بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
by Unaiza Ahsan
“Don’t ask that question in front of everybody; you’ll look like a loser.”
“Don’t speak up in class. It’ll only make you look stupid.”
“Boy, she’s thin. Why am I so…not?”
These are classic negative thoughts that run through the mind of a person suffering from low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as the value we place on ourselves, and our opinions as well as our attitude towards ourselves. Allah has given us clear guidelines regarding the rights of our parents, children,society in general, and, of course, our ‘self’. We no longer give our self its due rights when we fall into low self-esteem.
So how can you tell if you are suffering from low self-esteem? There are several symptoms:
- Inability to accept compliments
- Continuous negative thoughts
- Extremely defensive behaviour
- Too much concern about what others think
- An inability to trust one’s own opinions
- Consistent feelings of worthlessness, etc
It is important to distinguish between self-esteem, self-confidence, and arrogance. Self-esteem is the overall worth we place on ourselves as a person. Self-confidence is closely related to self-esteem in that it is a self-assurance that includes being sure of our own abilities, power of judgement, and opinions. Arrogance, on the other hand, is the denial of the blessings Allah (st) has given us, which leads to self-admiration and reliance exclusively on one’s own self for accomplishing tasks, without invoking Allah.
There are several methods a Muslim can adopt to build self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Trust Allah (st) alone and believe wholeheartedly that it is Allah alone Who creates and nurtures human beings, and that it is Allah alone Who can solve problems.
- Perform a comprehensive evaluation of your positive and negative traits. Nobody is perfect, and everybody has both good and bad attributes. It is necessary to identify the weak points, and take them as challenges to be overcome. Similarly, it is necessary to identify positive traits, to resolve to keep practising and improving them, and turn with gratitude to Allah (st) for His blessings. Allah mentions:
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed: If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.” (Qur’an 14:7)
- Look at the world through a Muslim’s eyes. Set your life by the one and only standard: the Qur’an. Judge everything by the Glorious Qur’an alone. This will help you break free of societal norms, expectations, and standards. Thus, you will feel lighter and unburden yourself of everything other than the quest for Allah’s Pleasure.
- Groom yourself. Be neat and clean, and take care of your posture. A slouch does no good to a person’s self-perception.
- Find righteous companions and stick to them. They are your ticket to great self-esteem in this world, and Jannah in the next. Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said:
“Souls are troops collected together and those who familiarized with each other (in the heaven from where these come) would have affinity with one another (in the world) and those amongst them who opposed each other (in the Heaven) would also be divergent (in the world).” (Muslim)
- Focus on pleasing Allah rather than pleasing people. It is recommended to treat each other kindly and to have good manners, but doing actions with the sole aim of pleasing people will never work. Ultimately, some people will remain displeased, and their comments and attitudes will make you fall into that pit again. So break free from superficial self-created barriers, and turn all your focus on pleasing only Allah (st).
- Re-evaluate yourself every now and then. Check your challenge areas (negative traits from initial self-evaluation), and assess how much you have improved. Reward yourself if you have (instead of criticizing yourself all the time).
- Make sincere du’a (supplication) for improving yourself, and truly believe that Allah (st) alone is capable of transforming your life – lifting you from the depths of low self-esteem to the heights of self-confidence and humility to Him.
Unaiza Ahsan is a Computer Science graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
© IIPH 2014