Athlete, actress, model, dancer, motivational speaker, animal-lover, thrill-seeker, massage therapist, philanthropist, author, wife, daughter, friend, and amputee—Amy Purdy is all these things and more, and she won’t let any of the above put her in a box. A form of bacterial meningitis at age nineteen led to the removal of her kidneys, spleen, and the amputation of her legs from the knee, but she never let these things define her. Rather, the near-death experience propelled her to become her most fulfilled and genuine self after she learned to focus on the things she had, rather than the things she did not. With gratitude as the foundational component of all that she does, Amy has learned to live without limits. The insight and wisdom she’s cultivated over the years have helped redefine the trajectory for thousands of men and women, and now, Amy shares some of her most important life lessons exclusively with GOOD TIMES.
Photo courtesy of @AMYPURDYGURL
Photo courtesy of @AMYPURDYGURL
Aside from the physical effects of losing your legs below the knees, where did the experience initially leave you mentally and emotionally?
You don’t know how strong you are until you are forced to be. If someone had told me that at the age of nineteen that I would get sick from a random blood infection, lose both legs below the knees, and fight for my life, I would have said there’s no way I could handle that. Yet it happened, and I realized that I was so much stronger than I ever knew. I was still the same person, I still had the same dreams and goals. I wanted to travel the world, snowboard and also model and act. I just had to get more creative to find my way through it all. There were difficult times, don’t get me wrong, but I was so overwhelmed with gratitude to be alive and have a second chance at life that I never wanted to waste that second chance by being depressed or down on myself. I want to use everything I have to be the best version of myself I can be and help others do the same!
You consciously made a decision at some point to not allow it to dismantle your hopes and dreams though. What did that process look like, and how do you keep from straying from that mindset?
Honestly, gratitude. Being grateful for what I did have. In fact, I don’t even like saying that I “lost” my legs; instead, I say I “have” two prosthetic legs, because I feel I have gained much more than I have lost. I realized early on that there on some things you can control and some things you can’t. I can’t control that I lost both of my legs, but I can control how I take care of myself—how I work out, how I eat, how I nourish my mind and body, and how I grow as a person. There's actually so much we have control of in our lives and it’s all about using what you have to the best of your ability. I believe the reason we are here on Earth is to try to become the best versions of ourselves no matter what circumstances come our way. In fact, adversity is often what leads to success because you really figure out what you are made of!
Are there still difficult days? What do those look like, and how do you get yourself out of them?
To be honest, I have worked physically, mentally and emotionally on myself as a professional athlete for so many years that I can’t say that I have too many down days. If I do, it usually has nothing to do with what I went through twenty years ago. We all have down days and days where we need to reset and decide how we want to continue to live the rest of our lives. My down days now typically have to do with my schedule, where I travel the world and do motivational speeches for corporations, and I tend to get jet lagged and tired and not have enough “me” time. But who can complain about that? I’m now living my dreams and I have so much to be grateful for in my life that I really can’t complain.
Your place in Colorado serves as a place to reflect and recharge. What makes it so special? What does “reflect and recharge” look like for you?
My dream as a little girl was to live in the mountains, so as soon as I was able to buy my own home in the mountains of Colorado, I did. Being a professional snowboarder, I live within fifteen minutes of five of our country’s top ski resorts and it’s just beautiful up here. We renovated our home to have a lot of bog windows and natural light so everywhere we look we are surrounded by beautiful trees, nature, and wildlife. For me, being in nature is grounding. I travel to cities often and lived in Los Angeles for years. I love cities for work, but I love being in nature to come back to and take a deep breath and ground myself before getting busy again. Typically, my self-care when I’m home is working out daily, cooking, cleaning, snowboarding and taking walks in the trees. All of these things remind me of what’s important in life before I travel around the world with a hectic schedule.
How else do you practice self-care?
For me self-care is sleeping eight hours a night, limiting social media, breathing, spin-cycling— when I get my endorphins going I can really think clearly—and snowboarding with my husband and friends. I used to be an esthetician where I did skincare and facials full time, and I was a massage therapist for ten years of my life too, so taking care of my skin and body is really important to me!
While every journey is different, what have you found is key in learning how to rise above hardships, challenges, tragedy and move forward?
The key is gratitude—looking at what you do have versus focusing on what you don’t. If you walk around all day looking at what you don’t have in life, there couldn’t be a more depressing state of mind than that. But when you look around and realize how blessed you are, you feel fulfilled and happy and that state of mind helps you create more things in your life to be grateful about. These days with social media, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole where you are looking at everyone else’s lives and fortunes and forget about your own. The key to living a fulfilling life is to stop, take a deep breath, look around, and realize just how many blessings you have. If you are healthy then you have everything you need to live your best life possible.
Can you talk a little about the importance of a support system, and tell us a bit about yours?
A support system is key to living a happy life. As humans we are social animals. We are made to connect. That’s why I love my job so much as a motivational speaker. I get to connect to so many people around the world and I realize that is such an amazing part of the work that I do.
My family is my number one support system, starting with my husband. To have people who love you and who are always there for you, sunshine or rain, is so important. Money and fame can be fun for a bit, but you have to think about what would happen if it all went away. What really matters is family, relationships, and love; that’s what we have when we are born and what we hope to have when it’s our time to go.
Photo courtesy of @AMYPURDYGURL
Photo courtesy of @AMYPURDYGURL
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned through Adaptive Action Sports?
If something doesn’t exist, then you can create it. I wanted to snowboard and meet other like-minded people, who were living beyond their limits on a daily basis, who love the outdoors and travel, and I never found it. So, my husband and I created it, and through that we were able to help grow an entire movement by getting adaptive snowboarding into the Paralympic Games! Athletes with physical disabilities now have the opportunity to become professional snowboarders and get the same support as Olympic athletes. That’s huge, and it has allowed us to live an amazing life and help others do the same!
I’ve also learned the importance of being passionate about something. Truly, the only way you can succeed is by being so passionate you will see it through to the end no matter how challenging things are.
And finally, I’ve learned that the key to happiness really lies in giving back, sharing your journey and experiences and knowledge so others can succeed too.
What do you want women to know about mental well-being and the power of our mind?
To live the life of our dreams, it all starts within. Self-love is key to becoming the best versions of ourselves, so we can have the energy to give to the projects and work we are passionate about. Our minds are so powerful, but in order for them to work properly we have to first take care of ourselves; eat, sleep, love ourselves, so we can put love into our work and relationships. With social media it’s easy to compare our lives to others, but it is the most damaging thing we can do. The work you produce will come from you and the only way to make it sustainable is if you are regularly putting time and love into yourself so that you can then share that love with others through the work you do. It all goes hand in hand.
What is so special about the resilience and strength of women?
I mean, women physically are made to bounce back! Literally, our bodies were created to go through so much, like pregnancy, and keep on going. Mentally and emotionally the more we go through, the smarter we become. That’s why women in their thirties tend to be even more secure and successful because the more we go through, the more we learn, and the better version of ourselves we become. We were created to be resilient; we were created to bounce back and that’s what makes women so strong. We have the ability to create true influence on the world and we continue to get closer and closer every day.