What defines you?

Have you ever thought about what defines you as a person? I recently did and it was mainly because of Lizzie Velasquez. I watched a video of her speaking on TED.

Lizzie is 26 and has a rare syndrome – she can’t gain any weight no matter what she does. As you can imagine there are massive health consequences. In high school someone posted a video on you tube naming her “The ugliest person in the world”. Some of the commenters said to her

Please, do the world a favour and put a gun to your head and kill yourself!

wtf? (trying to hold a huge rant in)

Lizzie says that at that moment she cried a lot, got very angry and wanted to fight back. But something happened. It dawned on her that her life was in her hands. She could either use this to make it really good or really bad.

I could choose to be grateful and open my eyes and see the things that I DO have and make those the things that define me. – Lizzie  Velasquez

She asked herself if she would let the people that called her a monster and hated her define her life. And decided

You know what, tell me those negative things, I am going to turn them around and I am going to make them into a ladder that I am going to use to climb up to my goals. – Lizzie  Velasquez

What defines you?

So what is it? The way I see it, what defines me is the thing that is left after I remove everything else and I could still be recognised as me. That’s different for each of us.

If I were to get rid of all my clothes and wear rugs and trash would that change who I am? If I lost all my possessions would my identity still be intact? If I were to loose my physical health and couldn’t do everything I do now would I be the same?

When you look at some people, their live are centered around how the look. Others’ around what they own or their background – where they come from.

What defines me as a person are my believes and the grounded conviction that I can do what I put my mind to. That I am competent to cope with the challenges that life throws at me. What defines me is that I believe I can think, learn, choose and make appropriate decisions. The confidence that love, friendship, achievement and success are natural and I have a right to them defines me. In other words I have self esteem as Michael Port put it.

What that means is that what defines me is mobile and flexible. I don’t need specific clothes, possessions and approval from people to be myself. I carry it inside me, it is my character and my spirit.

So if you were to find me in rugs on the street and begging, if you were to sit down and talk to me you should recognise that I am me.

However, this is in theory, the reality is that we need conditions to thrive and be who we are. We need support by the love that others give us. But that’s it, after that is up to us. This is why Lizzie’s outlook of the world is inspiring. She is in a struggle, but she is not alone. At that point she had the opportunity to decide what defines her – anger, hatred and contempt or a drive to show who she wants to be, what her goals are and that there is more to her than what others tell her she is.

I used the people who were telling me that I couldn’t do this to motivate me. I used their negativity to light my fire to keep going! – Lizzie  Velasquez


Your life is to a large extent in your hands. And you decide what to define you. What defines you doesn’t mean you will be rich or poor, but it gives you the choice of how you see the world. Lizzie will still have a syndrome that her live would be based around, but she has the choice how to see it and hence how that would affect her inner self.

Notice that it’s not about not being angry. Angry is fine, it’s honest and makes sense at times. But it’s about what you do in the longer run, what is your foundation. What defines you?

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