Two weeks ago I had the honor of attending the Canadian Burn Survivor's Conference in Calgary, Alberta. As many of you know my husband is a burn survivor who, 18 years ago, was burned in a car crash which also killed three of his friends. Attending these conferences is always eye opening. Even though I wasn't with John when he went through most of his surgeries, I always take something away and meet amazing people who are so strong and have overcome so much. We are grateful to the Firefighters Burn Fund, Victoria BC for sponsoring us to attend this conference.
One of the speakers at this years conference was Kelly Falardeau. We met Kelly a couple years ago at another conference, since then she has written two books (both of which I bought) and took the leap of being self employed as a speaker. Kelly talked to us about her second book Self Esteem Doesn't Come In a Bottle. Kelly's accident occured when she was only two years old. When I look at Kelly all I see is a beautiful and confident woman, I don't see her scars.
I related to Kelly's stories of growing up and facing ridicule in school. Even though our lives are very different, the development of our self esteems is so ingrained in our experiences, especially as children and young adults. Hearing the ridicule she faced for her scars and how she has overcome that to become so strong today gives me strength. Kelly said that the moment she realized that SHE had the power and that SHE was beautiful no matter was pivotal for her. She also told herself, when thinking of those with negative things to say, "your opinion doesn't count in my world". Kelly is a true example of taking control of your destiny, of taking the power into your own hands.
For me, self esteem is my biggest struggle, there is fear and experience behind wanting to put myself out there. The fear of judgment, of ridicule, of people walking away. The fear can be so overwhelming that often I chose to not share that inner part of my soul, it's hidden. I appreciated Kelly's presentation so much because she makes you realize that really, it doesn't matter, if the people that see that part of your soul truly walk away then they don't deserve to be in your life.
I'm not going to give away all of Kelly's secrets, but I want to share with you some that hit home for me...
"Learn to love your little parts" - appreciate the parts of you that make you feel good, for me I love my eyes, and my smile
"Find your WOW factor" - is it your favorite pair of jeans? or heals? when you do this or put this on you feel amazing...find your WOW factor and "work it".
"Don't postpone joy" - if you keep doing things you hate, you won't feel good...do things that make YOU feel good, the only person you have to please is yourself.
After the presentation I asked Kelly if she would be willing to answer some additional questions for me. Here is what she had to say:
Where did you find the courage to take the first step in telling your story?
When I was 21 yrs old, I was elected to be the President of the Alberta Burn Rehabilitation Society and I was invited to go speak at one of the very first burn camps in our province. There was only 13 kids there, but it was the first time I got to speak to burn kids and it was awesome.
Do you ever have moments, even now, where you face self doubt? how do you deal with that?
Yes, self doubt used to be huge for me as a teenager and adult, but as I succeed more, self doubt is less and less in my mind. Self doubt is all about self talk. I handle it by reminding myself about all my successes in my life. I talk to my mentors and champions in my life who inspire me and keep me motivated to do what I love to do. When I hear myself doubting myself, I find ways to shift my thinking like putting on music I love, reading a book or listening to inspiring speakers. The key to self doubt is to stop picking on yourself and calling yourself names. You need to find ways to keep your fearless inner voice alive and your fearful inner voice down. Your fearful voice doesn't want you to succeed, but your fearless self does. I am always doing my best to listen to my fearless voice. When we doubt ourselves it holds us back from achieving what we want, so I believe it's imperative that we learn how to control our self doubt at all times.
Why do you speak and share your story? Why is it important to you?
I realized 3 yrs ago that I love speaking and inspiring others. When I did the passion test almost 3 years ago with Janet Attwood, inspiring others was one of my top 3 passions. She took me by my arms and said "Kelly, your scars are your gift, use them, be a speaker and inspire others with your story." And I said, "Ok, I'll be a speaker" and I did. After I made the decision to do it, everything magically fell into place.
Being a speaker is important to me because I get so annoyed that women & teenage girls feel they have to have the perfect body in order to be beautiful. I have one of the most imperfect bodies out there and I've been called sexy, hot, beautiful, gorgeous, all the names I want to be called and yet I have scars covering 75% of my body and I'm missing a nipple, scars completely covering my chest, back, face and both arms and a muffin top to boot. Once I realized that I could feel beautiful without anybody else's approval, I was able to take my power back and truly feel beautiful no matter what anyone else said. It was a great feeling when I did that.
I also enjoy speaking because I think we need to find ways to empower teenagers, they're tuning out as far as the bullying message is going. They all know bullying exists and what they're "supposed" to do about it, but if they don't have self confidence or self esteem, they'll never stand up to the bully. It's important that we teach them how to empower eachother and feel good in their own skin so they can be the people they want to be, not what their friends want them to be.
Thank you Kelly for doing what you do, for sharing your story, and being such a positive impact in so many people's lives. For more information on Kelly you can follow her on twitter @kellyfalardeau or visit her website to keep up to date on all her activity.