Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hey, it's Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. Now, if you ever feel different than everyone else and you suspect that that holds you back from making the difference that you were born to make, this is the episode for you. Lizzie Velásquez is a motivational speaker, anti-bullying activist, social media personality, and author. She was born with an extremely rare disease that affects her heart, eyes, bones, and prevents her from gaining weight. Her TEDx talk has over 13 million views, and her story has been featured on Katie Couric, The Today Show, and The View, among others. She's an executive producer of the award-winning documentary based on her life, A Brave Heart, The Lizzie Velásquez Story, and her latest book, Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World, is available now. Lizzie, thank you so much for making the time to be here. Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I love that, you know, we were gonna do this interview on Skype and they were like, “no, no. We need to do this in person.” So, first, congratulations on Dare to Be Kind. Thank you. I loved it. Thank you. I underlined so many things, and you can see my little tabs here from some of my favorite parts. So for anyone watching that doesn't know your story, take us back to when you were 17 and you saw that video that changed everything for you. Yeah. So I was born with a syndrome that doesn't allow me to gain weight. I was undiagnosed up until the time I was 25. So when you're a teenager and you're in high school, all you really want is to fit in and be cool, but adding this condition that doesn't – no matter what I do, I can't put on a nice shirt or change my hair color and be that popular version of whatever it was in my head at the time. And it was hard. It was really, really hard. But I knew I had to sort of stop whining in a way, and figure out a way to make myself feel better. And so I started joining different things in high school and things started looking up. And my friends were great, my family was great, and it all sort of came crashing down when I accidentally found a video someone posted of me calling me the world's ugliest woman. And there were millions of views on it and so many horrible, horrible comments, and I felt like I had worked so hard to get my confidence up to a certain level, and then all of a sudden within 2.5 seconds it was just gone. I remember watching the documentary about your life and that particular section where your mom is wanting you to not watch it, and you couldn't pull yourself away. And it's that feeling that I think so many of us experience when we start to hear negative things about ourselves where there's like a deeper part of you that goes, “I shouldn't pay more attention. I should move away,” and then there's some part of us that wants to like absorb the whole thing. And it's so painful. What's funny is I didn't know everyone's, like, genuine reactions to that video until I saw the first cut of the doc, because I didn't want to be in anyone's interview because I wanted them to feel like comfortable and open, and then when I watched it I realized how much everyone was hurting, but then I also realized that they had worked so hard to put such a positive front when they were around me, so much so that years later I still never knew that they were really hurting as much as I was. So one of the things that you write in this book, which I love, and I highlighted this and I wrote it down here, is that you get to decide how you want to define yourself to the world. And I think that this is so important not just from an external perspective, like your brand or your business, but ourselves. So I'm curious, how has your definition of yourself evolved over the years? Oh, my gosh. I feel like I'm in a whole other book every year of definitions. I think it'll forever be changing with me. I think with age comes experiences and wisdom and all these other little life lessons that you sort of bring into your life without necessarily realizing it. And I used to think that I would define myself as someone who would work really hard and I would accomplish all the dreams and the goals that I had set for myself, and that was it. That was gonna be – like, that was it. That was gonna be, you know, everything for me. Yeah. And now it's just so different, because now I define myself as someone who's able to help other people, and I feel like everything else sort of just falls underneath that umbrella. And I don't – I don't want to say it's like a label I've given myself, but it's something that I feel is more of like a gift that has come to me. And instead of me just like keeping it, I'm so appreciative that I'm able to sort of give that gift away every day. Yeah. I mean, and your talks, from seeing the doc, from seeing your TED talk, from reading your book, you're just an amazing force of nature. One of the other pieces about the book that I loved was about misconceptions. I feel like misconceptions are so prevalent in our society, and I love this story that you told about the quinceanera. Mmhm. And that you were looking at your cousin's life and having certain ideas about what it would be to live their life. Can you tell us about that experience? Yeah. So my family is Hispanic and we were at my cousin's quinceanera, her sweet 15. And there was all of these round tables in the room and I was sitting at a table with my parents and my siblings, and in front of me I saw one of my other cousins, who were all the exact same age. And she was sitting with her son and her boyfriend. And then at another table on the other side was our other cousin with her son and her son's father. And I was looking at them and thinking we're the exact same age. I've always, since we were little, I've always felt like I was – I felt like our milestones were something that we should all hit together. Yeah. Which looking back is just silly. But I kept thinking, “I'm their age. Why don't I have that?” I'm sitting here and I feel like I'm looking into a window of their life and I so desperately want in. And I was just sitting there just thinking about it to myself. And one of my cousins came over and sat down next to me and we randomly had this heart to heart in a crazy loud room, and I told her that I was looking at them and I wanted that. And she was telling me “I look at your life and I see that you're traveling and doing everything you set your mind to, and I want that life.” And it was that instant realization that the grass is always greener I guess. Or in a way like we're always wanting what we don't