In this TEDxNoviSad talk, Nick Vujicic, a motivational speaker born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs, talks about the importance of parenting in early childhood and its significance in overcoming hopelessness.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Overcoming hopelessness_ Nick Vujicic at TEDxNoviSad
Thank you very much. Guys, my name is Nick Vujicic, I was born in Australia in 1982, moved from Australia to California in the year 2006. And my life story — I’m just thankful that people have seen my life on some sort of level — whether it’s just YouTube videos or seeing pictures of a limbless guy smile.
You know, people always ask me you know, what happened to you and how did you overcome what you’ve been through? The title of the message that I’ve been given is “Transforming the walls into doors“. When I speak corporately, the line that I like to use is “changing obstacles into opportunities“.
Now, I am very well aware to share with you as well. I know that there are a billion people going hungry today. I know that this year, a million people will commit suicide. That is one every seconds. I know today there are million slaves and I’ve met sex slaves, and I’ve seen the top of the pyramid as far as business and met the billionaires. I’ve met bankers and I’ve also met orphans.
We’re all looking for something. We’re all looking for hope. Hope you can’t just have just because you were born with hope. No, we’re born with pain. We’re born and live through difficulties.
In our life — my parents always taught me that even though we don’t know why I was born this way, that we have a choice. Either to be angry for what we don’t have or be thankful for what we do have. The power of that choice was the first thing that I had to overcome and decide for myself, especially in the early years of school.
A lot of kids would come up to me and tease me. And I have been speaking at 5 congresses,
I’ve met 7 presidents all around the world. My largest crowd was 110,000, I have 30,000 invitations for me to speak. So wherever I go, I talk about the value of life, I talk about anti-bullying messages for the school systems in different nations.
The greatest thing is love. When we feel like we don’t have enough love and we don’t have enough hope, we start losing strength to live. For me in my life as a child, I had a big wall. I was surrounded by four walls and a low ceiling of opportunity. I was set free in so many different ways and especially surviving from day to day with my parents who loved me, who encouraged me, who told me that I was beautiful the way that I was and not to worry about what other people said about me.
I was actually the first special needs child to be integrated into the mainstream education system in Australia and I was awarded Young Citizen of the Year in 1990. And the world is a hurting place and the world needs hope and world needs love. Without hope, we feel like, ‘Why are we here?’
Well, brokenness. Here’s mine. Today, I still have no arms and no legs, but everything’s changed. Everything. For me, I was looking for hope and happiness and I couldn’t see it for many years. In fact, if this side of the table represents my hope, truth encourages me to become all that I can be. But then we have lies, everyday, coming in our mind, people who discourage us.
You know the people that you have in your life who, no matter how good of a day you’re having, they’ll bring you down? Or no matter how bad of a day you’re having, they’ll bring you even lower? You know what I’m talking about?
Think of the 3 biggest discourages in your life. They’re not your biggest discourages. You are. You are. It only takes seconds for me to tell you something discouraging but then, you may never forget my words.
I’ve met so many 50-year-old women and 40-year-old women who still remember what their fathers told them that they wish they’d never heard. Words are powerful. And when you hear those words and then your mind starts growing with these lies. “Nick, you’re not good enough, Nick just give up, Nick you’ll never get a job”, “You won’t get married, you can’t even hold your wife’s hand”. “What kind of a father are you going to be if you can’t even pick up your kids when they’re crying?” You’re alone. Sure, your parents hug you. But their hugs can’t heal you. Just give up. Just give up. Just give up….
At age 8 I thought that I should commit suicide. Why? Because I didn’t have hope. I thought I didn’t have hope. Today you can see that I had hope. What’s the word, believing in something you do not see? Faith.
Words can only do so much. Hugs can do much more than words, but when hugs can’t do anything, that’s where faith kicks in. For me, words and hugs were not enough, but I had no faith. So I tried to give up. At age 10, I tried to drown myself in 6 inches, or 15 centimeters of water, in my home. I told my dad I just wanted to relax, but really, I wanted to end my life. I had enough. I had enough. Ok?
The first two times I rolled over. I was trying to work out how much air I hold in my lungs before I let it out. And the third time, in my mind, knowing that I wanted to get out of here, because of the bullying in my life, because I was going to be a burden to my parents and I had nothing to look forward to. I realized at that moment that if I actually went through with committing suicide, I would leave a greater burden for my parents than they already had.
Still there was one thing less… sorry, there was one thing less hopeful or more burdensome than having a child without limbs. What is it? A child without limbs who gives up. So when I saw in my mind my mom and my dad and my brother crying at my grave if I went through with it, that one thought saved me.
If my parents never told me that I was beautiful the way I was. If my parents never told me that I was special and that I was loved, I wouldn’t be here today. So I encourage every single parent who tries their best to encourage their teenagers, especially in the West, many teenagers put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their door. I’m sure, you know, the conversations all around the world between a parent and a teenager: How was school? – Fine. – What did you learn? – Nothing. – Did you do your homework? – No. And that’s the conversation for the day.
And when you try to tell your children that they’re beautiful, they say, “Of course I’m beautiful, I’m your son, your daughter, of course you’re going to say that”. But they’re right. Every single human being has value and my value is not determined on how I look or what job I have, or where I’m from, where I was born, how much money, all that stuff is nothing.
So many teenagers, you know, tease each other for how we look and I tell the teenagers, “Do you think that I’m cool enough to be your friend?” And they’re like, “Yeah, of course”. I say, “But I have no arms and no legs”, and they say, “Doesn’t matter.” And I say, “Really? So it doesn’t matter that I have no arms and no legs?” They say, no, it doesn’t matter. I say then, “Actually, if it doesn’t matter, then why do we kill each other with our words, if it actually doesn’t matter?” Why do we look ourselves in the mirror and see ugly instead of valuable?