I’m busy working on a psychology assignment that reflects on my self-concept and my self-esteem, and how they were developed. My hope is that this gets you to think about your own self-concept and self-esteem and what shaped them. Since this is not an academic platform, I can happily quote with no worries, whoo hoo! I know that I’m not the most creative, emotional or funniest blogger, but I’m proud that I can put together a decent essay, Alhamdulillah. And I appreciate every one of you blog followers for following my journey despite my writing not being extraordinary. I remember an amazing, gorgeous, talented blogger coming to me all excited to show me her argumentative essay before class. So as you can imagine, I was expecting some mind-blowing stuff. Instead I was appalled. The academic writing was not even academic. Copy, paste. The referencing. I could go on. And as you may know, keeping my mouth shut is not one of my greatest strengths. But keeping my mouth shut that day is what I consider an achievement. *Pats self on the back.*
Back to what I want to blog about now. What I really wanted to research was the effect of religiosity on self-esteem. And what I found was that there is mixed results. Some research has shown that religiosity is actually damaging to self-esteem, because “religion” puts these high expectations on you, and then you feel like you’re never good enough because you can still barely make Fajr in time and by now tahajjud should be a daily habit, or you still can’t recite properly, or you’re a hafidh/a but you don’t recite as much as you should so you constantly feel like a failure, or you’re still struggling with wearing proper hijab and feel judged all the time. The list goes on and on. And I’ve heartbreakingly witnessed from a distance beautiful young women leave practicing Islam for this very reason. They just want to be accepted for who they are. In the beginning, when I started learning and practicing, one of my teachers constantly drummed that as believers we should always be striving, we should never stagnate, and this made me feel like I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t doing enough. And I compared myself to her. Me, who had been practicing for a couple months, to her who had been practicing her entire life. Until somebody literally stopped me on the landing of a staircase, and shook me to reality. To hold up. To slow down. To be myself. I don’t remember what her exact words were, but it was a defining moment in my life. She had been where I was, and she could see right through me. Humanistic psychology explains that if there is a wide gap between your ideal self and your actual self, you are considered to be incongruent, which will result in low self-esteem. I think that we also often get the message that Allah’s love for us is conditional. Like we are only worthy of His love if we are perfect Muslims. On the contrary, Allah says that he has honoured ALL of the children of Aadam, which means that no one is more worthy or less worthy than I am. People often say things humbly like I’m an “unworthy” slave. I think that can actually be really damaging to your self-esteem. By virtue of the fact that Allah created you, you ARE worthy! I struggled so much with feeling unworthy of being a haafidha– I could not fathom how such a sinful person could be honoured so generously. And it was really damaging to my self-worth, my self-esteem and to my relationship with Allah and the Qur’an. And because I used to judge myself, I judged others who were seemingly hypocrites because they were doing hifdh or were hāfidhāt and had boyfriends or didn’t wear hijab. “Don’t judge others because they sin differently to you.”
At this point in my life, what I’ve learned (not just theoretically but practically) from my husband is that we put way too much emphasis on the external acts of worship and don’t weigh Prophetic character as heavily, when in fact the deed that will weigh the heaviest on the Day of Judgement is good character.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to be a better Muslim, but re-evaluate whether your expectations have been projected onto you by your parents, your teachers/scholars or your spouse/friends, and if so, re-frame them to come from a place of sincerely wanting to please Allah because you love Him and you’re grateful to Him, not because you “should”. Also, there is such a wide variety of voluntary ‘ibadah that I really don’t think you should commit to doing something that doesn’t fit with who you are and your lifestyle, only to end up feeling guilty and like a constant failure. What works for some doesn’t work for others. Some people need a Shaykh/Murshid, others don’t. Some people have the discipline for hifdh, others don’t. Some people can make tahajjud regularly, others can’t. And that’s OKAY! The key is getting to know yourself, and learning what you’re capable of and what helps you become closer to Allah SWT.
I love following Accidental Muslims because many of the people that they interview don’t seem like the epitome of “good” Muslims at face value, like Mr. South Africa for example. But once you zoom in and hear what his intentions are and take a look at his charity work that puts yours to shame, you reconsider your judgement of what a “good” Muslim really is. Follow Accidental Muslims on Facebook, Instagram, Apple podcasts, whichever floats your boat.
I need to get back to my assignment now. I will look at the flip side of religiosity and self-esteem in part 2 inShāAllāh.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
With best of du’as for your worldly and hereafter success,