Last week I saw Turia Pitt speak at a Business Chicks event.
When I got the email from Business Chicks to tell me Turia Pitt was talking at an event, I put off booking a ticket. I wasn’t sure if I could afford it, and I’d just started a new job. But she’s someone I admire so much, and have been following for two years or so. She’s one of my appearance activism heroes. And so I checked with my manager if I could come in half an hour late, reshuffled my funds, and booked it. It’s been one of the best investments I’ve made this year. I am so glad I went to the breakfast event. (I’m a big believer about investing in your own development, and Business Chicks events are a great way to do this!)
In 2011, Turia was badly burnt while running an Ultra marathon in the Kimberly in WA (she endured burns to 65% of her body). She has had more than 200 surgeries including ongoing facial reconstruction. You might remember I wrote about her Women’s Weekly cover being a game changer, and then I interviewed her.
During her (far too brief) talk last week, she showed such intelligence. She’s funny, unpolished, sweary and lovely. And so very stylish.
(Photo from Business Chicks’ newsletter)
Here are 13 things Turia Pitt taught me at Business Chicks. (I love that through hearing others talk, we can learn things about ourselves too.)
1. Turia’s appearance alone doesn’t make her interesting.
“I find it hard people think I’m interesting because I’ve been burnt. Truth is, I’ve always been interesting”, Turia said.
2. Humour is everything.
The first time she wiped her own arse after her accident, she felt like she’d won the Olympics, she told us. She’s funny. And she sees the funny side. Turia showed us photos of her wearing the compression mask. She laughed, and we laughed, as she showed us her driver’s license and passport – her face covered by the mask. She said she could be the world’s friendliest terrorist.
3. She is a burns survivor, not a victim.
A woman in the audience asked Turia advice for her young daughter – describing her as a ‘burns victim’. Turia answered, saying she is a burns survivor. The audience applauded.
4. Turia wants people to own their appearance diversity.
Her advice to a child who’s a burns survivor: “Own it. If you’re self conscious, others will notice. Fuck it.”
She said that she’s embraced her physicality and appearance, and is not letting it stop her enjoying life.
5. She doesn’t set out to be an appearance activist.
Turia said she doesn’t feel she’s a celebrity, and doesn’t actively promote positive body image. But it’s merely by being, by speaking and showing confidence in herself that she is.
When I interviewed her last year, I asked her whether she hopes that her AWW cover changes the way the media showcases appearance diversity? While she said she was forever grateful to be on the cover of a high circulating magazine, she also told me “Honestly, I haven’t really thought about it.” I was surprised at this response then, but when I saw her speak, I realised she’s not setting out to be a role model or an example or a change maker, she just is.
A friend recently reminded me to stop and realise there’s more to me than my appearance activism crusade, and remember to have balance, and Turia’s talk reinforced that for me. Sometimes we can have the most impact by just living our lives.
6. Gratitude is so important.
Turia credits her mother and partner for being with her every step of her journey since the accident. She acknowledged how hard it is for them to see her in pain (“it’s traumatic for the people we love to see us go through pain.”). She thanked many strangers who did their jobs, risked their lives and gave up their time to save her. She said she feels she has a duty to live life to the fullest to thank and honour everyone who’s helped her. She credits her success to everyone who has helped her.
7. There will be bad days, and that’s ok.
While she’s the fittest she’s ever been, and happily engaged, she has bad days.
“I accept life isn’t always going to be great. It’s ok to own a shit day. Tomorrow’s probably gonna be better.”
8. She challenges people to grow by getting outside of their comfort zone. (Because that’s how she grows.)
“We don’t grow & hold onto an outdated version of ourselves ’cause we don’t want to evolve or try something new”, she says. “It’s crazy the excuses people use to keep themselves stuck.”
9. She has proven naysayers wrong.
From her highschool teacher who said she wasn’t smart enough to do the subjects she chose to a doctor who challenged her during rehab, Turia is using peoples’ negativity to drive her success. She says “screw you mate” to those who said she can’t.
10. She’s living the dream life.
Speaking, doing charity work for Interplast, training for an iron man event, surrounded by amazing people. And she’s engaged! She’s seen amazing kindness in times of tragedy.
“It’s so beautiful. The best in humanity can just show up in the worst moments.” She’s finished working an engineer, though she’s glad to be able to throw that qualification into conversation! Now she loves her new career.
11. Pain is tortuous, and inevitable.
Anticipating the pain has been one of the worst things since her accident.
“Anticipating pain has gotta be the most torturous experience I’ve ever had”, Turia said. She spoke of the fear of bandage changes: lying in a burns ward hearing others having their bandages changed, screaming, made Turia fear her turn. (I could relate to this – anticipating the pain of sore skin is a difficult thing).
12. While she doesn’t let the fire define her, she believes her wounds have made her so strong.
“Your wound, your weakness is your biggest strength”, Turia said. She said everyone has wounds – they’re not just physical – and everyone wears a mask. She doesn’t have to wear a mask around her fiancé.
13. Successful people have a team behind them.
Turia has a team behind her. They cheer her on, give her praise and encourage her to be the best she can be. “When you surround yourself with like minded and successful people, anything is possible”, she said.
I’ve seen a few high profile speakers now. Turia Pitt has been my favourite. She is so honest and so lovely. When we met, she gave me a big hug and told the Business Chicks staff that we’ve been online friends for a year now. It made my day. Thanks Turia!