Perhaps the most amazing thing about human beings is how similar and different we are. We share the same physiology. Even though your eyes might be a different color and your skin a different shade, my heart could just as easily be beating in your body. We share similar traits, just combined in millions of different ways. And all this, we discovered, are made possible through little building blocks that spell out GATTACA. Yet through countless studies we still haven’t figured out the exact link between personality and DNA.
Personally I think that’s a good thing. As much as I appreciate the natural curiosity of the human mind, life would be a lot less exciting if you take out certain mysteries. I think some people are born with confidence and charisma, and others are not. I’m blessed with many great things, but confidence is not one of them. Fortunately, we are also made to be malleable. Perhaps that’s the greatest gift of all, the ability for us to embrace the constant changes that life throws at us and adapt ourselves accordingly.
I realized my confidence from an early age. The times I didn’t raise my hand when I knew the right answer to the teacher’s question. The piano and calligraphy classes I gave up early on because I didn’t think I could excel (ok, so lack of desire to work hard also figured into that). Unwillingness to perform in front of others even though I loved to sing. Hiding behind adults when meeting anyone new. I always regretted these things later, but at the time, the fear of rejection was immobilizing.
As time went by, I tried to fix things, little by little. I would raise my hand when I knew the absolute answer. At the encouragement of teachers I sang in school competitions. I reluctantly talked to kids that were especially friendly. I showed my true colors in front of close friends, but to most of the world I was sweet, nice, and quiet, they said.
Moving to a new country was not conducive to my confidence building. We were poor, so I didn’t dress like the other kids and had a funny looking backpack I brought from China. I knew so little English and was too ashamed of my accent to talk to people. I didn’t have any friends to sit with at lunch so I took my brown bag sandwich outside and ate on the front steps of the school. All I wanted was to be like everyone else, I remember wishing, and the part of me that wanted to be me just went into hiding.
The desire to fit in defined my high school years. I modeled myself after others, in the activities I participated in, the way I talked, the classes I took, the friends I hung out with. Thankfully I had good role models to imitate, and I found security amongst my friends. Then when things took an unexpected turn, and I ended up at an university where I had very few friends. Without anyone else to influence my decisions, I was suddenly lost. Looking back, as lackluster as my college experience had been, I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn how to thinking for myself.
I still had other influences. I spent whole weekends at church, where I felt welcome and desperately wanted to belong. I was as devout as a non-believer could be, and when I had questions that others couldn’t answer to my satisfaction, I shoved them away. I found comfort, and in turn security, in my church family.
Then I made the bold decision to go work in a foreign country. I did not think much of the consequences until I arrived, and spent many nights crying in my loneliness. I quickly lost touch with my church friends, and the questions regarding faith that I shoved away came creeping back. Then I realized perhaps I never truly belonged there anyway.
Funny, I never for a single moment regretted my decision to go to Japan, even in my weakest hour. I came to think upon that time as the greatest experience in my life. I never realized how strong I could be, until I felt completely alone.
I was, of course, never completely alone. My parents were always there for me, and I had friends who always cared. But it didn’t feel that way, and that was probably a good thing, because I realized that through out my life, I had been looking for security in others, when I should have been looking for strength in myself.
If only it were that easy to overcome my confidence issues. Knowing what to do is only the first step in getting anything done. I found great joy in discovering who I am, defining the principles I would like to live by, searching for something I can truly believe in, and finding the right people to surround myself with. I still had great difficulty, however, to not define myself through others’ eyes. Or rather, my perception of how other people see me. I try to get over these moments of vulnerability, and mask it with the appearance of confidence. I also decided it was best to hide how I feel in many cases, for those feelings could be the sharpest swords when used against me.
There is nothing that makes a person more vulnerable than falling in love. Finding someone I’m willing to lower my shield for is like a turtle deciding to come out of its shell. It’s a long and slow process, and rather irreversible. I’m not sure he understood how painful this process is, and how much courage it took. More than anything, I wanted his acceptance. For him to say, I see how imperfect you are, but I love you anyway, so let me help you become who you want to be. It took me a long time to get over him leaving, and to see that I relapsed into trying to find comfort and security in someone else, rather than myself. It’s another important lesson in life, and life’s lessons usually don’t come cheap.
I’m not sure if I’m an introverted person, but I do like to introspect. In a sense insecurity has brought out some good characteristics in me. It helps me be humble, and sensitive to others’ feelings, and set realistic expectations. My insecurity hasn’t gone away and I don’t think it ever will. I’m just a lot better at handling it now. I never regretted coming out of my comfortable little shell, and I hope it has made me a better person. Stronger, more open, more accepting, and ready to take on whatever life decides to throw at me next.