Lizzie Velasquez, labeled 'World's Ugliest Woman,' redefines beauty

We live in a world where, sadly, many people judge others based solely on appearance.

I recently went to a wedding and while at a table with mostly guys, they would examine some of the female guests — pointing out imperfections that weren't even visible to me. And I suddenly wanted to hide under a rock as I became acutely aware of my own physical flaws. What did they say about me behind my back, I suddenly wondered.

While living in this shallow world, I'm sure we've all felt, at one time or another, uncomfortable in our own skin. Maybe even on a daily basis.

But how would you feel if, worldwide, people actually knew you as the "ugliest" man or woman? That's what happened to Lizzie Velasquez, 25, of Austin, Tx. As a teen, she was the subject of an online video which described her as the "world's ugliest woman."

For many people, if these three words were used to describe them, it would be hard to even get out of bed in the morning. But for Velasquez, she does more than just get out of bed. Instead of hiding, she has become an author and motivational speaker — traveling around the nation, most recently to D.C. to work with Congress to stop bullying, and to Mexico City, where she shared a stage with Hillary Clinton.

She is also almost done making a documentary, titled "The Lizzie Project," about her life and her mission to inspire and empower a more positive online environment. So far, $214,930 has been donated through Kickstarter for her project — more money than she even needed.

She has used the viral bullying against her to help others. And all the support she's received makes me have hope in the world. With thousands of views on her YouTube channel and almost 400,000 likes on her Facebook page, I know that there are people out there who aren't so judgmental.

Some of the comments on her Facebook profile picture are as follows:

• Anas Goz called Velasquez "The Definition of Beauty."
• Capeic Leon called her "the strongest lady alive."
• Melissa Felvus said, "I think of you EVERYDAY. ... You have helped me so much. You have opened my eyes. You are so blessed, gifted and loved."
• And Leighton Muller and Ellie Broadhead both called her "gorgeous."

Velasquez has a rare condition — she was born without adipose tissue, meaning she has no fat on her body. She has never weighed more than 60 pounds.

In an interview with Mary Fischer of The Stir, Velasquez said, "My parents always taught me never to have a negative thought in my mind and to always be myself. They taught me a little trick to help me get through the difficult times. I would recite a mantra like, 'I'm smart, I'm beautiful, I'm strong ...' and it truly did make a difference."

Whenever you're feeling self conscious, think of Lizzie Velasquez and repeat that mantra in your head. Hold your head high. Be proud of who you are. Stop obsessing over the hardships in your life and instead use it to help others. And when you do that, just like with Velasquez, people will see those things and not your self perceived imperfections.

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