Lizzie Velasquez is a superstar. You may have never heard of her, but her 2013 TED talk has had millions of views.
Lizzie describes how she grew up in a normal family, and she knew she was different. She has a rare disorder that makes it impossible for her to gain weight. She has zero percent body fat. That may sound wonderful, but Lizzie has never weighed more than 64 pounds, even if she eats sixty times a day. She’s disfigured.
Lizzie knew she had challenges, but she rolled with it. She worked at her high school newspaper and joined the cheerleading squad. People stared at her. She’d introduce herself and add that she didn’t have an eating disorder. She worked hard to look at herself in a mirror and develop self confidence.
But one day in high school. Lizzie found a website with her name and picture on it. The website was one where people could submit pictures the ugliest women they’d ever seen. She was not only on it, she was a top contender. The comments sections were brutal. Can you imagine?
Perhaps you’ve been bullied online too. Perhaps you’ve been taunted while up to bat or shooting free throws or getting ready for your big debut. Perhaps you’ve heard comments about your performance or appearance. Those might have been in public or in private.
Some taunts go viral, but others get replayed in our minds over and over. They might as well be posted on youtube as often as we think of them. That moment is right there, that failure, that feeling, that sting.
After she got up from crying on the floor for hours, Lizzie’s first reaction was to protect her parents. She considered ending her life, as per some of the website comment suggestions. But she remembered what her parents had taught her: she should forgive because no one knew what was going on in the other peoples’ lives.
In her TED talk, Lizzie says, “That YouTube video turned my life upside down. For so long I felt like I was alone in this world. But now I know that it’s okay to go through that struggle. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be weak. You have to allow yourself to have those times. I guarantee that you as soon as you do, you are going to be ten times more eager to make yourself better.” Lizzie went to college, and she started a career in public speaking. She’s written three books and is the subject of a documentary about her life. She says, “I am grateful for the days that I still get those awful comments, and it still happens regularly. It reminds me that I still have a job to do. It reminds me that I still have a purpose. A purpose to show people that things are going to be hard. I will be the first to tell you. But the light on the other side of that is indescribable.”
Struggle. Weakness. Vulnerability.
I’m not sure about that making your life better, but I wanted Lizzie to speak in her own words. I do think her life must have gotten better from where it was that first day she found those comments. She’s been pursuing forgiveness, and she doesn’t feel alone in the world. There is a beauty, and she is created in the image of God, even or perhaps especially in her weakness.