Here is the full transcript (Edited version) of Pakistani artist and motivational speaker Muniba Mazari’s most inspirational speech titled “We all are Perfectly Imperfect”. She is also called the Iron Lady of Pakistan. We hope you get inspired after reading this transcript.
You can also listen to the MP3 audio: Most inspirational speech by Muniba Mazari
Notable quote from this speech:
“Words can make you, break you, they can heal your soul, they can damage you forever. So I always try to use the positive words in my life wherever I go. They call it adversity, I call it opportunity. They call it weakness, I call it strength. They call me disabled, I call myself differently abled. They see my disability. I see my ability.”
Muniba Mazari – Iron Lady of Pakistan
Whoa! I’m running short of words right now, but I cannot afford this because I have to speak.
Thank you so much for all the love, for all the warmth. Thank you all for accepting me. Thank you very much.
Well, I always start my talk with a disclaimer. And that disclaimer is that I have never claimed to be a motivational speaker. Yes, I do speak. But I feel more like a storyteller, because wherever I go, I share a story with everyone.
Well, it is a story of a woman whose perfectly imperfect life made her who and what she is today.
It’s the story of a woman who in pursuit of her dreams and aspirations made other people realize that if you think that your life is hard and you’re giving up on that, because you think your life is unfair, think again.
Because when you think that way, you are being unfair to your own self.
It’s the story of a woman who made people realize that sometimes problems are not too big; we are too small, because we cannot handle them.
It is the story of a woman who with time realized the real happiness doesn’t lie in success, money, fame; it lies within. Real happiness lies in gratitude.
So I am here and I’m going to share the story of that woman. That is my story — the story of gratitude.
I love you too. I love you all.
I believe in the power of words. Many people speak before they think. But I know the value of words. Words can make you, break you, they can heal your soul, they can damage you forever. So I always try to use the positive words in my life wherever I go.
They call it adversity, I call it opportunity. They call it weakness, I call it strength. They call me disabled, I call myself differently abled. They see my disability. They see my disability. I see my ability.
There are some incidents that happened in your life. And those incidents are so strong that they change your DNA. Those incidents or accidents are so strong that they break you physically. They deform your body but they transform your soul.
Those incidents break you, deform you but they mold you into the best version of you. And the same thing happened to me. And I am going to share what exactly happened to me.
I was 18 years old when I got married. And this thing I am sharing for the very first time on an international level.
I was 18 years old when I got married. I belong to a very conservative family, a Baloch family where good daughters never say “NO” to their parents.
My father wanted me to get married and all I said was if that makes you happy, I will say ‘YES’. And of course, it was never a happy marriage.
Just about after 2 years of getting married, about 9 years ago, I met a car accident. Somehow my husband fell asleep and the car fell into ditch. He managed to jump out, saved himself. I am happy for him. But I stayed inside the car and I sustained a lot of injuries. The list is a bit long; don’t get scared. I am perfectly fine now.
My right arm was fractured, the wrist was fractured, shoulder bone and collarbone were fractured. My whole rib cage got fractured. And because of the rib cage injury, lungs and liver were badly injured. I couldn’t breathe. I lost urine and bowl control. That’s why I have to wear the bag wherever I go.
But that injury, that changed me and my life completely as a person, and my perception towards living my life was the spine injury. My pre- vertebrae of my backbone were completely crushed. And I got paralyzed for the rest of my life.
So this accident took place in a far-flung area, in the outskirts of a very small province Balochistan where there was no first aid, no hospital, no ambulance. I was in the middle of nowhere in that toppled car. Many people came to rescue. They gave me CPR. They dragged me out of the car.
And while they were dragging me out, I got the complete transaction of my spinal cord.
And now there was this debate going on, should we keep it here, she is going to die, or where should we go, there is no ambulance. There was this four-wheeler jeep standing in the corner of the street. They said, “Put her in the back of the jeep and take her to the hospital which is 3 hours away from this place”.
And I still remember that bumpy ride. I was all broken. They threw me at the back of the jeep and they rushed me to the hospital. That is where I realized that my half body was fractured and half was paralyzed.
I finally ended up in a hospital where I stayed for two and half months. I underwent multiple surgeries. Doctors have put a lot of titanium in my arm and there was a lot of titanium at my back to fix my back. That’s why people in Pakistan called me the ‘Iron Lady’ of Pakistan.
