A New Year's Lesson on Loving Ourselves from Child Heroes

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"Outer beauty pleases the eye. Inner beauty captivates the HEART." - M. Hale

Have you ever looked in the mirror, rubbed your eyes, leaned in a little closer, and been far from thrilled by what stared back at you?

Deeper bags under your eyes, a few more wrinkles waving from your face, a new nest of gray hairs cascading from your scalp.

To make matters even worse, we often begin seeing that reflection in the way others look back at us. We notice it in their stares, their comments, even their silence. Yeah, they don't need to say a thing, we know what they are thinking!

Ah, but what if it's not their judgment we're hearing, but our own.
What if the critic isn't our partner, our friends, our coworkers? What if the loudest critic and the most important to silence is the one staring back in the mirror?

The recent viral video sensation #labels helps us take a deeper look at this idea. The video showed a young woman, Lauren Brocious, frowning into a mirror. She began drawing on her face all the negative words she'd been called by others. Words like "Ugly. Stupid. Dead." appeared on her face.

She then erased those damning criticisms and replaced them with life-affirming praise. "Beautiful. Smart. Alive." And then she smiled.

It's a poignant reminder that the words we choose to say to ourselves impact the way we feel about ourselves, and how others feel about us.

It's the same reminder I received last year before speaking at an event. The teacher of this lesson was a seven-year-old boy named Alex.

Little Alex's own reflection had changed a few months before.

While playing tag with his cousin, he sprinted through the house. Alex raced out of the family room, down a hallway, and around a corner. He sped into the kitchen just as his aunt was taking a pan of hot grease off the stove.

They collided.

The pan fell to the floor, but the grease covered Alex, terribly burning his face, chest and back.

Alex Reyes was raced to the ICU, spent over a month there, endured reconstructive surgery on his eyes, ears, lips and chest. When we met, he was still in physical therapy, still in rehab, still in pain.

And still absolutely alive.

While downing a cupcake together I asked if he remembered being burned, "Oh yes, it hurt. It hurt real bad."

What was the worst part? "Being away from my brother."

Anything cool happen in hospital? "The baseball team visited me. It was awesome. I didn't tell them, but I am a Yankees fan."

Do people stare at you today? "Yes. All the time now."

How does it make you feel? "I just don't care. They're just scars. They're not me."

As we finished our cupcakes the organizer of the conference that I was speaking at asked if I was ready. I wiped off the icing, hugged my new friend, grabbed a microphone and made my way to the stage.

During the presentation I asked Alex to join me on the stage. The little man jumped to his feet, left the first row, and waddled up the five steps.

Reminding the audience that we all have stories I wanted to share a little of his amazing story and life. I asked his name, his age, what happened, how it felt, what it was like, and how he was doing. Finally asking if there was anything he wanted to say to all these people, he took the microphone into his little hands, looked out through big, vibrant brown eyes and spoke. "People, these are just scars, they're not me, and I am totally normal and fine."

He went to take his seat and the audience leapt to their feet.

Afterwards his mom was crying and Alex walked over to her, put his arms around her, and said, "Mom, there is no reason to cry. I am a star now." How right he is.

My friends, this little man is so vibrantly alive and has what the rest of us are searching for. While we steady ourselves in the mirror, applying makeup, doing the comb-over, using the tweezers, he realizes that looks don't define us. Stares don't define us. Others can't define us.

Heroes aren't made in a mirror, they're made instead by allowing the inner beauty of their heart to reflect light to a world absolutely starved for it.

Today, and as we move through this New Year, my challenge to us it to follow Alex's advice; to see ourselves as "just right." Let your inner beauty ignite hearts and reflect light into the world.

This is your day. Live Inspired.