functional as a human being. Most people would break under that stress. Some would die. It seems to me that she has good character in spite of this experience, not because of it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2014 [59 favorites]


that kinda stuff builds character.

Do you have a son named Calvin?
posted by indubitable at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really don't like people sometimes.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:16 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I know someone who is intolerant and judgmental, who thinks herself perfect and is rudely critical of her fellow humans' flaws. It's pretty egregious. But when she was in high school roughly a decade ago, her photo was mocked as a photo-of-the-week on a vile, misogynistic, and heavily trafficked website. Knowing that about her gives me mixed feelings about her personality now. On one hand, you can't treat people the way she does. On the other hand...I can understand something like that messing a person up.

That's an interesting point. For various boring reasons my self esteem is somewhat less than it should be, and I'm also somewhat more judgmental (and significantly more thin-skinned) than I should be. Digging into that, I've come to the conclusion that those things are tightly related; I judge others as I expect them to judge me (i.e. somewhat more harshly than is appropriate), and as my own judgment is rooted in defensive hostility, I assume everyone's (supposed) judgment of me is rooted similarly. Given what your friend went through, I can see how she's arrived at this place emotionally.
posted by davejay at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


When I was in middle school, some of the popular kids got together and had an impromptu "awards ceremony" in which they came up to me in the lunchroom and gave me the "ugliest girl in 7th grade" award. They gave this other kid I was friendly with the "nerdiest kid in 7th grade award."

"At least I didn't get nerdiest!" I remember thinking to myself.

Yeah. That kind of stuff, it fucks you up. This woman is cool as shit though. I like to think that the bullying I received made me a more caring, empathetic person. I think it did...eventually. At first that kind of stuff caused me to turn on people in similar situations who I should have thought of as allies. But yeah. This stuff, it fucks you up.
posted by capnsue at 4:34 PM on January 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


I will probably go to hell for saying this, but: I found the speech exactly the opposite of inspiring. I mean, here is someone who has had an absolutely crazy life experience. How many of us, honestly, could handle what she has been through? I can barely get out of bed in the morning if I suspect someone is mad at me; she had four million people staring at her along with a chorus chanting for her actual demise.

So she's got some great material to work with there. Why, then, shoehorn it into the blandest motivational speech template imaginable? "Hi all, here are a couple of mildly funny jokes. Believe in yourself! Let me tell you something personal that will make you sad. But through an entirely unexplained process, I overcame it, and so can you. All you have to do is believe."

I mean, I get it. You can't be a motivational speaker in that particular setting and make your audience uncomfortable. You can't challenge them in any real way. But she has a really challenging story! How did she survive it? What did she actually do to make it through, without being burned to ashes by rage and bitterness? Was it therapy? Prayer? Intense self-examination? She's very religious; how did that factor in to her success, did it comfort her, did it change any desire she had for vengeance and justice against the people who had wronged her, did her church give her a lot of support? What does it mean to 'define yourself,' how does that play out in practice? She made some goals, what did she actually have to do to achieve them? What is it like, living every day with your history and your self-defining philosophy intertwining?

I think if she had gone into any depth at all--and maybe she does in other forums, or in her books--it would have made for an intensely uncomfortable, but so much more inspiring, presentation. Not that she would have to eviscerate herself psychologically in front of the audience, not make a spectacle of herself, that's not what I mean. What inspires us is the possibility that our own suffering can be overcome, illustrated by the example of others. It's why we read tales of martyrs, hell, why we read anything, and it's why we sit through these kinds of speeches; even when motivational speakers aren't talking about their own suffering, they'll bring in stories of someone else's. But you can't really elide over the suffering without losing that sympathetic bond between speaker and audience.
posted by mittens at 5:34 PM on January 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah, it can build character, but it takes a certain type of inner strength and resilience for that to happen. That kind of thing could just as easily crush a person.
posted by sockermom at 5:36 PM on January 14, 2014


Also, it's not just that she's awkward: she has a debilitating illness that affects every aspect of her life. It looked hard for her to stand. I know that when I weighed 88 pounds it was hard for me to function physically, let alone emotionally, and she weighs 25 pounds less than that. This is not really a case of "oh I was awkward in middle school and people were mean about it," it's "I have a super-rare condition that is never going to change and not only does it do unkind things to my appearance, it also makes a lot of stuff really, really hard for me to do." Add to that the emotional pressure of dealing with a lot of meanness from other people and you have something many magnitudes of order above awkward.

