As I was walking down the road with my friend and English student Fatimazahra, she turned to me and said “Bethan, now I am speak English very beautiful.” She gave me a satisfied nod and we resumed walking.
I wanted to smile. Fatimazahra’s grammar was not yet what I would describe as beautiful. But I thought about it as we walked, and I realized that she had made a lot of progress in our English class. Our class wasn’t part of a curriculum, and she had already graduated from school; the only reason she came was because she wanted to learn. In class, she often volunteered for activities or offered answers, even if she wasn’t sure of them. She practiced speaking English with my husband and I outside of class. She was, in short, on track to speaking beautiful English.
Fatimazahra knows that she isn’t yet fluent in English, but she is also proud of the distance she’s come since she first entered our classroom. I respect Fatimazahra’s confidence. From what I’ve seen, it is helping her learn English at a faster rate, because she isn’t afraid to make mistakes.
We know that pride can be a sin, but I think it can be even more common to see people, especially woman and girls, brush off their own accomplishments. There is a quote from Marianne Williamson which says
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
When I first read this quote, I was surprised by it. I, like many others, have a tendency to downplay my accomplishments. I worry about how far I still have to go, or that what I have done isn’t good enough to be worth notice. I thought it was an admirable trait to be humble (and it is!). But this quote made me reconsider the point of our developing our talents and abilities in the first place. It’s not so that we can diminish what we’re achieved, or be quietly embarrassed by our own work. We are meant to shine, as Williamson says, and to help others shine too. We are capable of so many things, and, in the words of Fatimazahra, we can do them “very beautiful.” As you go through your life, remember to use to accomplishments as they were meant to be used—to lift yourself and others up.