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Hello, everybody.
I want you to do something with me really quick.
I want you to all think in your head,
remember the time -- because I know
every single one of you in here have done this --
when you're procrastinating doing homework
and you're procrastinating by listening to music on YouTube.
Now, you know, when you're looking at YouTube,
and you are watching a video,
there's "related videos" on the right-hand side of the screen.
I want you to imagine
that you are listening to some random song
and you see a little picture on the right-hand side
that looks pretty familiar.
So, you click on it.
And what you see is something that will change your entire life.
Now imagine if you clicked on the video,
and you realized that somebody posted a video
of you,
and labelled it "The World's Ugliest Woman,"
or "Man."
Think for a second.
How would you feel?
How do you think somebody would feel if they found that?
I will tell you,
because it happened to me.
And the moment I found this video,
I was given two options.
I could either choose happiness,
or I could choose to give up.
Now being in this situation isn't something that's new to me,
because I was born with a very, very rare syndrome.
There are only 3 people, including myself,
that we know of that have this syndrome.
I am 24 years old.
I've never weighed over 62 pounds in my entire life.
I literally could eat whatever I want,
whenever I want,
and not gain weight.
Now it might sound pretty amazing.
It is. Let's just be honest.
But I am so small
and I look very different from other people.
So as you can imagine, when people see me
and they have never heard my story,
they don't know who I am they know nothing about me,
they see me and they think,
"What's wrong with that girl?"
"What eating disorder does she have?"
"Why is she so skinny?"
From the second I was born,
the doctors prepared my parents to expect
absolutely nothing out of me.
They said I wouldn't come out crying.
They said I'd never talk, I'd never walk, I'd never crawl,
I would literally accomplish nothing in my life.
And my parents said, "You know what?
We're going to take her home,
we're going to love her,
and we're going to raise her as best as we can."
(Applause )
So, that's exactly what they did.
They raised me completely normally.
I was a cute kid, I'm not gonna lie. (Laughter)
I was so small that my parents had to go to Toys “R” Us
to buy me doll clothes,
because regular baby clothes were way too big on me.
If you go like this,
that's the size I was when I was a baby.
I personally don't remember, but that's what my parents told me.
I grew up completely normally,
so normally to the point that, when I started kindergarten,
I had no clue that I was different.
I couldn't physically see
that I looked different from the other kids.
I unfortunately had to find out
in a way that I like to think of
as a big slap of reality for a 5-year-old.
I am sure you guys know the feeling,
the night before the first day of school, when you are super excited,
you have that like anxious feeling in your stomach,
because you don't know who's going to be in your class,
if you're going to make friends.
That's what I felt.
I had my full lunchbox,
my matching bow, my ruffled socks,
ready to go.
I walked in on the first day, and I saw a little girl reading a book.
I walked up to her, and I smiled at her,
and she looked up at me
like I was the scariest thing she'd ever seen.
And my first thought was, "She's rude.
I'm a fun kid. She is missing out." (Laughter)
So I let it go, and the rest of the day,
unfortunately, didn't get any better.
No one wanted to play with me, no one wanted to stand by me.
No one wanted to have a single thing to do with me,
because I was different.
And again, I couldn't understand,
because I was raised so normally.
So, going to the playground was hard.
I remember climbing up to the top of the playscape,
wanting to go down the slide,
but there was a long line.
And, as soon as I got up there, everybody moved.
And you would think, “Yeah, VIP to the slide."
But they were moving because they were scared of me.
So that's when I had to go home and ask my parents,
"What is wrong with me?
Why doesn't anyone like me? I'm just like them."
And my parents encouraged me to go back to school, be myself
and eventually they'll see that I am just like them.
And that's exactly what I did.
So again, at such a young age, I was forced to be in a situation
of, I can either chose to be happy,
or I could choose to give up.
Luckily, I chose to be happy.
As I grew up, I started making a lot of friends.
I am pretty funny.
So I made a lot of friends really easily.
And once I started making friends,
my friends started becoming my body guards, per se.
When people would come up to me
and kind of tease me and make fun of me, which happened often,
they would come up and say, "This is my friend Lizzie, you know.
Be nice to her, she is pretty cool."
And luckily, it worked.
As I got older, I, of course, had to deal with a lot of bullying.
