Welcome to the part of my blog where I share raw unadulterated details about my personal journey. Not because I want to, but because I must. Sharing our story, no matter how great or small, is part of being human. It’d be selfish of me to experience such self-transformation and not share and inspire others.
So here we are! I already talked about 12 Ways I Overcame Jealousy and Self Confidence | 3 Ways to Feel Beautiful. Today, I want to talk about my journey to matured confidence and illustrate that confidence is like a muscle that needs to be built and strengthened.
My journey to self-confidence started when I was a little girl. I wasn’t what some considered to be a particularly “beautiful” child. I was timid, had dominant Nigerian features, and wore thick glasses that made my eyes look like tiny seeds.
Before I go any further, I am NOT in any way saying I wasn’t beautiful because of my Nigerian features. What I am saying is that the people around me could only see ONE type of beauty—and my “Africanness” certainly didn’t fit that mold.
As a small child I never really thought much about my looks. My mother, who is very fair skinned, talked about how much she loved brown skin tones. She gifted me ethnic dolls and did her best to portray the message that brown is beautiful.
I was beautiful to her, and that was all that mattered.
Until I became interested in boys. I found out very quickly that I was the ugly friend that no one wanted to date.
That’s when I started to take notice.
I noticed I didn’t look like the leading women in romantic movies. I noticed I didn’t look anything like the “cute” girls at schools. I even noticed that, although I shared a similar skin tone, my features were much more pronounced than the dainty features on ethnic Barbie dolls.
But do you want to know something interesting? I wondered, even as a nine-year-old, why I couldn’t be beautiful, too. I mean, I knew I didn’t resemble what everyone else considered to be beautiful, but a small authentic part of me knew that beauty didn’t have to be so one-dimensional.
What would happen next would be the thing I’m most proud of. I just threw my hands up and decided it didn’t matter. I may not be beautiful to other people. I may get overlooked in the dating department. I may even get called names like four-eyes, African booty-scratcher, ugly, and coke-bottles (kids are so lovely, aren’t they? LOL). But, one thing that no one could take away from me was my intelligence. My knowledge. My wisdom. My joy.
I probably didn’t know I was being this deep in the fourth grade, but looking back at it, I knew that physical beauty wasn’t everything. I put more focus and energy into being one of the smartest kids in class than into what I looked like. In this, I experienced a different type of beauty, a different type of confidence that couldn’t be uprooted. To others, I lacked physical appeal, but they couldn’t deny that I was disciplined, hardworking, determined, and creative.
And then this happened:
Sometime during middle school, I suddenly bloomed. Maybe it was because I ditched the glasses for contact lenses. Maybe it was my overly-developed teenaged figure. But, as if out of nowhere, everyone started to see what I’d been seeing all along—beauty. It was a different kind of beauty. An interesting kind of beauty. But beauty, nonetheless.
For the first time people started referring to me as “beautiful,” and it felt good.
So good that it became addictive and I started entrusting my self-worth to validation from pubescent boys. I became full of myself. Yes, I was still a “gifted” student but it became more important for me to fit in and be accepted by the “in-crowd.” To the outside world, I looked like a young lady oozing with confidence—I was smart, pretty, and popular. But only I knew the truth—that deep down I felt this void because these external things were all that I had to bank on. If I was no longer considered pretty or popular my entire teenage world would shatter.
I don’t remember the exact year, but there was an impactful day I’d spent hanging out with my aunt at a friend’s barbecue. As my aunt introduced me to her friends, some of them had kindly complimented my unique beauty. My aunt’s response? “Yes, she’s beautiful, but she’s also very intelligent.” I talk about this moment often because it awakened the nine-year-old in me—the little girl who knew that beauty was subjective and that I had other things going for me beyond what the eye could see.
I had the right idea as a nine-year-old but later learned that even intelligence could be subjective, a confidence crutch if you will.
I needed something more.
Yes, my teenaged self could think of several positive adjectives that described me. But who was I? Who was I truly? And why was I here? Thus, started my journey to what I like to call matured confidence.
I wasn’t raised in a religious household, but that didn’t stop God from reaching me. I didn’t need a sermon, an altar call, or any of that. I knew His voice. I knew He was calling me. And I knew only He had the answers to my pressing questions—that He would show me who I was and what I was doing here. So, I made the unpopular decision to give my life to Christ, not to live a life of religious rules, but to live a life powered by faith and love.
You see, religion and faith are two separate things. Religion subtracts and divides. Faith adds and multiplies.
I’m not going to preach. That is not my intention. But in order for this post to be most authentic, I must include this detail of my life. Where this journey to confidence really took off.
My life wasn’t perfect after accepting Christ. In fact, I made some poor choices in high school and even poorer choices in undergrad. It was a struggle to live authentically when a huge part of me just wanted to do what everyone else was doing because it was easier.
Yes, it was so easy to fit in. Standing out took courage—and it was also very lonely.
When girls in my high school were out having sex and getting their hearts broken, I made the bold decision to wait until marriage. I knew that any guy who saw my value as God saw it—and as I saw it—would be willing to wait with me. But that choice didn’t come without opposition. Guys made up stories to slander me and girls poked fun at my virginity.
In my adult years, when my coworkers chose to sit around and gossip during lunch breaks, I chose a quiet table outdoors to sit and read. I saw no point in bringing others down to make myself feel good. I already felt good about myself. But, of course, this meant I’d eventually become the subject of their gossip. I was even overlooked and lost promotions to colleagues who habitually came to work late and did more talking than working—but they fit in.
I mention these examples not to appear self-righteous, but to reiterate my point. It would’ve been easier for me to “fit in.” Why? Because standing out meant getting called nasty names, losing friends, and being subjected to rumors made up about me. To a mature woman, this might not have been a huge deal. But to a young woman growing in maturity, being an outcast was a real struggle.
Looking back at my younger years, as a woman now in her thirties, I can see clearly the levels of growth in my confidence. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide “I love me—truly love me.” Self-love was, and still is, a process.
Where does my confidence come from? It comes from knowing who I am. Who I truly am. The core of my being deeply rooted in Christ that you must experience for yourself to truly understand. It comes from recognizing that true confidence does none of the following:
- Compares itself to others.
- Tears others down to lift itself up.
- Puts its energy into hatred.
- Places itself above others.
- Strays from its authentic self.
No. People who walk in true confidence acknowledge and respect that everyone has different levels of gifts and talents, is on their own journey, and has a significant purpose to realize. Confident people build others up, put their energy into faith and love, and never place themselves above others. Most importantly, they never stray from their authenticity.
To this day, some will never see me as beautiful enough, smart enough, popular enough, or whatever “enoughs” they can think of. But I will never know it because I’m not paying attention. I’m too busy focusing my energy on who I was created to be and what I was created to do.
And can I just say that acknowledgment of one’s own beauty, gifts, talents, accomplishments, intelligence, etc., does not make a person conceited or vain? Conceited and vain people have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. There’s a difference between someone aware of what God has blessed them with and someone who thinks they’re better than other people because of what God has blessed them with.
I want to close by saying I have no intention of posting this because I’m not sure it even makes sense. You’d be surprised at how many things I’ve written that I never post. But if you see this post that has been hiding in my documents since May 2018, that means I finally did it.
Until next time, friends…