In December 2010, Caroline Casey gave a TEDWomen talk inviting the audience to look past limits.  You see, she’d spent her whole life doing just that.

On Casey’s 17th birthday, she discovered that she was legally blind…and had been her whole life.  Her parents had decided when she was 3 1/2 years old that there would be no special schools for her, no labels.  This gave her the ability to believe that she could do and be anything she wanted,  even going as far as to learn to sail though she couldn’t see the shore, the destination, the sail or anything around her.  As she put it, “it’s extraordinary how far belief can take you.”

Even after being told about her disability, she continued to ram through life, just as she had for the previous 17 years.  But this became increasingly difficult, and eventually she ended up in her company’s HR office revealing she needed help and she was sent to a series of doctors.  When one of these doctors asked, “Why are you trying so hard to be someone you’re not?” Casey went for a run on a route she knew by heart, but tripped over a rock she’d never seen before.  It was then that she realized that she was at a point of feeling completely broken.  She resorted to asking herself what she was going to do, what she was going to be.

She knew she had to do something different.

So she decided to be Mowgli from The Jungle Book.  She had no idea how to do this, but she knew no one had been Mowgli before, so it was up to her to set the path.  She knew it WOULD happen because she believed.  She went from being a corporate management consultant to an elephant handler.  She trekked 1,000 kilometers across India on an elephants back, raising money to fund eye surgeries along the way.  This moved her to start her foundation, Kanchi, named after the elephant she rode.

It dawned on Casey that she’d achieved success in school, in her career and her hobbies previously.  But these were not really successes, because she hadn’t believed in her true self, all bits of herself.  She calls for all of us to be the best versions of ourselves because being your true self is true freedom. She invites for us to stop with the labels – and limitations – we put on ourselves and others.

This post was written by feature author Stephanie Nelson.

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