Born without shinbones, Aimee Mullins had her legs amputated below the knee when she was just 1 year old. Through her amazing persistence and incredible spirit, she went on to become an actress, model, athlete, and speaker.
Below is a video of a TED Talk she gave. She talks about labels, limiting beliefs, the influence of adults and society on children, and brings up many important things every parent, caregiver, and educator should consider. Please take the time to watch or listen, and join me below for my thoughts on Aimee Mullins’ brilliant and inspiring talk.
Words create limits. As a student I remember distinctly my fourth grade teacher telling me I was not artistic. I believed this until I was an adult. On the playground children bandy about single word insults that are devastating. Where do they learn this careless behavior? When I catch this and ask them to define the words they are using, they can’t, but the damage is being done. In both these instances the careless use of words has great devastating power behind them. Recognizing that the words we choose can destroy or empower is life changing. Educating children and ourselves on the power of words is something we could all benefit from.
You have the power to shape your perception. You can’t control everything that happens to you. Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control. However, our perceptions of those circumstances can be altered at any time. We all have the power to change our outlook. Learning how to see the positive in a less then ideal situation is a skill that you can take with you anywhere and will last a life time.
A great way to do this is the “Yes, But” exercise. It allows you to acknowledge that the situation isn’t perfect (denial never helps) but it allows you to frame it in a positive way. Such as “Breaking my arm and having to spend the summer in a cast isn’t fun, BUT it allows me to learn how to use my other hand.” (this strategy and others are covered in-depth in my e-book “Growing Creative Kids”)
It does take conscious effort to see things in a positive light, but once you develop the habit it becomes automatic. It might be a good family habit to develop during a “Creative Kids 30 day challenge”.
Adversity is part of life. As Aimee says:
“the question isn’t whether or not you’re going to meet adversity, but how you’re going to meet it. So, our responsibility is not simply shielding those we care for from adversity, but preparing them to meet it well. And we do a disservice to our kids when we make them feel that they’re not equipped to adapt.”
Powerful stuff. We all want to shield and protect our kids from life, however adversity gives us the opportunity to learn how to be creative problem-solvers. Parents are the best model children have for dealing with adversity. Do you meet challenges head on? Or allow them to overwhelm you? Whatever you do, you can be sure your children are noticing and it is shaping who they become.
Aimee goes on to say:
“It’s not about devaluing, or negating, these more trying times as something we want to avoid or sweep under the rug, but instead to find those opportunities wrapped in the adversity. So maybe the idea I want to put out there is, not so much overcoming adversity, as it is opening ourselves up to it, embracing it, grappling with it, to use a wrestling term, maybe even dancing with it. And, perhaps, if we see adversity as natural, consistent and useful, we’re less burdened by the presence of it.”
Poetic, Powerful, Perceptive. Dancing with adversity. I love it.
There is no normal. Unfortunately our society is very concerned with “normal.” It is the benchmark we tend to measure children against, especially within the public school system. We are very concerned with making the grade on standardized tests and get the most school funding when everyone is at an acceptable, normal level. Teaching children to be creative takes more work, planning and funding so it is often left up to the parents. My desire is to give parents the inspiration and tools to do this is one of the primary goals of of this blog. Helping children to release and recognize their special skills and abilities should be a primary goal of all of us, after all today’s children are tomorrows creative future.
To Educate – bring forth from within. This stuck a chord with me, as it is a tenant of what I believe education should be. One day when I was frustrated with trying to impress knowledge, I asked myself what if we looked at it differently? What if we looked at educating children like we would grow a garden, a garden of creativity within a child? This set my career path as a writer and a blogger and culminated in my e-book “Growing Creative Kids” for which this blog is named. Every single child has limitless potential, what special gifts does your child have within them that you can nurture?
The only true disability is a crushed spirit. Aimee’s final thoughts are incredibly powerful.
“I think that the only true disability is a crushed spirit, a spirit that’s been crushed doesn’t have hope. It doesn’t see beauty. It no longer has our natural, childlike curiosity and our innate ability to imagine. If instead, we can bolster a human spirit to keep hope, to see beauty in themselves and others, to be curious and imaginative, then we are truly using our power well. When a spirit has those qualities, we are able to create new realities and new ways of being.”
Lessons I have learned: The human spirit is very delicate, yet incredibly resilient. Single words can pigeon-hole a person for life or inspire them to greatness. Normal is nothing more than common. True education is to bring forth greatness. You have the power to change your perception whenever you feel like it. Adversity is opportunity in disguise, dance with it. Thank you Aimee, for your insights and inspiration.