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  • I'm really, really, really excited to be here.

  • I kind of want to tell you

  • a little bit more of the --I don't want to say basics--

  • because we really don't know anything about my syndrome.

  • I was born with this very, very rare syndrome,

  • that only two other people in the world including myself, that we know of, have.

  • Basically what this syndrome causes, is that I cannot gain weight.

  • Yes, it does sound as good as it is.

  • (Laughter)

  • I could eat absolutely whatever I want, whenever I want

  • and I won't really gain any weight.

  • I'm going to be 25 in March,

  • and I've never weighed over about 64 pounds in my entire life.

  • When I was in college, I hid

  • --well, I didn't 'hide' it, everyone knew it was there--

  • but it was a giant tub of Twinkies, donuts, chips, Skittles,

  • and my roommate would say, "I could hear you at 12:30 am,

  • reaching under your bed to get food."

  • But I'm like, "You know what? It's alright, I can do these things!"

  • Because there are benefits to this syndrome.

  • There are benefits to not being able to gain weight.

  • There are benefits to being visually impaired.

  • There are benefits to being kind of really small.

  • A lot of people think,

  • "Lizzie, how in the world are you saying there are benefits

  • when you can only see out of one eye?"

  • Well, let me tell you what the benefits are

  • because they are great.

  • I wear contacts--conTACT. Half-off conTACTS.

  • (Laughter)

  • When I wear my reading glasses: half-off prescription.

  • If somebody is annoying me, being rude:

  • Stand on my right side.

  • (Laughter)

  • It's like you're not even there. I don't even know you're standing there.

  • Right now, if I stand like this, I have no clue

  • that there's this whole side of the room.

  • Also, being small, I am very willing to volunteer myself

  • to go to Weight Watchers, go to some gym, and say,

  • "Hi, I'm Lizzie. I will be your poster child.

  • Put my face on whatever you need, and I will say,

  • 'Hi! I used this program. Look how well it worked.'"

  • (Laughter)

  • Even though there are amazing things that have come from this syndrome,

  • there are also things that have been very, very difficult, as you can imagine.

  • Growing up, I was raised 150% normally.

  • I was my parents' first child.

  • And when I was born, the doctors told my mom,

  • "Your daughter has no amniotic fluid around her.

  • At all."

  • So when I was born, it was a miracle that I came out screaming.

  • The doctors told my parents,

  • "We just want to warn you: Expect your daughter to never be able

  • to talk, walk, crawl, think, or do anything by herself."

  • Now, as first-time parents, you would think that my parents would say,

  • "Oh no. Why? Why are we getting our first child

  • with all these unknown problems?"

  • But that's not what they did.

  • The first thing they told the doctor was,

  • "We want to see her, and we are going to take her home

  • and love her, and raise her to the best of our abilities."

  • And that's what they did.

  • I credit pretty much everything that I've done in my life to my parents.

  • My dad is here with me today, and my mom is at home watching.

  • Hi mom! (Laughter)

  • She's recovering from surgery.

  • She has been the glue that's held our family together,

  • and she's given me the strength to see that she's going through so much,

  • but she has this fighting spirit that she's instilled in me,

  • so that I have proudly been able to stand in front of people and say,

  • "You know what? I've had a really difficult life.

  • But that's okay."

  • That's okay. Things have been scary, things have been tough.

  • One of the biggest things

  • that I had to deal with growing up

  • was something I'm pretty sure

  • every single one of us in this room has dealt with before.

  • Can you guess what that is?

  • It starts with a 'B'. Can you guys guess it?

  • (Audience) Boys! (Lizzie) Boys?

  • (Laughter)

  • Bullying!

  • (Laughter)

  • I know what you all are thinking.

  • (Laughter)

  • Why can't I sit here with them? (Laughter)

  • I had to deal with bullying a lot, but as I said, I was raised very normally,

  • so when I started kindergarten,

  • I had absolutely no idea that I looked different.

  • No clue.

  • I couldn't see that I looked different from other kids.

  • I think of it as a big slap of reality for a five year-old,

  • because I went in to school the first day, decked-out in Pocahontas gear.

  • I was ready!

  • (Laughter)

  • I went in with my backpack

  • that looked like a turtle shell because it was bigger than me,

  • and I walked up to a little girl and smiled at her,

  • and she looked up at me like I was a monster,

  • like I was the scariest thing she had ever seen in her life.

  • My first reaction was,

  • "She is really rude.

  • (Laughter)

  • I am a fun kid, and she's the one missing out.

  • So I'll just go over here and play with blocks. Or boys."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Lizzie laughs)

  • I thought the day would get better, and unfortunately, it didn't.

  • The day got worse and worse. A lot of people just wanted to have

  • absolutely nothing to do with me, and I couldn't understand why.

  • Why? What did I do? I didn't do anything to them!

  • In my mind I was still a really cool kid.

  • I had to go home and ask my parents,

  • "What's wrong with me?

  • What did I do? Why don't they like me?"

  • They sat me down and said,

  • "Lizzie, the only thing different about you

  • is that you're smaller than the other kids.

  • You have this syndrome, but it's not going to define who you are."

  • They said, "Go to school, pick your head up, smile,

  • continue to be yourself, and people will see

  • that you're just like them."

