High Wire Walker Lijana Wallenda on Finding Your Calling and Identity

Many of us look to our accomplishments to determine our worth. When we want to know who we are, we look in the mirror. But when you lose those outer elements you so closely identify yourself with, you’re forced to dig deeper to find who you really are.

This was the case for Lijana Wallenda three years ago when she faced a near-fatal accident. Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallenda family, is known to the world as a fearless wire walker. In 2017, Wallenda and four of her friends and family members barely survived falling off a wire while practicing to break a world-record eight-person pyramid. She sustained the worst injuries of them all, breaking all of the bones in her face, among other serious injuries in her arm, foot, ribs, liver, and ear.

“It was really tough to look in the mirror,” she said on Ten Minute Talks with Meagan Lynn. “I think it’s easy to fall back on how pretty I look or how smart I am or how talented I am.”

Not only did the accident temporarily alter Wallenda’s physical appearance, but it also stripped her of her ability to perform on the wire, the thing she is most known for doing.

“You really have to dig deep and get your self-worth, not from those things on the outside,” she said. “It is work, but you have to remind yourself, ‘No, I’m just as valuable. My talents and my appearance do not define me or who I am, or my value to this world.’”

Despite being knocked down in such a major way, Wallenda got back up–in an even bigger way. In front of the world on live television, she and her brother Nik walked a 1,300-foot wire over Times Square on June 23, 2019, just two years after her accident. She says she never questioned that wire walking was her calling.

“I remember being in the hospital and being like, ‘Oh no, of course, I’m going to walk the wire again,’” she said. “It’s what I’ve done since I can remember. I don’t remember not being able to walk a wire.”

While she still believed this was her calling in the big picture, Wallenda says that didn’t mean she was totally free of fear.

“When you actually get called on, and you have to actually be training for a big event like Times Square, all of a sudden, that fear kind of grips you again,” she said. “When I was dealing with the PTSD, then I would say I probably did question it.”

Wallenda says she wouldn’t let herself give in to her doubts.

“It would have been perfectly acceptable to everyone if I said, ‘No, I’m done. I don’t want to walk the wire anymore,’” she said. “Of course, it’s acceptable, but what a shame it would be because then I wouldn’t be living to my full potential, and I wouldn’t be doing what I actually love doing with my life.”

Wallenda says when you feel convicted to do something with your life, but you’re scared you can’t do it, you have to keep pushing through.

“I remind myself that I’m capable and that I can do this,” she said. “It might be hard work, and it might not be easy, but I’m very driven. If there’s something that I feel I need to do, I’m going to do it no matter how hard it is.”

Fear of not being good enough is something Wallenda says stands between many people and their calling and that you have to push past that to follow your passion.

“If there’s something that you really love to do, but you don’t feel that maybe you’re good enough because there’s so many people out there doing it, don’t believe those lies,” she said. “Maybe you’re going to come in at a different angle than other people that do it, but that’s what makes you unique and makes you, you.”

Self-image plays a major role in Wallenda’s ability to conquer fear.

“If I didn’t have a sense of my self-worth or my value, I probably wouldn’t have the confidence to do what I do,” she said. “But it is a hard thing. I had a very difficult divorce a few years before the accident. I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life.”

“I’ve kind of been knocked down a bunch of times and not just on the wire,” she continued. “But I always knew my self worth. I knew I was valuable. I knew I was capable, and I would just have to keep telling myself that rather than just laying down.”

As Wallenda’s accident led her to dig deep to find who she is, many people have been forced to do the same since quarantine has interrupted their careers and plans for their lives. For those who may be struggling with their identity or purpose in life, Wallenda offers a few words of wisdom.

“We are all so valuable to this world. It has nothing to do with our appearance or our talents,” she said. “It’s our heart and who we are, how hard we love, and how we treat everyone else in the world. That’s what’s important.”

You can keep up with Wallenda’s latest performances by following her on Instagram @lijanawallenda.

About the Author

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Meagan Lynn

Meagan Lynn is a host and writer at AfterBuzz TV, actress, and social media manager. Outside of AfterBuzz, you can find her hosting and producing Ten Minute Talks. She loves singing, listening to inspirational podcasts and consuming copious amounts of movies and television shows.