Almost 26 and finally becoming a “b”

This title may have shocked you a little bit as you may have wondered what on earth does she mean by becoming a “b” at 26? Questions may arise as you may or may not personally know me. Well, I am not becoming the trending “b” that you see in the memes nor am I becoming the sassy “b”. But because I am turning a year over a fourth of a century in a few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about life, in particular, my 26 years of life.

It took me about 26 years to finally realize how worthy, how beautiful, and how loving I am. (Please don’t mistaken me to being conceited here. Let me explain.) My entire life, up until this point, I’d always struggled with low self-esteem, never believed in myself, and consistently played “second best.” You can say I didn’t love myself for who I am. In my defense, I would say I had a pretty normal childhood. I was never popular, but I did have good friends. I was pretty shy and kept to myself–quiet and soft spoken–an introvert most would consider, but I was very passionate about certain things: books, art, poetry, writers, Jesus, movies, etc. I had five siblings and my parents were always loving and caring toward us all. But I don’t know why I had neglected myself so earnestly for so many years.

What do I mean by becoming a “b”?

“Be bold, be brave, be brilliant,” I heard. 

Growing up, I was taught to be polite, respectful, and modest. You see, this is my culture. For example, when you are offered a drink of water, it is polite to decline the first offer. Then after a few relentless offers, you finally accept. This shows mannerism. Another example is when you attend a party and find the best seat in the house, but then an elderly woman enters the room, you ought to get up and sacrifice the seat for her. This shows respect. Lastly, when relatives congratulate or boast about your accomplishments, you deny the honor. This shows modesty. All of these cultural traits are self-denying and center around a distinct trait: humility.

I’ve wrestled with humility my entire life. The Bible talks about humbling yourself in several books: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” I believed, and still believe, that having a humbled heart is often seen by peers as weak, but it is actually strength. Sadly, I had adapted to the lie that low self-esteem equals humility. But I’ve come to understand that I can be humble yet confident in the Lord. I can have self-esteem yet humble.

I can say with confidence that I will be turning 26, am beautiful, worthy, and loving.

I wish I could say that this realization happened in seconds or that it happened just as easily as I had written this; but it didn’t, as I’ve already stated above, it took over a fourth of a century. It took many, many years of pruning me to understand. I honestly want to believe that the older you get, the more wisdom you receive; however, wisdom simply doesn’t just come with age like a gift you unwrap and then install. Wisdom comes from listening, experience, and well, wisdom really comes from God.

Just a couple weeks ago, I received a conviction to be bold, brave, and brilliant. (If I were to share my story, it’d take pages. But it is a testimony that is dear to me and has changed my life. Maybe I’ll share it some day.) I wholeheartedly believe this conviction came from the Lord. Knowing me, I am pretty meek because I had believed it was humility. But as I was praying on a particular day, I heard, “Be bold, be brave, be brilliant.” I realize now that to be bold, brave, and brilliant is an act of humility as I will serve the Lord with my life.

The beginning death of my vanity

In this season of my life, I am going through some shedding and pruning for new hairs and fruits. Spiritually. Mentally. Personally. In this season, my heart is convicted. In Ecclesiastes, The Preacher emphasizes on fearing the Lord and keeping His commandments which is true wisdom. I’d sought after and desired wisdom since I was a child.

One of the many key themes in the book of Ecclesiastes is “vanity.” Ecclesiastes relentlessly repeats how meaningless all of the world is. I started thinking of that single word that stuck out to me, vanity. Vanity: “vanity of a person is seen as having excessive estimation (overestimation) of one’s self, abilities, looks, or other attributes that makes them have an excessive belief in their own abilities or attractiveness to others.” Chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes, it reads:

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.

This is a strange and complex concept, the meaning that all things gained are worthless and meaningless in the end. I am not an expert nor do I fully understand this, yet, but this has got me thinking about my own vanity, my excessive pride and admiration in my own appearance and achievements. Honestly, sometimes try not to flaunt or draw attention to myself and my status because as much as I want to say that I am not concerned with appearance and achievements, truthfully, there is a piece of me that does fancy both.

Titles and status are highly valued in my culture. When my dad has family dinners with distant relatives and family members, he likes to express how proud he is by mentioning that I, his youngest daughter, completed her B.A. and is now working as a teacher at a dual language school in the cities. So sometimes when I am in the room or overhear him proudly speak of me to others, I would hide behind a smile because the sense of embarrassment overwhelms me. Then I would slowly walk away awkwardly and act as if I had not heard a word, that it’s not a big deal. However, I would go home from the dinner parties feeling, perhaps, a little contented.

As this scene repeated itself over and over, I started to develop a sense of pride in secret which is what I occasionally call a false humility. This is evident in that when a friend asks, “How have you been?” and “What’s going on in your life?” I’d make it sound like everything in my life is going great. I’d talk about what it’s like to teach preschoolers, to work with other teachers, to work full time, I’d talk about all that I know about teaching. I’d talk about it proudly as if I had been doing it for more than a few months. I talk in such a way because I think I have something to prove, that I have to show others how good I am doing in life, that I am in the direction of surpassing their expectations of me because I carry a title.

This has gotten me feeling weary, deceiving, and dishonest. It’s basically exaggerations and even lies sometimes. I carry a high expectation of myself. I carry a title that I think is high and worth carrying. I focus on what others think of me because I value myself and what I have going for myself. I have all these things yet don’t enjoy them, and in the end, it will be all meaningless. This is what I’m trying to say. This is my vanity.

Today, I will put my vanity to death. To be real with myself and others around me, I will be disciplining in ways that, I believe, will prune my bad fruits. This month, I want to challenge myself to selfless acts. I will reduce my mirror time every morning by half, and I will instead dwell on The Word and prayer. This month, I will also volunteer and help others when I can before helping myself, be it at school, on the streets, grocery store, at church.

I conclude with this prayer…

Lord, I want to know your heart. Place your will in me that I may be used by you.

Amen.