have. Yes. And that's sort of where I think things get really tricky. It's hard too, I feel like because both of us, you know, you make videos online, I make videos online. We're out there in the public, so to speak. And everyone watching each other on social media, you can so easily just assume that this other person's life is perfect or so much better than yours, and I feel like what people – what we all have to realize, is like no matter who you are, what you've accomplished, like we're human and all of us are a mess inside from time to time. We have our strong moments, we have those moments when we want to cry. And I just loved that story, because it was so illustrative of that very salient point. All of us can think the grass is greener, and it's just not the truth. Yeah. I couldn't agree more. So another favorite passage from the book is: “the world doesn't need you to change yourself, to be more normal either. What is normal, anyway? The world needs – what the world needs is people who truly embrace differences, physical and otherwise.” Yeah. I mean, normal is another – I think I just have this weird thing with definitions because I feel like I tie definitions to labels, and labels is something that I don't really like. And I think what's most important, what I've learned in all these years that I've been in my body and having the opportunity to go out and travel and meet people – what I've learned is no matter what experience we've had or what language we speak, we all have this underlying same battles that we've all had to fight together. And acknowledging that and just listening to that I feel is way more important than saying, “Well, why didn't you do this?” or, “I have this problem. I have this problem. But mine is bigger than your problem, so mine's more important.” And it's just so wrong. Like, why can we just say “we all have these struggles, this is what's going on, let's sort of work together to get through them.” Yeah. And connecting on a more humanity level versus the boxes and the labels that we put ourselves in. Absolutely. So this leads perfectly into the time, the really challenging time, after the documentary when everything changed. And you shared that “all of my dreams are coming true. So why am I not happy? How can I possibly help inspire other people if I can't help myself?” I thought this was so awesome that you shared about this in the book. Thank you. Because once again, it's so easy to assume folks that are so inspired by you going like “oh, my goodness. Lizzie is so strong, she's so inspirational, she's so motivated, she's going out there, and she's changing the world.” And yet on the inside you were having this very new struggle. Can you tell us about that? It's still something that like whenever I think about it and I'm talking about it I still like get this instant feeling of like, “oh, my gosh. I can't believe I'm talking about it.” But I want to talk about it. Yeah. And it is something that after I went through it I knew this was going to be the anchor of the book. I knew having this breakdown, what I did have it, was going to be for a reason. And hitting rock bottom and really having – I think, you know, I think what was so – what led to that was having the time alone to not only just like rest and recover, because I needed like two weeks to do that. Once that time was up, I still had so much time alone. Documentary time was up. Right. Yeah. We stopped filming. And so I had my break of like recovering, and then I started realizing I have so much time to just think and I have so much time to Google things or to sit down and doubt myself. And I was allowing myself to sort of be attacked by my own thoughts. I knew what I was doing, but I was still letting it happen. And it kept happening and it kept happening. And I thought, “well, if I take one like anxiety pill that I had and I can just take a nap and I won't have to worry about anything.” Well, while I was also filming the documentary I was diagnosed for the first time. And finding out that I – finding out my diagnosis was a whole other thing. But knowing that I'm – one of the biggest things that we have to keep an eye out for is my heart. And so knowing that in the back of my head and not fully processing that in the right way, when I had that time to just think about things, I kept thinking, “well if this is gonna happen why don't I just speed it up? And why don't I not – why don't I do my loved ones a favor and not…” Be here anymore. Right, exactly. I've never, ever, ever no matter what I've gone through in my whole life, I've never had those thoughts until then. And as soon as people started realizing what was going on, because I got dangerously good at hiding it. Oh, my gosh. I was so good at hiding it. So so good at hiding the pills or so good at hiding the depression? Both. Both. I was so good at just pretending I was just fine and I was Lizzie. And I was still posting on social media. And I look back now and I can instantly tell that it wasn't me. And I'm hoping that other people don't really notice that, but I can tell that it wasn't me. And once people started finding out, once my loved ones started finding out and it became a thing, I instantly went into being really ashamed, embarrassed. And that's when the guilt really hit me. Because a movie was being made about my life, and here I am selfishly wanting to take myself out of this world. I love you for talking about this and I love you for putting this in the book. Because so many people struggle with depression and they struggle with those suicidal thoughts, and they feel so ashamed about saying anything. And I love that you're talking about this, because that juxtaposition of like “here's this documentary about how brave I am and my brave heart, and here's what I'm struggling with.” And I just adore you for that. Thank you. And I want to also say too for everyone watching, it's like … goes back to that misconceptions idea. Right? It's like putting labels on people or thinking that their lives are perfect or they don't go through struggles because of whatever box we've put them into. It's just not true. And it leads perfectly into this idea of vulnerability and shattering the myth of positivity. Tell us about the decision to post videos, kind of post this, that when you're not happy, when you're having a tough time, how has that been for you? You know, it's funny because I think posting videos that show my more vulnerable side has kind of become one of my new favorite things. And before I always thought I could never turn my camera on unless my hair was done, my makeup was done, and the lightning was right.