Sometimes I wonder how easy it is for me to describe all this all over again. And somebody has rightly said that when you share your story and it doesn’t make you cry, that means you are healed.
Those two and half months in the hospital were dreadful. I will not make up stories just to inspire you. I was at the verge of despair.
One day doctor came to me, and he said, “Well, I heard that you wanted to be an artist, but you ended up being a housewife. I have a bad news for you. You won’t be able to paint again, because your wrist and arm are so deformed you won’t be able to hold the pen again.”
And I stayed quiet.
Next day, doctor came to me and said, “Your spine injury is so bad you won’t be able to walk again”.
I took a deep breath. And I said, it’s all right.
Next day doctor came and said, “Because of your spine injury and the fixation that you have in your back, you won’t be able to give birth to a child again.”
That day, I was devastated. I still remember, I asked my mother, why me, and that is where I started to question my existence: Why am I even alive? What’s the point of living? I cannot walk, I cannot paint, fine. I cannot be a mother and we have this thing in our head being women that we are incomplete without having children. I am going to be an incomplete woman for the rest of my life. What’s the point?
People are scared that they think I will get divorced. What is going to happen to me? Why me? Why am I alive?
We all try to chase this tunnel. We all do this. Because we see light in the end of the tunnel which keeps us going.
My dear friends, in my situation, there was a tunnel that I had to roll on but there was no light. And that is where I realized that words have the power to heal the soul. My mother said to me, “This too shall pass. God has a greater plan for you. I don’t know what it is. But he surely has.”
And in all that distress and grief, somehow or the other, those words were so magical that they kept me going.
I was trying to put that smile on my face all the time, was hiding. It was so hard to hide the pain which was there. But all I knew was that if I will give up, my mother and my brothers will give up too. I cannot see them crying with me.
So what kept me going was, one day I asked my brothers, I know, I have a deformed hand but I am tired of looking at these white walls in the hospital and wearing these white scraps. I am getting tired of this. I want to add more colors to my life. I want to do something. Bring me some colors, bring me some small candles; I want to paint.
So the very first painting I made was on my deathbed where I painted for the very first time. It was not just an art piece or just my passion. It was my therapy. What an amazing therapy it was. Without uttering a single word, I could paint my heart out. I could share my story.
People used to come and say, ‘What a lovely painting!” So much color, nobody see the grief in it. Only I could.
So that’s how I spent my two and half months in my hospital, crying never complaining or whining but painting.
And then I was discharged. And I went back home.
And I went back home and I realized that I have developed a lot of pressure ulcers on my back and on my hipbone. I was unable to sit. There were a lot of infections in my body, a lot of allergies.
So doctors wanted me to lie down on the bed straight. For not six months, for not 1 year, but for two years; I was bed ridden, confined in that one room, looking outside the window, listening to the birds chirping, and thinking maybe there will be a time when we will be going out with the family and enjoying the nature.
That was the time where I realized how lucky people are but they don’t realize. That is the time where I realized that, the day I going to sit, I am going to share this pain with everyone to make them realize how blessed they are and they even don’t consider them lucky.
There are always turning points in your life. There was a rebirth day that I celebrated. After two years and two and half months when I was able to sit on a wheel chair, that was the day when I had the rebirth.
I was a completely different person. I still remember, the day I sat on the wheelchair for the first time knowing that I am never going to leave this, knowing that I won’t be able to walk for the rest of my life, I saw myself in the mirror and I talked to my self.
And I still remember what I said. I cannot wait for a miracle to come and make me walk. I cannot sit in the corner of the room crying, cripping and begging for mercy because nobody has time.
So I have to accept myself the way I am, the sooner the better. So, I applied the lip color for the first time. And I erased it. And I cried and I said what am I doing. A person on a wheelchair should not do this. What will people say? Clean it up. Put it again. This time I put it for myself.
Because I wanted to feel perfect from within. And that day I decided I am going to life of myself. I am not going to be that perfect person for someone. I am just going to take this moment and I will make it perfect for myself.
And you know how it all began. That day I decided that I am going to fight my fears. We all have fears. Fear of unknown, fear of known. Fear of losing people. Fear of losing health, money. We want to excel in career. We want to become famous. We want get money. We are scared all the time.
So I wrote down one by one, all those fears. And I decided that I am going to overcome these fears one at a time. You know what was my biggest fear? Divorce. I couldn’t stand this word.
