The choice to be unafraid

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Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon was honoured with the Visibility Award at the Human Rights Council annual gala on Saturday — and as we’ve come to expect from him, he completely stole the show with his poignant words.

“When I was little I used to care so much about what others thought of me,” he said. “I was mindful of the way I dressed, my mannerisms, the way I talked. I was afraid people would think I was weak. I was afraid of making mistakes. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be welcomed by the LGBTQ community because someone like me wouldn’t be the role model they were looking for. Maybe I was too gay, and maybe I was just too myself. Throughout my life, I have fallen short many times. I have felt depressed. I felt not good enough. And I felt like there would never be a day where I would feel like I belong. I was living life afraid. I remember hearing the quote, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ I remember really hearing it, and honestly asking myself, ‘What would I do differently?’

“I remember making the choice to be unafraid,” he continued. “I made the choice to not care what others thought of who I was. I was going to be truly me. This was the biggest and most important decision I’d ever made: To live fearlessly. To take risks. To let go of my fear of what others may think of me, and to always keep learning. You will find that you will have your greatest success when you wear your scars proudly. Through my shortcomings and from my successes, I’ve learned that a champion is more than a medal. It’s a mindset.”

He closed with a powerful, inclusive sentiment: “To all the young kids out there, whether you are gay, straight, bi, trans or still on a journey of self-discovery; whether you are white, black, or any color in between, you are smarter than you think. You hold more strength than you may ever know. You are powerful. No matter where you have come from or where you are going to, there is someone who looks up to you, and they will find inspiration in your strength of just being yourself. Be a role model, and never forget that you can be someone’s champion. You are a winner. When we all come together, we can change the world.”

Comments 4

  1. I’m far of being ‘a young kid’, but I got the message as well. Thanx Adam.
    You’re great. XOXO

  2. Remember those who made it possible for somebody like Adam Rippon to choose not to be afraid. Others made that choice over the last fifty years and demanded respect.

  3. This kind of mindset is invaluable and can improve a persons life immeasurably. I am always profoundly saddened when I encounter others who choose instead to obsess over what others think, what others might say, how others see them or their community, etc. When parents taught kids ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,’ they weren’t trying to exempt bullies from responsibility for being terrible human beings. They were trying to encourage kids to understand that how you react emotionally to things is a choice you make yourself. It’s not one you are completely and entirely free in making, of course, but it is one which only you hold the power to determine. It was taught as a mantra the child could use to reassure themselves and remind themselves that words are just words, and can be ignored or taken any way one chooses.

    There is a wide gulf between how other people should act, and how you should deal with that. Their failures should not be given the power to destroy you. Everyone judges themselves, and must find a standard to judge themselves by. Choosing the views of others is a certain recipe for disaster. Objective choices are much better. Have you hurt anyone, have you destroyed anything, have you sought to control others… or have you helped someone, have you created something, have you refrained from manipulating others and respected their own will? These are not matters of opinion, and you can list them, you can name them, and you can improve them if need be. They’re just some examples. But if you’ve just won a Nobel prize and someone calls you an idiot, you can either choose to be crestfallen and feel stupid or you can look at your medal and realize they are simply wrong.

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