You might already know Lizzie Velasquez from her TEDX talk ‘How Do You Define Yourself?’, where she tells us that it’s essential to see yourself as what you want to become. This message forms the foundation for her book, Dare to be Kind. It’s a book that’s uplifting and inspiring, even as it documents her cruel mistreatment by internet bullies and people who don’t understand her rare genetic condition.
In the opening pages, it’s disheartening to read how much prejudice Lizzie suffered growing up, from people avoiding her at school, to the shock discovery of a YouTube video of herself called ‘The World’s Ugliest Woman’, which had already clocked millions of views by the time she found it.
But while the book is largely based on Lizzie’s experiences with bullying and cyberbullying, it’s also a manifesto of kindness and compassion, reflecting on the underlying reasons for cruelty and offering ways to overcome it. Her philosophy is to counter people’s negativity and hate by spreading love and positivity.
Always a source of great curiosity from media and fans, Lizzie discloses her romantic experiences, documenting the rise and fall of many great loves throughout her prosperous life. She explains how various individuals, through kindness, have helped her redefine self-perception and given her the tools to become confident and resilient. Though she’s widely recognised for her bright personality and relentless optimism, Lizzie confesses the unkinder moments of life, including her struggle with anxiety, self-medicating, and confidence around body image.
The official name of Lizzie’s diagnosis is neonatal progeroid syndrome, or NPS – a combination of Marfan syndrome and lipodystrophy. Lipodystrophy means she is unable to gain weight, while Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects her vision, heart, and body’s connective tissue. Lizzie’s condition is extremely rare.
But one of the most valuable lessons contained in her memoir is her realisation of the power of self-definition. Instead of perceiving the negatives, she forever feels glad for her situation, because she has defined herself as a motivational speaker and entrepreneur devoted to helping others.
Lizzie surmises best when she says that ‘the inspiration in all of our lives, in all of our stories, doesn’t lie only in the big, shining, triumphant moments. It also lies in the low moments, the rough ones, when we feel broken and beaten . . . without the downs, the ups wouldn’t have much significance.’
Lizzie’s story is full of energy, life, and triumph.
Lizzie Velasquez is an internationally renowned motivational speaker, YouTube personality, and anti-bullying activist. She has been featured on The View, the Today show, Forbes, Times, Huffington Post, People, and Allure, among many other national and international media platforms. The critically acclaimed documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story was based on her life.