I was trying to cling on to this person who didn’t want me anymore. But I said no, I have to make it work. But the day I decided that this is nothing but my fear, I liberated myself by setting him free. And I made myself emotionally so strong that the day I got news that he is getting married, I sent him a text and said, “I am so happy for you and I wish you all the best”. And he knows that I pray for him today.
My biggest fear number two was: I won’t be able to be a mother again, and that was quite devastating for me. But then I realized there are so many children in the world, all they want is acceptance. So there is no point of crying, just go and adopt one. That’s what I did.
I gave my name in different organizations, different orphanages. I didn’t mention that I am on a wheelchair, dying to have a child. So I just told them that this is Muniba Mazari and she wants to adopt a boy or girl whatsoever. But I wanted to adopt a kid.
And I waited patiently. Two years later, I got this call from a very small city in Pakistan. I got a call and they said, “Are you Muniba Mazari? There is a baby boy. Would you like to adopt?”
And when I said “Yes” , I could literally feel the labor pain. Yes. Yes, I am going to adopt him. I am coming to take him home.
And when I reached there, the man was sitting and he was looking at me from head to toe. And in back of my head, I kept thinking that, oh my God, he is going to say she is on the wheelchair. She doesn’t deserve it. How is she going to take care of him?
And I looked at him and I said, “Do not judge me because I am on the wheel chair. But you know what he said, “I know you will be the best mother of this child. You both are lucky to have each other.”
And that day, he was two days old and today he is six.
You will be surprised to know another bigger fear that I had in me. It was facing people. I used to hide myself from people. When I was on bed for two years I used to keep the door closed. I used to pretend that I am not going to meet anyone. Tell them I am sleeping.
You know why? Because I couldn’t stand that sympathy that they had for me. They used to treat me like a patient. When I used to smile, they used to look at me and say that you are smiling, are you OK’.
I was tired of this question being asked. Are you sick? Well, a lady at the airport asked me, ‘Are you sick’. And I said, well, besides the spinal cord injury, I am fine. I guess.
But those are really cute questions. They never used to feel cute when I was on the bed.
So I used to hide myself from people knowing that, Oh my God I am not going to see that sympathy in their eyes. It’s all right. And today, I am here speaking to all these amazing people. Because I have overcome the fear.
You know when you end up being on the wheelchair, what’s the most painful thing? That’s another fear, that people on the wheelchair, or the people who are differently abled have in their hearts but they never share. I will share that with you. The lack of acceptance. People think that they will not be accepted by the people because we and the world of perfect people are imperfects.
So, I decided instead of starting an NGO for disability awareness which I know will not help anyone, I started to appear more in public. I started to paint. I always wanted to. I have done a lot of exhibitions, I am Pakistan’s first wheelchair-bound artist. I have done a lot of modeling campaigns, different campaigns for brands like Toni & Guy.
I have done some really funny breaking the barriers kinds of modeling. There was this one by the name ClownTown where I became a clown because I know that clowns have hearts too.
And then I also decided that if I really want to make a difference, I am not going to let people use me for their pull your campaigns where they will make you a victim or an emblem of misery and mercy and will say that, you know what, give all your drops to your children or they will become like this girl.
I decided that I am going to join the National TV of Pakistan as an anchor person. And I have been doing a lot of shows for the last three years.
So, when you accept yourself the way you are, the world recognizes you. It all starts from within.
I became the national goodwill ambassador for UN Women, Pakistan. And now I speak for the rights of women and children. We talk about inclusion, diversity, gender equality which is a must.
I was featured in BBC 100 women for 2015. I am one of the Forbes 30 under 30 for 2016. And it all didn’t happen alone.
You all are thriving in your careers. You have bigger dreams and aspirations in life. Always remember one thing, on the road to success there is always ‘We’, not ‘Me’. Do not think that you alone can achieve things. No, there is always another person, who is standing behind you, maybe not coming on the forefront but behind you, praying for your and supporting you. Never lose that person. Never.
No matter how much I say that I couldn’t find a hero, so I became one. I still want to recognize those three people in my life who literally changed my life completely and I get inspiration from them every single day.
Many people know about the terrorist attacks in Pakistan. We have lost many people and I’m sharing this with a very heavy heart because we actually have lost a lot of people in this huge turmoil of terrorism. These people are barbarians. They do not see people. They’re even worse than animals.
They have killed people in mosques. They have killed people in churches, temples, even in schools. There was this terrorist attack in Army Public School Peshawar where these terrorists entered in an examination hall and they killed our children. And in that attack, that day, this beautiful boy Waleed Khan who was my hero, my real life hero was the Proctor who was taking care of the students, was keeping an eye on the students.
