At 26 years old, Lizzie Velasquez’s biggest claim to Internet fame is being coined as the “Ugliest Woman Alive”…not a title most would relish in.
She was born with a rare genetic disorder that has deformed everything from her face to her muscles to her brain, and even her heart. Prematurely aged and under-developed, she’s been a bully-target for as long as she can remember.
But the harshest of her bullied past came in the form of an 8-second video that she came across on YouTube. It wasn’t even the video that was hurtful though—it was the headline: “The Ugliest Woman Alive.” Even more crippling were the comments, which included anything from “her parents should have aborted her” to “she should be killed by fire.”
Instead, she was refined by their fire. But it wasn’t without a fight.
“I read every single comment thinking there would be one person to stand up for me. Not one person said, ‘She’s a child, leave her alone,’ or ‘You don’t know her story, why she looks like that.’’ I felt like someone was putting a fist through the computer screen and physically punching me. I bawled my eyes out,” said Lizzie.
But rather than bashing her haters, Lizzie’s handling their ridicule a little differently—by thanking them instead.
Standing at 5’2” and weighing in at a merely 63 pounds, Lizzie is way mightier than most her size. She has a feeble frame, but the heart of a lion…as one must to withstand the vicious ridicule that she received.
According to doctors she wasn’t even supposed to live, and if she did, she wouldn’t be able to walk, talk or function on her own.
But boy, were they wrong…
With the loving support of her parents, Lizzie forged ahead to make friends, participate in school activities, graduate college, write books and even deliver one of the most successful TED Talks ever.
After the TED Talk, she was approached to do a documentary entitled “A Brave Heart,” which she has used as her new platform to empower others struggling with bullying and self-image. She says:
“When you see the film, it is my story, but it’s also everyone’s story. People can relate to being bullied or feeling insecure or being embarrassed by their looks. Unfortunately bullying will never end – ever. It’s a big reminder that there is work to do to ensure others do not feel alone. We have to show them there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Her shocking message to her bullies is one of gratitude, not bitterness. According to her, she never would have made it to where she is today if it wasn’t for them. She used their negative comments to motivate her to succeed. Their cruelty became her fuel, and for that, she is forever grateful.
Source: Women Rising
Now she serves to equip and encourage others with the valuable lessons that she learned the hard way. Her message is not one of fluff or false expectations about the hardships you’ll suffer in this life. We live in a broken world, and bullies will be bullies. But at the core of her message rests the promise of Romans 8:28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God never promised us a smooth road or a painless journey, but Lizzie’s a living example of how even the worst of circumstances will turn out for our good and His glory.
We may not always understand why suffering is the means by which we are redeemed, but we can be assured that we are better off because of it than we would have been without it. We are only refined by fire so that we may shine forth as gold.