Self-esteem from an Islamic perspective

Imagine what your reaction would be if you saw your Muslim brother or sister verbally and physically abusing another Muslim that was feeling very depressed for making a mistake? What if you heard them yelling, “ YOU STUPID IDIOT…..can’t you do anything right? Then punching him and saying, “YOU’RE ALWAYS MESSING UP!” As he tries to catch his breath, he kicks him and says , “You are so WORTHLESS!” Your heart would be overflowing with sympathy for the one oppressed and with absolute rage at the oppressor. The natural response would be to protect the oppressed, help him up and tend to his wounds. You would comfort him by explaining that we all make mistakes and we can always change. As your nurturing slowly takes effect, your anger would be directed at the cruel, heartless person standing before you. That person could be yourself.

This is the way we usually react towards ourselves when we make mistakes and when we fall short of our expectations. We beat ourselves up with abusive language which causes scars that last much longer than physical scars. Negativity and hostility envelops us and we repeatedly kick ourselves until we are immobilized. How is it that we were so sensitive and understanding towards our Muslim brother or sister yet we can’t tolerate the smallest mistakes from ourselves? Why is it so easy to see the abuse of others and yet we are so blinded by the abuse we commit to ourselves on a daily basis?

There are many times when we may not feel good about ourselves. It could be that we feel disappointed from repeatedly falling into the same error or extremely frustrated that we are not fulfilling our duties. Sometimes we are not content with our personality – we may feel caged in by our shyness or out of control by our anger. If it is not frustration or disappointment we are feeling, then it’s anxiety. Many people suffer from anxiety which stems from fear of the future or fear of the unknown. Whatever the circumstances may be, the reactions are usually the same. We demoralize ourselves with negative self-talk which leaves us feeling miserable and hopeless. Each time we make a mistake we are harsher and more severe which leaves us feeling more depressed and less peaceful. This pattern has got to STOP. We need to explore the many things that destroy our peace and techniques to use in order to gain that peace back.

Peace Slayers:

Dwelling Over The Past

There are times when people can’t forgive themselves for mistakes of the past. It could be due to hurtful things they have said or done. They spend all their time regretting the mistakes they have made. Some people can’t forgive the mistakes of others.

Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the misguided. Surat Al-Araf 7:199

They have somehow been wronged either by their parents, spouse, relative, friend or complete strangers and they can’t go beyond this incident. They end up clinging on to grudges and they vow to never forgive the perpetrator. Living in the past prevents you from enjoying the blessings of the present. By dwelling on the past and not being able to overlook the mistakes of themselves or others, they will rob themselves of the serenity they deserve.

2. Anxious About The Future

There are people who spend every waking moment worrying about the future.

“Verily, We have created man in toil (a state of struggle and stress).” Surat Al-Balad 90:4

When will I get married? Will I have kids? Will I pass my exam? Am I going to get a job? How will my kids turn out? How will I pay for their tuition? Am I going to get sick or get a disease? What will happen when I retire? The worries go on and on with no end in sight. This constant preoccupation with the future makes them miss out on all the wonderful events of the present.

3. Comparing

Another way that people destroy their peace is by comparing themselves to others. They look at the polished exterior of others and feel inadequate about themselves, their spouse and their children since they are aware of all their own flaws and shortcomings. Each person is a package deal so accept the whole package. You may be admiring a person’s good looks not knowing how their heart is diseased. The wealth and possessions of others may impress you when you are unaware of the tests they may be encountering.

And He has raised you in ranks, some above others that He may test you in that which He has bestowed on you. Surat Al-An’am 6:165

Look not with your eyes ambitiously at what We have bestowed on certain classes, nor grieve over them. Surat Al-Hijr 15:88

Each time we compare, we are left feeling unhappy and anxious, depriving ourselves from being aware of all the wonderful things in our lives. The only time it is recommended to compare is when it has a positive impact on our lives. We can compare ourselves to people more knowledgeable or more charitable in order to get us inspired to be a better person. Narrated by Abu Hurairah the Prophet (peace and salat upon him) said, “Do not wish to be like anyone except two men: A man whom Allah has taught the Quran and he recites it during the day and night and a man whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it on charity. Another permissible comparison is looking at people who are much worse off than us in wealth and health. By doing this we instantly feel grateful and pacified.

4. Rejecting your destiny

The worst way of slaying your peace is by rejecting your destiny. This is when a person is absolutely angry, upset and frustrated from the events of their life. It may be that they have not gotten married or were divorced, they are unable to get a job, they have medical issues or they are unhappy with their spouse. Whatever the circumstance- they are mad. They feel it’s unfair. They question why others have it easy and their life is such a mess. It’s vital to realize that Allah is the Most Wise and if a person questions their life they are implying (Astaghfirullah) that they know better than Allah. When people reject their destiny, they sentence themselves to a life of misery.

You may hate something when it is good for you, and you may love something when it is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know. (Surat al-Baqara, 2:216)

Ways to attain peace:

1.Relationship with God

When people have a strong, healthy relationship with their creator, they attain an infinite amount of peace.