Those barbarians shot him three times in the face, five times on his body, and he fell down. I was asked to give a talk in the school after a week of that terrorist attack. With a very heavy heart I went there and I spoke. We sang a few national songs. I thought that maybe I’ve done my part but deep inside it was killing me.
I could see children injured. I could see children sitting on the wheelchairs looking at me wondering what next, what was our fault just because we were here to give examination we have been shot. So many people, so many children lost their friends. Their classrooms were empty.
The next day they went to the classroom. So this kid Waleed Khan, I was asked that he is in a hospital right now and you have to go and see him and motivate him and tell him that it’s going to be OK. And when I saw Waleed Khan coming on the wheelchair for the first time in front of me, face was all deformed. His leg was fractured; his arm was fractured. He couldn’t talk. He lost his teeth.
He cannot sneeze; he cannot smell. He cannot eat. And I kept thinking what should I say that everything is going to be all right. No. Nothing is all right.
And while I was juggling with the words what to say, what not to say, this beautiful child, Waleed Khan came to me, and he said “Are you Muniba Mazari?” I said yes. He said, “Baji let’s take a selfie.”
And with that beautiful toothless smile of Waleed Khan, we took that beautiful selfie that I still have with me. I don’t share that here because he was in a very bad shape that time. And that is where I realized that when I was thinking too much about his deformities, he’s happy with himself. He doesn’t even care.
Because today he goes in the same school, and when somebody asks him that what happened to your face why so many scars, you know what he says, “These scars are my medals and I wear them with pride”.
And how beautifully he says the terrorists wanted me not to study; I am going to study. I will become a doctor one day and this is my way of taking revenge from those terrorists.
Another real-life hero. Of course my son. His name is Nile. River Nile. I learned so much from this kid.
The first and foremost thing is patience. How to be patient when you know that your mother cannot walk, when you know that your mother is different from the other women. When you know that your mother cannot go out and play with you, how to stay calm.
He loves football and when we got the very first football he was four years old. He was super excited. I still remember he came in the room and he said, “Mom, let’s play football” and he kept the ball in my feet. And he said let’s kick it.
And that day I felt disabled. I said I cannot kick the ball and I was down with the same face. He looked at me and he said, “Well that’s all right. Your legs are not working but your hands do. Let’s play catch the ball.”
You know what, that day he made me realize that when you think your glass is half-empty, come on, your glass is half-full. It’s all in here and here.
Last but not least, the woman who made me realize that heroes have no gender. The woman who believed in me even when I was completely at the verge of despair where everybody left she was there. And every time I looked at her without saying anything she used to look at me and said, “This too shall pass. God has a bigger plan and one day you will say that oh my God that is why God has chosen me.”
She never cried in front of me. She has always said that there will be haters; there will be naysayers. There will be disbelievers and then there will be you proving them wrong.
Whatever I am today, I’m nothing without her. I’m nothing without her. Thank you mom. I wish you were here. Thank you for making me who I am today.
You know what, we human beings have a problem. Out of many problems there is one more and this is self-created one. We always expect ease from life. We have this amazing fantasy about life. This is how things should work. This is my plan. It should go as per my plan. If that doesn’t happen we give up.
So my dear friends, let me tell you one thing. I never wanted to be on the wheelchair. Never thought of being on the wheelchair. I was always aspiring to do bigger things but had no idea that for that I have to pay the price to be where I am today. It’s a very heavy price.
This life is a test and a trial. And tests or trials are never supposed to be easy. So when you’re expecting ease from life and life gives you lemons, then you make the lemonade and then do not blame life for that, because you were expecting ease from a trial.
Trials make you a stronger better person. Life is a trial. Every time you realize that.
It is OK to be scared. It is OK to cry. Everything is OK. But giving up should not be an option.
They always say that failure is not an option. Failure should be an option, because when you fail, you get up and then you fail, then you get up, and that keeps you going. That’s how humans are strong.
Failure is an option, should be an option. But giving up is not. Never.
We have this thing in minds. We call it perfection. We want everything perfect. We want our self to be perfect. There is this image in our head about everything: Perfect life; perfect relationships; perfect career; perfect amount of money that we need to earn no matter what.
Nothing is perfect in this world. We all are perfectly imperfect. And that is perfectly all right. That’s all right!