That kind of life is hard, every single day. Not just emotionally, but physically and spiritually, very, very difficult.
posted by sockermom at 5:41 PM on January 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


You know, it's possible that she didn't suffer as much as you think she should have because she really didn't give that much of a shit about a bunch of strangers being arseholes on the internet.

Maybe because she is who she is, and always has been, she's not surprised by how cruel and nasty people can be and therefore her reaction is completely different to that of someone who hasn't faced that crap every day.

She stood up and said her piece and she did it with strength. Excellent woman.
posted by h00py at 5:06 AM on January 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I know someone who is intolerant and judgmental, who thinks herself perfect and is rudely critical of her fellow humans' flaws. It's pretty egregious. But when she was in high school roughly a decade ago, her photo was mocked as a photo-of-the-week on a vile, misogynistic, and heavily trafficked website. Knowing that about her gives me mixed feelings about her personality now. On one hand, you can't treat people the way she does. On the other hand...I can understand something like that messing a person up.

I guess it can go both ways - it depends on how one chooses choose to process it. One can consciously say "It was not fair that I got treated this way; I choose to be better than this".

Or one can react by subconsciously saying "I had to suffer; now someone else is going to suffer". Or maybe one subconsciously and masochistically agrees and/or looks up to these types of bullies and tries to emulate their behaviour.

Possibly irrelevant experience - When I worked in the service industry, I had a rude awakening to how some people treat those in that industry. So I resolved to be extra nice to those types of workers when I was the one being served (a little too nice, sometimes). A fellow colleague who I thought was on the same page as me, reacted differently, and became a total nightmare when it came to being served. It was shocking - at 10 PM at the health club where we worked, we were being bullied - by 11:30 at the restaurant where we would go sometimes afterward, that person was the bully.

Maybe it's a subconscious reactive thing vs. a conscious proactive thing.

Whatever it is, Lizzie is the better person, and I can only hope that the person who put up the original video has woken up.
posted by bitteroldman at 6:53 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you ask me, I don't give a shit about a random arseholes on the internet. Or on the street. But there are days where I have a lot of trouble leaving the house because I feel too ugly. That she can make these videos, and give these talks just blows me away. I want to replace every mirror in my house with one of her videos.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:30 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Slightly related - there is a great book (so far) I'm reading my kids called "Wonder" by R. J. Palacio. It is about a boy with severe facial deformities and how normal he is in every other way.
posted by popaopee at 12:05 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


So she's got some great material to work with there. Why, then, shoehorn it into the blandest motivational speech template imaginable? "Hi all, here are a couple of mildly funny jokes. Believe in yourself! Let me tell you something personal that will make you sad. But through an entirely unexplained process, I overcame it, and so can you. All you have to do is believe."

She wasn't born a brilliant public speaker and evangelist who happens to also have this disease and have suffered this abuse; she's a person with a disease who has suffered abuse and chose to respond to it in this fashion rather than run and hide. Just speaking out in this highly visible way serves as inspiration for people, in the same fashion as a disabled athlete is inspirational even if they don't provide step-by-step instructions for how you, too, can become a disabled athlete.
posted by davejay at 3:09 PM on January 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


So she's got some great material to work with there. Why, then, shoehorn it into the blandest motivational speech template imaginable?

I liked this enough that I almost rushed to make it an FPP[1] but I also had a bit of this reaction to it as well. Then, much later, I remembered....it's a TED talk. Capped at 18 minutes. Delivered to an audience who mostly don't know her from Eve and are there for the headline speaker. She's got 18 minutes to sell her idea(s) and herself (since she's working on a career in public speaking, not speaking about another career) to people that are trying to decide between her and the bar. And now it looks like her 18min TED talk is going to get more YouTube views than her 8sec 'ugliest woman' video's 4million. I'm impressed.

She has a 51min video here. The first 10 minutes were basically her TED presentation and then I turned it off, sufficiently motivated to pull an all-nighter on a job-application. I assume there's more meat after that.

[1] And if I had, those 29 delicious favorites would have been mine, all mine!
posted by K.P. at 7:05 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


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