Recently, a woman by the name of Lizzie Velasquez took to the stage at the TEDx Austin Women talk to talk about defining herself and the perspective we can all choose to adopt. Velasquez, who has one of the rarest medical conditions in the world, discussed everything from the doctors who told her parents that she’d never be able to “talk, walk, crawl, think, or be able to do anything by herself,” to supermodels and the standards of beauty to which we hold ourselves and each other. Her sense of humor is inspiring, and her graciousness in regards to the ways other people have treated her is humbling, to say the very least.
It is always simplest to look at ourselves superficially and see what is perfect about us or what isn’t at first glance. We can judge ourselves based on how many friends we have calling our phone, the likes on Facebook, the love on Instagram, the invitations to the best parties in town. We define ourselves by how long or short our hair is. We define ourselves by our deeds. We define ourselves by how we think other people would like to see us. We define ourselves according to what would get the most approval and not rock the boat of other people’s comfort zones, because that is just rude. We define and redefine ourselves by so many different measures and standards of what is considered conventional, and that is okay, but what defines you?
When the party is over. When you are alone. When you look into that wonderful and equally terrifying place called You, with no judgment, just honesty, what defines you? Is it your looks? Is it your past or your present? Is it everything that everybody ever did to hurt you? Is it the approval and applause of the crowd? Is it your education? Marriage or lack thereof? Is it the girl or boy you loved so much that broke your heart, stepped on it, ground it in the dust, threw the pieces to the wind and then walked away. What is it?
Or is it relationships that didn’t last but taught you lessons that will make you better in the long run. Is it the appreciation of the random act of kindness from a stranger? Is it the hope you feel that, regardless of whatever is happening in your life now that might seem like more than anyone should bear, you will be okay? Is it the smile of your baby that equally fills you up and drains you because you never knew love could feel so pure? Is it the tragedies in your life that have molded you, and made you more compassionate to human suffering?
Instead of fixating on things we could never control, why not let hope, love, and the dreams you have define who you are as a human being? No matter how tough the cards we’re dealt, what matters most is how we play them.