Suddenly, I feel I have become smarter and matured...what could be the reason?

I am 26 but until about a year ago I wasp retty "dumb". LEt me explain: I would not know how to retort back even if someone attacked me (verbally I mean). I was not confident of myself( I have ,and I still am ,been pretty,so its nothing to do with looks). I used to go out of the way to help others until... show more I am 26 but until about a year ago I wasp retty "dumb". LEt me explain: I would not know how to retort back even if someone attacked me (verbally I mean). I was not confident of myself( I have ,and I still am ,been pretty,so its nothing to do with looks). I used to go out of the way to help others until it struck me that ,the habit is making ppl to use me etc. lot of such things.
I basically, want to do some self-realization to see how can someone "mature" suddenly. I am female, if that matters. Any help will be great!
Update: Yes, I feel intelligent too! I am able to get better scores in my classes, do my career better etc
Update 2: @Benjamin, I know what you mean. What I mean to say is I was the kind of person that could not even defend oneself. So definitely this is a minus isn't it? Then slowly I got the capability to say things back especially when I am attacked, I have never received any help from all those friends whom I used to... show more @Benjamin, I know what you mean. What I mean to say is I was the kind of person that could not even defend oneself. So definitely this is a minus isn't it? Then slowly I got the capability to say things back especially when I am attacked, I have never received any help from all those friends whom I used to regularly help(selfish of them or me???) and many such things. That's why this question.
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