When Aimee Mullins was born she had no shinbones.
Her parents had to make the decision to have her legs amputated at the knees.
As a 5-year-old child in hospital, she had to do exercises to strengthen her thighs.
She had to constantly stretch against large rubber bands.
These rubber bands became everything she hated.
They restricted and imprisoned her.
Every day she hated them more.
She would cry and throw tantrums at how powerless she felt against these strong rubber bands.
One day her doctor came to see her during one of these spells.
He stopped, took off his glasses and studied her.
He said “My goodness, I hadn’t realised what a strong little girl you’ve grown into Aimee. If you’re not careful you’re going to break my rubber bands.
But I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you do break them.”
Aimee said her world turned at that point.
Suddenly she saw that she had been getting stronger while the bands were getting weaker.
Suddenly she wasn’t worried about them anymore.
Now they had reason to be worried about her.
And she attacked the bands day after day, getting stronger and stronger.
Now she actually looked forward to exercising against the bands.
Not just because of the chance to make money.
But because for the first time she felt what she called “the epiphany of my own power”.
Aimee went on to become an award-winning athlete at many, many different sports.
Then she became a fashion model, then an actress, now she’s an icon.
A tall, beautiful, elegant young woman.
She refuses to be called disabled, because she says language dictates our thinking.
She says “Language calls reality into existence.”
So what we say becomes what we think and so determines what we will experience.
Language literally determines our reality.
Aimee points to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
She says most people interpret it wrongly.
It isn’t just the strongest or the fastest that survive.
It’s the most adaptable that survive.
That’s why she refuses to be labelled as disabled.
She says “Adversity is just change we haven’t adapted to yet.”
And now she welcomes adversity.
As a chance to grow, to go beyond her perceived limits.
As she says “Conflict is the genesis of creation”.
That’s why she refuses to use the word disabled.
Disabled says you can’t do it, so you shouldn’t even try.
If that one doctor had never shown her her own power, she would have grown up being disabled.
She would have grown up wishing she could be like everyone else.
But now she looks at her upbringing and her life and what it’s lead to, and she laughs at the idea of wanting to be normal.
She says “Normal? That’s beige.”