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Self-esteem; we’re all well aware of the term and every individual has their own unique relationship with it. It may not always seem so, but self-esteem has a significant impact on our lives as it helps mold us into the people we are and the decisions we make. Hence, it is very important for one to have a healthy self-esteem for it can make or break you.
Having a good opinion of oneself is an important component of a healthy self-esteem but many seem to mistake that for arrogance and in trying to avoid it they develop harmful mindsets. This is understandable as arrogance is certainly not accepted in our religion; in fact, we know it can lead to our destruction as The Prophet said: “He who has in his heart the weight of an atom of pride shall not enter Paradise.” [Muslim]. However, arrogance is when one holds a very high opinion of them self, to the extent that it blinds them from seeing any weaknesses in them self whereas having a healthy self-esteem allows one to acknowledge their weaknesses as well as their strengths and enables them to work on both.
Having a low self-esteem can lead to anxiety and depression, it can keep one from becoming a better person and from doing good as they constantly doubt their own capabilities and put them self down, in order to change this it is important to take a look at the way you think is your mindset allowing you to see and accept the truth or is it clouding the truth with false beliefs.
Below are a few seemingly harmless ways one can damage their self-esteem
1. Comparing yourself to others
This is far too common, especially in today’s world where people feel obliged to share the better part of their lives on social media, today it is easier to glance at a moment in someone else’s life and wish it were you.
How many times have you downplayed your own accomplishments by thinking it doesn’t matter because “XYZ has already achieved so and so and has ABC”How many times did you put yourself down and make yourself miserable for not having what someone else does?
When you compare yourself to others not only do you deny your own blessings, you also become less and less aware of your own strengths and eventually become blind to your own capabilities. Allah SWT has given you certain strengths; there is no doubt about that, you were blessed with them so that you may use them to benefit yourself and others but that can be hard to do when you’re too busy looking the other way. You were also given weaknesses not so that you may let them overpower you but so that you may improve and overcome them and if that were not possible then perhaps it was your test to accept them.
Understand that not everyone has the same path or pace to success, and that the life that you have been given was planned by The Best of Planners, He has something else in store for you, perhaps something much better than you could ever imagine, so look within yourself, work with what you have and with gratitude and you will find yourself better, in shaa Allah.Sure, at times it can be helpful to look at someone to who has achieved more than you, or who has less than you but it should only be a means of motivating you or keeping your ground, it shouldn’t make you miserable.
2. Keeping your worth in the hands of others.
Looking for others’ approval is path known to lead to misery and one that is very easy to get lost on. It is in human nature to yearn for approval and acceptance so doing things that will get us that seems understandable but it certainly isn’t something to strive for. Humans are prone to express their ingratitude to The Creator, who has given them blessing upon blessing, so does it make sense that they would ever be perfectly pleased with another human who is innately flawed and incapable of fulfilling all their needs? We were not created to please other people; their approval doesn’t guarantee our success in any way, not in the deen or in dunya. Yes, it is good to please people who matter to us, our parents, for example, helping out a stranger and putting a smile on their face is also rewarding but if you do it for their approval then you’ll find it hard to be satisfied.
People change, their opinions change they may like you one day but turn their back on the next this doesn’t necessarily mean that what they think about you is true. The intention behind our actions should always be to please Allah and gain His approval for that is all you need, if that is kept in mind, you eventually find yourself with no desire to please people for the sake of their approval and stay true to yourself. When you depend on other people’s judgment of you, you quickly begin to lose your confidence when you don’t find anyone cheering you on and you feel low when your actions aren’t validated. Moreover, this kind of behavior can lead to show off or Riya which a disease of the heart and an aspect of arrogance. So it is important to stay away from such thinking and protect our soul and our mental health.
3. Placing your self-worth in material things.
Thinking that you will only matter if you have material things like money, cars, beauty etc can damage one’s self-esteem. Focusing on things on the outside can never bring satisfaction & it may increase our desires to attain things that aren’t really helpful to us. This can be hard to believe in today’s world where appearance is everything and people seem to be rewarded for showing their beauty and luxurious lifestyles but the reality is that having a good character, wisdom & knowledge outshines all material things.
This doesn’t mean that one should completely disregard the necessity of certain things like money, which is required for one to fulfill his or her basic needs but it shouldn’t be a marker for our success it shouldn’t define our worth as human beings. As Muslims our goal should always be to strive for the life in the hereafter and investing in a worldly life will never help us in the hereafter.
“Whoever desires the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterward, We have appointed for him Hell; he will burn therein disgraced and rejected. And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due for it while he is a believer – then such are the ones whose striving shall be appreciated…”. 17:18-21
4. Negative Self-Talk.
There’s no denying that words have a significant amount of effect on someone, this is why Islam encourages us to be gentle in speech but it shouldn’t just be when speaking to other people but also yourself. When you beat yourself up for small things and tell yourself you’re not good enough, not worthy enough, when you tell yourself you don’t deserve good things, you eventually trick yourself into believing these lies and close the doors to the truth by developing a negative bias. You try to find the negatives even in the good that you do and by having a mindset like that you deny yourself opportunities for happiness and growth.
Yes, it’s good to be self-aware, to recognize and acknowledge our mistakes so that we can learn from them but that doesn’t mean we speak harshly to ourselves but instead talk to yourself the way you would to someone you love, like a sibling, a friend, your child etc.
These are just a few common habits people tend to practice without realizing how much misery and harm they can cause in the long run.
As mentioned earlier, arrogance is destructive but another thing that leads to our destruction is ungratefulness when we think too lowly of ourselves and deny the strengths and blessings Allah swt has bestowed us with, we are being ungrateful to Him. When we compare our lives with others and strive to be validated by others or by material means, we move further away from ourselves and hence, we move further away from our deen.
Developing a healthy self-esteem isn’t just important for our personal successes it is also essential for us to grow spiritually and so we must work hard to build our self-esteem and grow so that we may help others do the same.