  • And so that's what I did.

  • I want you to think, and ask yourself this in your head, right now:

  • What defines YOU?

  • Who are you?

  • Is it where you come from? Is it your background? Is it your friends?

  • What is it?

  • What defines who you are as a person?

  • It's taken me a very long time to figure out what defines me.

  • For so long I thought what defined me

  • was my outer appearance. I thought that my little tiny legs,

  • and my little arms, and my little face was ugly.

  • I thought I was disgusting.

  • I hated when I'd wake up in the morning when I was going to middle school,

  • and would be looking in the mirror getting ready, and thinking:

  • "Can I just scrub this syndrome off?

  • It would make my life so much easier if I could just scrub it off.

  • I could look like other kids; I wouldn't have to buy clothes

  • that had Dora the Explorer on them. I wouldn't have to buy stuff

  • that was 'Bedazzled', when I was trying to be like the cool kids."

  • I would wish, and pray, and hope, and do whatever I could

  • so I would wake up in the morning and be different,

  • and I wouldn't have to deal with these struggles.

  • It's what I wanted every single day,

  • and every single day I was disappointed.

  • I have an amazing support system around me,

  • who never pity me, who are there to pick me up if I'm sad,

  • who are there to laugh with me during the good times,

  • and they taught me that, even though I have this syndrome,

  • even though things are hard, I can't let that define me.

  • My life was put into my hands, just like your lives are put into yours.

  • You are the person in the front seat of your car.

  • You are the one who decides

  • whether your car goes down a bad path, or a good path.

  • You are the one who decides what defines you.

  • Now let me tell you: it could be really hard to figure out

  • what defines you, because there were times

  • when I'd get so annoyed and frustrated, and say:

  • "I don't CARE what defines me!"

  • When I was in high school I found a video,

  • unfortunately, that somebody posted of me,

  • labeling me the world's ugliest woman.

  • There were over four million views to this video; eight seconds long,

  • no sound, thousands of comments; people saying,

  • "Lizzie, please--PLEASE-- just do the world a favor,

  • put a gun to your head, and kill yourself."

  • Think about that, if people told you that,

  • if strangers told you this.

  • I cried my eyes out of course, and I was ready to fight back

  • and something kind of clicked in my head,

  • and I thought, "I'm just going to leave it alone."

  • I started realizing that my life is in my hands.

  • I could either choose to make this really good,

  • or I could choose to make this really bad.

  • I could be grateful, and open my eyes

  • and realize the things that I do have,

  • and make those the things that define me.

  • I can't see out of one eye, but I can see out of the other.

  • I might get sick a lot, but I have really nice hair.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Audience) You do, you do!

  • Thanks.

  • You guys are like the best little section right here.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Lizzie laughs) You made me lose my train of thought!

  • (Laughter)

  • Okay...where was I?

  • (Audience) Your hair!

  • Hair! Hair. Ok, ok, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • So I could either choose to be happy or I could choose

  • to be upset with what I have and still kind of complain about it,

  • but then I started realizing:

  • Am I going to let the people who called me a monster define me?

  • Am I going to let the people who said, "Kill it with fire!" define me?

  • No; I'm going to let my goals, and my success, and my accomplishments

  • be the things that define me-- Not my outer appearance,

  • not the fact that I'm visually impaired,

  • not the fact that I have this syndrome that nobody knows what it is.

  • So I told myself I'm going to work my butt off

  • and do whatever I could to make myself better,

  • because in my mind, the best way that I could get back at all those people

  • who made fun of me, who teased me,

  • who called me ugly, who called me a monster

  • was to make myself better, and to show them:

  • You know what?

  • Tell me those negative things,

  • I'm going to turn them around,

  • and I'm going to use them as a ladder

  • to climb up to my goals.

  • That's what I did.

  • I told myself that I wanted to be a motivational speaker,

  • I wanted to write a book,

  • graduate college, have my own family, and have my own career.

  • Eight years later, I’m standing in front of you,

  • still doing motivational speaking.

  • First thing, I accomplished it.

  • I wanted to write a book; in a couple of weeks

  • I will be submitting the manuscript for my third book.

  • (Applause)

  • I wanted to graduate college, and I just finished college.

  • (Cheers and applause)

  • I'm getting a degree in Communication Studies

  • from Texas State University in San Marcos,

  • and I have a minor in English.

  • I really, really tried to use real-life experience

  • while I was getting my degree, and my professors were not having it.

  • But, I wanted to have, lastly, my own family and my own career.

  • The family part is kind of down the line, and my career part,

  • I feel like I'm really doing well with it, considering the fact that

  • when I decided I wanted to be a motivational speaker, I went home,

  • I sat in front of my laptop, went to Google, and typed in:

  • "How to be a motivational speaker."

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm not even joking.

  • I worked my butt off. I used the people who were telling me

  • that I couldn't do this to motivate me.

  • I used their negativity to light my fire to keep going.

  • Use that. Use THAT. Use that negativity

  • that you have in your life to make yourself better,

  • because I guarantee you

  • --guarantee you--

  • You will win.

  • Now I want to end, with asking you again.

  • I want you to leave here, and ask yourself what defines you.

  • But remember:

  • Brave starts here.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I'm really, really, really excited to be here.

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