We were sent here not to become the perfect people. Those people who tell you how to look perfect, even those people are imperfect. Trying to fight this fear of looking imperfect. I used to be perfect. I still remember I got this complement years ago, when I used to walk. Oh my God, look at you, you are so fair, you are tall, you are perfect.
Look at me now. Only the perfect eyes can see that. Only the perfect eyes will see that. Only the perfect eyes will see that.
So, yes. In all those imperfections you have to listen to your heart. You don’t have to look good for people. You don’t have to be perfect just because other people want you to be perfect. If your soul is perfect from within, that’s all right! This is all what you want. This is all what you need to be.
Our society has made very weird, very weird kind of norms to look perfect and great. For men, it’s different. For women, it’s different. We think too much about what people say. We listen to ourselves too little.
You know what makes you perfect? When you make someone smile. You know what makes you perfect? When you try to do something good for the people around you. You know what makes you perfect? When you feel someone’s pain.
And how beautiful pain is that it connects you with people. No other medium can connect you with others but pain. That’s why I always say I am in pain. That’s a blessing in disguise for me.
Today, just because I am in pain and I am on the wheelchair, I work for children. Being the head of CSR for a company we conduct medical camps in far flung areas of Pakistan where so many kids die because they don’t have medical facilities. And I personally believe that just because they cannot afford to live doesn’t mean that we let them die.
So we give them money, we give them medical treatment. We try to heal their wounds. Physical and emotional. And I also work for the beautiful people we call them third-gender. The transgender community of Pakistan.
You know, what connects me with them. All my imperfections. When I go and I hug them they never judge me and this very good friend of mine. Her name is Bijli. Bijli means electricity. She called herself electricity. And I said are you electricity. She says ‘No, I am lighting. I am as strong as lightning.”
Because we have very bad power outage, so she doesn’t want me to call her electricity. So she says I am very strong. I am thunder and lightning.
She came to me and the first time I hugged her, she said “You are just like me.” And I said, yes, I am like you. Because to people we are so imperfect.
So how beautiful these imperfections are, that because of these imperfections you can connect with people, then why are we all running after being perfect? What’s the point?
Every time I go in public, I always smile. And people asked me, “Don’t you get tired of smiling all the time? What’s the secret?” I always say one thing. I have stopped worrying about the things that I have lost, people I have lost. Things and people who were meant to be with me are with me.
And sometimes somebody’s absence makes you a better person. Cherish their absence. It’s always a blessing in disguise.
I always say that people are so lucky they don’t even realize, you must be thinking, OK. You are lucky in what sense. Well, the breath you just took was a blessing. Embrace it.
There are so many people in the world who are dreaming to live a life that you are living right now. You have no idea. Embrace each and every breath that you are taking. Celebrate your life. Live it. Don’t die before your death. We all die.
We live this one routine of the day for 75 years and we call it life. No, that’s not life.
If you are still thinking why you have been sent here. If you are still juggling with the concept of why you are here, you haven’t lived yet.
You work hard. You make money. You do it for yourself. That’s not life. You go out, you seek for people who need your help. You make their lives better. You become that sponge which can absorb all the negativity. You become that person who can emit beautiful positive vibes and when you realize that you have changed someone’s life. And because of you, this person didn’t give up. That is the day when you live. Always.
We were talking about gratitude. Why I smile all the time. I cry all night when nobody sees me. Because I am a human and I have to keep the balance.
And I smile all day because I know that if I will smile I can make people smile, that keeps me going.
Be grateful for what you have. And you will always, always, end up having more. But if you will cry, if you will crip for the little things that you don’t have or the things that you have lost, you will never ever have enough.
Sometimes we are too busy thinking about the things that we don’t have, ,that we forget to cherish the blessings that we have.
I am not saying that I am not healthy and that makes me unlucky. But yes, it is hard.
It is hard when I say I can’t walk. It is hard to say when I wear this bag. It hurts. But I have to keep going. Because never giving up is the way to live. Always.
So while I end my talk on a very short note. Live your life fully. Accept yourself the way you are. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself. I will repeat, be kind to yourself. And only then you can be kind to others.
Love yourself and spread that love. Life will be hard. There will be turmoils, there will be trials. But that will only make you stronger. Never give up.
The real happiness doesn’t lie in money or success or fame. I have this all and I never wanted this. Real happiness lies in gratitude. So be grateful and be alive and live every moment.
Thank you so much everyone. Thank you.
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