Luckily no physical bullying, but a lot of name calling and stares.
And so I felt self-conscious, a lot,
even though I was so young,
because I didn't look like the popular girls.
But I again continued to be myself.
During middle school, I did cheerleading.
I was a flyer. You could've seen how high I went up in the air.
I'd realized that I was the people person.
I loved being around people,
I loved talking to people, meeting new people.
So I joined every organization that I could think of:
high school cheerleading,
yearbook staff, newspapers, theater.
I hate acting.
I won an award in a play.
I was doing all of these things,
and, once I got to high school, I was at a very high point,
and I felt really good about myself,
until the day I found the YouTube video.
This video is 8 seconds long.
It had no sound.
It had over 4 million views,
to this one video,
that was 8 seconds long.
I scrolled down,
and there were thousands of comments on it,
telling me I should kill myself;
If people see my face, they will go blind.
So I thought, "Those people...
How could they?
They don't know me.
They know absolutely nothing about me."
So again, I was put in the position:
choosing happiness, or to choose to give up.
And in that moment, I didn't want those people
to define who I was as a person.
I wanted to tell them off, I did,
but I told myself,
"Lizzie, you are going to prove to these people
that they're not going to win,
and they're not going to hold you down.
So, at this point, I am deciding,
"How am I going to get my 'revenge'?
What am I going to do?"
I am a very goal-oriented person.
So I decided to set four goals for myself.
I decided I was going to be a motivational speaker.
I was going to write a book,
I was going to graduate college
and I was going to have my own family and my own career.
I made these goals when I was
probably a sophomore, beginning of junior year.
2013 will be my eighth year of motivational speaking.
I told myself I wanted to write a book.
I never thought I would be like, on Harry Potter, or Twillight level,
but I knew I want to write a book.
My first year of college, I published my first book,
called "Lizzie Beautiful," in English and Spanish.
I never thought it would happen,
but I ended up writing my second book,
and it came out this past October,
called “Be Beautiful, Be You."
A couple days ago,
I got an e-mail from my publishing house
with a release date for my third book.
I told myself I wanted to graduate college.
And this May, I will be getting my degree
from Texas State University.
My fourth goal was to have my own family and my own career.
The family part, down the line.
I am only 24.
The career part, I feel like I have got in a good jump on it.
So now, I am faced with:
"What's next?
What am I going to do?"
One of the biggest motivations for me to accomplish all those things
was that YouTube video.
Every time I was sad,
every time I doubted myself --
you may think this sounds kind of crazy,
and you're thinking, "Why?" --
I would go back to that video
and I would look at every comment, every hateful comment,
and it was fuel to my fire to keep going.
Every nasty comment
made me want to work even harder,
even harder.
It's kind of funny timing, because my mom said,
"Well, your goals are pretty much going to be all done.
What are you going to do now?
Are you going to take a rest?"
And I said, "No, are you kidding?
Why would I waste my time?
My next goals are going to be even bigger."
But that bad video was finally taken down.
So I thought,
"Great! Things are looking up.
Life is pretty good."
This past Sunday, as I was preparing for this speech,
I started getting a lot of Tweeter notifications.
And when that happens, my heart sinks,
because I never know if it's something bad.
Unfortunately, it was something bad.
Somebody else posted another bad video of me.
This person had over a million subscribers to his channel.
He googled my name in his video,
had horrifying music playing when the search came up,
and all his subscribers started googling me,
and sending me really hateful things.
My dad's always told us you could have your one good cry,
and then you have to pick your chin up, smile,
and move onto the positive.
I had my one good cry,
I smiled,
and I said, "What great accomplishment is this video going to lead to?"
I told myself, "Lizzie, you are going to show these people
that they're not going to define you."
I am not going to let the people who stared at me,
the people who called my ugly,
the doctors who said I would never accomplish a thing...
They're not going to define me,
and they're not going to win.
I kind of looked at this whole battle
of “The World's Ugliest Women”
versus me,
and I realized
the best revenge is with your accomplishments.
So yes,
I won.
Thank you.
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【TEDx】I Choose To Be Happy: Lizzie Valasquez at [email protected]

19373 Folder Collection
Tsai Hsin Yi published on December 27, 2014
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