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What the ugliest woman taught me about beauty

It’s Saturday. I’m still in my pajamas at three in the afternoon, fresh bread on the counter, the boys down for a nap.

I’m scrolling through my news feed on Facebook when I discover a TED Talk featuring “the Ugliest Woman in the World” and how she’s found happiness.

Lizzie Velasquez was born without amniotic fluid cushioning her – doctors could not believe she was alive, but she came out screaming and she didn’t know until kindergarten that there was anything different about her.

She didn’t know until she walked up to a little girl and smiled, and the girl looked as though she’d seen a monster, and that’s when Lizzie found out she had a syndrome which, among other things, prevented her from ever gaining weight – and from seeing out of one eye.

When she was a teenager, Lizzie stumbled upon a video labeling her the Ugliest Woman in the World, a video which showed silent footage of her, and it had been viewed by millions. It had been commented on by thousands who told her to do the world a favour and put a gun to her head.

This is the world we live in. A world which mutes a person’s voice and YouTubes her body.

And Lizzie, she cried when she read those words, and she wanted to fight back. But instead, she decided to take those negative comments and use them as rungs on a ladder to get where she wanted to go.

‘What defines you?’

She determined to fight fear with dreams. To become a motivational speaker, to write a book, to finish college, to have a career and a family. Instead of doing what the comments told her to (end her life), she chose to defy them and truly live.

And tears were running down my face as she asked the audience, “What defines you?”

Does the world’s opinion define us? Does fear define us?

DARE TO BE BRAVE, she said – this woman who jokes about having large bins of Twinkies and Skittles in her room because she’s never been heavier than 64 pounds, so what does it matter? This woman who said she may not be able to see out of one eye, but hey – then you only need half a prescription!

I’m in my pajamas at three in the afternoon, weeping.

I was the pastor’s kid who had head gear and braces, large plastic glasses and bangs, decked out in Northern Reflections clothing and starving herself to death.

I didn’t eat because the world told me skinny was best. I got down to 60 pounds and the nurses said I should have died.

But I am alive.

Abundantly. Alive.

Every day we choose whether we believe what the world says about us, or what God says about us.

Every day we choose whether or not to serve fear, or Jesus. Do we step on that weigh scale for the tenth time, or do we throw the scale in the garbage and forgive ourselves for last night’s extra piece of cake?

Do we choose to look at how many followers we’ve gained or lost in social media, or do we pick up the Bible and read about who God says we are?

The world does not define me. My definition rests in One who knew me before I was born.

We’ve got one life, friends.

Let’s live it full – like Lizzie.

Author

  • Emily Wierenga

    Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of a non-profit working in Africa and Asia.

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