It is Allah who sent peace and tranquility into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in their faith. (Surat al-Fath 48:4)

Their perspective is broadened. They don’t only look at the circumstances and difficulties of their lives and despair. Certainty in the promises of Allah fills their heart which makes them persevere with an unequivocal amount of patience when faced with the most unimaginable tests. When people know the names and attributes of Allah – I mean really know them and understand them not just list the names- then they will not fall prey to the slayers of peace because they will not dwell over the past, won’t be anxious about the future, won’t compare and they definitely would not reject their destiny. Without a well established relationship with Allah which involves obedience and commitment, no one can have true peace.

Behold! Verily on the ‘Awiliyas’ (friends) of Allah there is no fear, nor shall they grieve; those who believe and constantly guard against evil.” (10:62-63)

2.Acceptance

Acceptance is one of the most critical aspect of attaining peace. There needs to be genuine acceptance of everything in your life and that includes your past, your present, your looks, your circumstances and your destiny. If you are unable to accept an event in your life and if you dwell on why things happened the way they did, then you will be filled with grief and anxiety.

Don’t grieve at the things that you fail to get, nor rejoice over that which has been given to you. Surat Al-Hadid 27:23

As soon as there is acceptance, the peace immediately follows. The focus of therapy in many instances is to help the client accept themselves and their lives. It is amazing how a person transforms when they stop metaphorically having a tantrum by kicking and screaming and finally accepting their portion in life.

3. Internal Validation

Majority of people have very low self-esteem and the only way they can feel good about themselves is to try to gain the approval and acceptance of others. This can be a very slippery slope depending on the people they are trying to impress. Many teenagers are so desperate to gain recognition and approval of their peers that they will do absolutely anything. This of course is the extreme example where individuals put their ethics and beliefs aside simply to gain acceptance. However; there is a more subtle, psychological issue which involves being unhappy unless a person receives compliments or validations. They simply can’t feel adequate unless they get another person’s approval. This will make a person extremely needy of others and they will never feel content or even peaceful unless another person gives them validation. That is why it is of paramount importance to give internal validation ; feeling good about actions because they are pleasing to Allah. There is no need to be dependent on others to feel good or worthy. And they give food for the love of Him to the poor, orphan, and the captive saying,

“We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward , nor thanks from you.” Surat-Al-Insan 76:8,9)

4.Self-Talk

The dialogue people have with themselves has been estimated to be about 600 words a minute! What’s all the chatter about ? Studies show that 85% of the self-talk is negative. Once the self-talk is seen as a way to program the mind, it can be used to achieve peace. When a person says comforting things to themselves rather than beating themselves up they will be in a much better state to reach their goals. It is important to remember to be kind and understanding when mistakes occur and to always be aware of the internal dialogue. When the self-talk is positive then a person can overcome any obstacle – if it is negative they will propel in a downward spiral of depression. Whatever is said in this internal dialogue will determine the mood, the level of peace and the ability to achieve any goal so watch the self-talk.

5. Self-worth

A person’s self-worth is not based on some number – it’s not how much is in the bank account, IQ, size, GPA or salary. When people start equating their worth based on these things they can feel extremely discouraged. Self-worth is the ability for people to see themselves as competent, successful individuals that are able to deal effectively with the demands of their lives. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to success is a lack of self-worth. The best way to feel worthwhile is doing everything in your life to please the creator. Verily, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my death are for Allah, the Lord of mankind Surat Al-An’am 6: 162 In this way the action is done purely for Allah without longing for any recognition or approval from anyone else. It is essential to establish an exemplary character which truly makes any individual an invaluable asset to have in any setting. To foster a feeling of self-worth is to set small, achievable goals that will bring about a feeling of confidence. Contributing time, money and talent in helping others will also develop a strong sense of self-worth.

Whosoever intercedes for a good cause will have the reward thereof Surat An-Nisa 4:85.

6. Forgiveness

The key to having peace within ourselves and with others is to be forgiving. Grudges and animosity gradually diminish our state of tranquility just as a pristine piece of metal steadily rusts in harsh weather. If we view each event in our life as a test and we focus on passing the test then it is much easier to forgive. When we forgive to only please Allah and to pass our tests peace descends upon our hearts. It is so incredibly liberating when we can let go of the hurt, throw out the emotional baggage and move on. It will free our heart, our mind and our soul if we forgive and forget.

The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof; but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah. Surat Ash-Shura 42:40

When you are faced with difficulties and disappointments make sure you avoid the peace slayers. As you stay away from the things that rob you of peace, work hard on attaining it back through the above mentioned suggestions. Each item in this article requires another article to elaborate on the topic in depth; however I wanted to give an overview of how peace can be attained since so many people struggle with it. There are multitudes of ways to gain peace – these were just a few. Share with us the ways you go about attaining peace.

Source:

MuslimMatters.org

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