Zeminar Presents Ellen Keane | Dare to be Yourself

Hi – so I’m here today to dare you to be
yourself. To encourage you to look beyond what society sees as perfect or
beautiful and hopefully inspire you to take the first few steps
to really being your true self. And by doing that…I’m gonna do that by sharing
with you a journey that I went on myself. So first things first – who am I? My
name is Ellen Keane, I am 22 years old, I am a culinary entrepreneur student – yes that
is a degree and and I’m also a Paralympic swimmer. I’m also a very
happy person. I try to have a smile on my face about 90% of the time and the place
that I found most joy in my life has been in the pool. As you can see from
the photo here I actually had a very good race that day so that’s why I’m so
happy. Another thing that you probably noticed about me is that I’m a
bit different. I was born with my left arm from below the elbow. My parents were never given a reason why – it was just one of those things that happened
so unfortunately I’m not here to tell you a cool story about how I was in a
shark attack so I’m sorry. Growing up my parents always gave me the choice
whether or not to wear a prosthetic so when I was a really young kid I probably
would have worn it a lot more. Going to school I learned to actually hate it.
I found it really heavy, really awkward, I got really sweaty, I really didn’t like
it. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t part of me and I didn’t want anything to do with it. So
I kind of made that decision for myself when I was about five or six years old, but then as I got older I discovered Society and I became scared. I
started to notice people staring at me a lot. Anywhere I went I could feel eyes on
me. I remember when I was younger I write letters to Santa Claus or the tooth
fairy basically begging to have 2 hands, begging to be normal and obviously that didn’t happen. I started to grow really
really insecure about my body and when I started secondary school that’s when I
really started to hide myself. I used to wear baggy hoodies or heavy coats so
that it would appear like I had two hands. I wouldn’t go anywhere without my
sleeves no matter what the temperature was outside and this was such a sad life
to live. I was convinced that no one would ever love me. I was convinced I
was never good enough. I was convinced that no one would ever love me let alone
fancy me and that I was going to be alone for the majority of my life.
But when I was 14 I started texting this boy and I really really liked him….I know!
So we’d been texting for a while and we’d never met in person so he didn’t
know that I had one hand and the day before we were meant to meet up for the
first time I was petrified about telling him but I decided you know I
have to let this guy know what he’s in for. So when I texted him and I had to wait for his response and it was sooo
terrifying. I was convinced that he would be disgusted and horrified and that he’d
think I was a freak and that he wouldn’t want me. But the truth is
that he didn’t care – his response was, “why would that bother me” and the majority of
the people in your life who matter, they really won’t care about these
things but it took me a long time to realize that. So as I said swimming is my
happy place. When I’m in the pool I am… there’s nowhere to hide, I’m completely
myself – all I have is my heat, my goggles and my swimsuit. So the more I swam, the more confidend I got and the more I learned to love my body. And then I
realized you know I’m not gonna hide anymore, I’m gonna I’m gonna put myself
out there. So three years ago on the first day of college I rolled up my
sleeves and it was the most terrifying thing that I have ever done but it was
definitely the best thing I ever did, because the minute I rolled up my sleeves was the day that my life really began. And a year ago in
Rio in 2016 I stood on top of the podium with two other girls with my stump in
the air, so proud of what my body had achieved. And if I had been born
differently I wouldn’t have experienced anything that I have experienced in my
life and I love my body and I love my arm
because of that. And I used to be so so so afraid of being known as the girl
with one arm but now I love the fact that you’re not easily going to forget
me. And the most important thing about me is that I’m loved and I’ve always been
loved but when I started to come out of my shell that’s when I really
experienced a lot more love than I ever thought was possible. So my message to
you today is to Be Brave and Have Courage and the minute you accept
yourself for who you are, and the minute that you start to love yourself
completely you can do anything that you set your mind to. Thank You

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