"The Sage embraces the one,
And becomes a Pattern to all under Heaven.
He does not make a show of himself,
Hence he shines;
Does not justify himself,
Hence he becomes known;
Does not boast of his ability,
Hence he gets his credit;
Does not brandish his success,
Hence he endures;
Does not compete with anyone,
Hence no one can compete with him.
Indeed, the ancient saying:
ABend and you will remain whole is no idle word.'
Nay, if you have really attained wholeness,
everything will flock to you."
(Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching)
Tao Teh Ching is a book of tenets I have been taught to live by and adhere to by my parents and my education in Taiwan. After I moved to the United States two years ago, I began to question my beliefs.
"Does not boast of his ability, Hence he gets his credit"? When the first organization in school I joined, ESL Club, was having an election, I knew that I had the competence to be the president. However, bound by my firm belief in Lao Tzu that I should not reveal - let alone boast of - my ability, in this case, my leadership, I should not compete with anyone so no one could compete with me. I did not raise my hand when asked who would like to be a candidate for the election. As Lao Tzu's words were reverberating in my mind, a loud, vigorous female voice hit me in the head. "I am qualified for this position because I am enthusiastic. I have been a secretary in three other clubs. Why? The answer in simple. I am very responsible, and people trust me. Elect me, and we will have fun."
She was elected. She got credit, after boasting her ability ...
They tell me to justify myself, to boast my ability, to brandish my success when I do not allow myself to think I have succeeded in anything because I've been taught to be humble. They infuse in me the opposite of what I believe. They ... the Americans.
Even writing this essay is making a show of myself. How can I let the admission officers know about me when I want to be the Sage in your eyes, Lao Tzu, as my life goal has always been - remaining soft and silent, and yet, shining out of thousands of applicants by pleasing and satisfying the American standards?
In this season, everyone is squeezing his or her "brain juices," trying to brag about him or her self. What if my upbringing teaches me to always be humble and thus prevents me from saying anything good about myself? While I still see Tao Teh Ching as my ultimate dogma, I find myself unable to "fit in" with the American mores.
Lao Tzu, my Sage, if you were in my shoes - American Nike, ones that were made in China - what would you do? -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.