I was born in Virginia, near Washington DC. I grew up with a mom and dad and a younger sister. My parents are immigrants; they’re from Nigeria. It was wonderful and interesting growing up in a multicultural household; I had a great upbringing. I was raised in a supportive family who told me I could be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do.
However, we were a Black family in an area with mostly white people. Most of my friends growing up were girls who didn’t look like me. The magazines I saw and the TV shows I watched also had girls in it that didn’t look like me. I thought there was something wrong with how I looked because I looked different; it didn’t line up with what I thought was the American standard of beauty.
Growing up, through middle school, high school, and college, I didn’t accept myself. I didn’t think I was beautiful, and I didn’t believe others accepted me either. I never felt like I belonged to one group. I didn’t like my nose, my mouth, or my size. I thought if I looked like the girls in the magazines or on the TV, I’d finally be accepted and understood.
But my problem wasn’t that I wasn’t accepted by others. My problem was that I didn’t accept myself. If I wasn’t going to accept myself, how could I expect anyone else to accept me?
After college, I decided to go to medical school in Colorado. It was the first time that I had left Virginia to live somewhere else. While it was a wonderful and wild new place, the stress of school brought out other stressors buried deep down in my heart. It was finally time for me to come to terms with how I saw myself.
Learning to accept myself was challenging, to say the least. There were a lot of tears. I wanted to be beautiful but didn’t believe I was. I wanted to be accepted and valued and confident, but I didn’t think I could be any of those things because of how I looked. I needed to break down decades of thought patterns of telling myself I wasn’t good enough.
Finally, I turned to the Lord. I asked Him to show me what true beauty means, what true beauty looks like. I asked Him to be the God over my thoughts, and if I believed lies, for them to leave in His name. I only wanted His truth.
After praying and reading His Word, the lies started to chip away, and His thoughts began to sink in. I began to understand that I was created beautifully. I was given a gorgeous face, skin, body, mind, and heart. I could walk confidently in my own skin if I chose. God continued to renew my mind, and the new thoughts started to become my reality.
About 9 months after I had been in Colorado, I started to reflect on my time there so far. I realized that I hadn’t had a negative thought pattern about my appearance in several months. I was overjoyed and thankful for the new ways of thinking that had permeated my life and this lasting sense of confidence the Lord had brought to me.
In the book of James, God promises that the trials we face bring us steadfastness, and we should count it all as joy. I am thankful for the trial that the Lord brought me through during my first year of medical school because it truly changed how I think about myself and others. God showed me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, as He says in Psalm 139. He created us all with our different, unique, and beautiful characteristics that should be celebrated.
Once I accepted and cherished myself, I was able to see that I was accepted and cherished by others. I built a firm foundation on God, saying that I was beautiful inside and out. From this mindset comes my confidence.
Written By: Afia Albin