TO RAISE YOURSELF YOU NEED TO 

EMBRACE YOURSELF

How to Be a Better Muslim- The Muslim

Self-Development Series (with a free Self-Acceptance Worksheet)

Do you hear that? 

Do you hear everyone around you yapping on and on about how rude, unislamic, unethical, un-every-good-thing you are? 

Then you finally make the decision. “That’s it! I am going to show them all how AWESOME I can be huh!” 

Here’s what happens then.. you get all excited, full of positive energy ready to take charge of your life and change it once and for all. You start watching Islamic motivational videos till 2am at night, praying nawafil, working out, maybe even dieting, reading more Quran, deleting movies and songs etc. 

And BOOM. You burnout. 

Then you slowly crawl back into the cycle of self-hate or self-loathe, all your emotions exhausted, all energy wasted. 

Sounds familiar? 

Listen up guys..

You need to understand that self-development is more of a lifetime process rather than a one-time achievement. So don’t overwhelm yourself and take a small step starting today Insha’Allah. 

After extensive research, both Islamic and psychological, I have combined the knowledge together with personal tips that can serve as a guide for you. So that you can start investing your mental and physical energies in the right direction.  

There are two things you should know first..

  • One, this is in no way a dull lecture on social psychology. Although I will use some psychological terms, I will explain it as best as I can in simple language with examples.
  • Second, I want you to be interactive and work with me here. Trust me, you will benefit the most if you participate in it.

This is going to be a long bumpy ride. The weak at heart are being warned beforehand…

Aight buddies, now let’s dive right into it!

HOW TO BE A BETTER MUSLIM

A) Self-Acceptance

Yes we all accept the fact that we are awesome in some aspects. The real problem begins when we don’t accept the parts of ourselves that are not-so-awesome.

Accepting yourself is a crucial determinant of attaining happiness. More so than self-esteem. 

Self-acceptance is a complete affirmation of self. It means you accept all parts of you including those you don’t like. It’s easy to love something about yourself that you are proud of. But true essence of happiness lies in accepting all aspects of your personality.
A MUSLIM’S POINT OF VIEW:
Islam is ALL about self-development and talks about “improving” yourself constantly in life by following the example of our beloved Prophet (S.A.W). But that is step 2. You need to take step 1 before you can reach there. And that is to accept yourself completely.

For a believer, three concepts are sufficient to bring down the banner of extreme self-criticism (remember slight self-criticism is essential for personal growth):  

1) It is a form of ungratefulness towards Allah. Basically it implies on a deeper level that, if you “hate” your innate qualities that you were born with (or those that are hardwired), you are not satisfied with how Allah created you. (especially the insecurities based on appearances and physicality).  

I think body-image deserves a mention here. One of the scariest consequences of people (specially women) being dissatisfied with their appearances, is the use of plastic surgery to beautify themselves. Nosejobs, buccal fat removal, vampire facelifts, dimpleplasty, lip injections and the list goes on. This insanity is spreading like wildfire!

The Quran says: 

Allah cursed him. And he (Shaytan/Satan) said: “I will take an appointed portion of your slaves. Verily, I will mislead them……… and indeed, I will order them to change the nature created by Allah.”…..

( Surah Nisa: Part of Ayahs 118-119)

2) The belief that Allah created humans as the “Ashraf-ul-Makhlooqat” (the best of all creatures to ever exist). This is especially for those who criticize their abilities and limit their potential. 

Allah says in The Quran: 

“Indeed Allah has created the human in the best of forms.”

(Surah Teen: Ayah 4)

3) As a believer you should learn to forgive yourself for the sins that you have committed. Shaytaan has his ways of playing with your head. And making a believer go in despair over his sins is one of his ways! You need to genuinely be sorry over your sins, keep asking Allah for forgiveness constantly, show Allah you are truly sorry by trying to do more good deeds, know that Allah has forgiven you and move on! 

Allah says in the Quran: 

Say: “O My servants who have wronged their own souls ( by committing evil deeds and sins). Do not despair of Allahs Mercy!  Surely,  Allah forgives all sins. He indeed is the All Forgiving, All Merciful. “

You should have understood by now that self-acceptance is not the same as self-improvement (which is the ultimate goal). Accepting yourself is a present thing, not “when I do this… I will be happier with myself” or “if I do that..”.

And to clear any misconception that might arise in your head..  It IS possible for you to accept yourself AND subject yourself to a lifetime of personal growth!

Naturally we all have a tendency to judge ourselves and overly criticize our actions. And there are quite a few reasons for that… 

REASON # 1:

It depends majorly on parental conditioning. It’s a global trend for parents to criticize their children more than appreciate them. When we become adults, our subconscious mind unwittingly does that too following in our parents’ footsteps. (By the way, this is by no means a blame-game).

The sad part is all of this conditioning is unavoidable. When we become parents, majority of us will do the same unknowingly (In case you already are,  you see what I mean?)

REASON # 2:

Another huge role is played by our relatives, peers, friends and our social circle. The more criticism you hear as a child with no identification of self, the more you learn to “beat yourself up” as an adult.

REASON # 3:

Self-criticism becomes worse by comparing yourself to others. You should compare yourself to your OWN self from yesterday and NOT to others.

So by now you know what it means to accept yourself. But how to replace unhealthy self-criticism with self-acceptance?

HOW-TO? 

For a Muslim, accepting yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you learn to love your bad habits or sins, and continue down that road.

In fact, you learn to confront your actions, beliefs, and aspects of your personality that you have kept buried deep inside of you.

  • Confront your inadequacies/insecurities / bad qualities/ bad habits/ sins of the past.
  • Accept the inadequacies. Understand that they are a part of YOU. And that some can be changed or eliminated while some can’t. For eg, you can’t change the huge mole that sits all so arrogantly on your cheek. But you can get rid of the habit of backbiting.
  • Stop judging yourself constantly. So what if you are judged by others? That’s what people are best at doing. Judging others. But by constantly judging yourself, you become more judgmental in general. It’s an extreme that should be avoided like arrogance.
  • Show mercy and compassion to yourself will ya?!

Tell me something, if Allah loves us unconditionally, DESPITE our sins and shortcomings.. Is it so hard to try to love ourselves unconditionally? After all, we are His creation.  

That obviously doesn’t imply we become self-serving arrogant human beings. 

Allah says: 

“And don’t turn your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster.
( Surah Luqman, Ayah:18)

See? Allah does not like extremes of behaviour. Somewhere in the middle of arrogance and self-hate would be just fine!  

As Leon F Seltzer puts it “We are all the “walking wounded” in some way or the other”. This common feature of humanity can inspire us to not only show compassion and mercy towards ourselves but towards others as well. Yet another teaching of our beloved Prophet (S.A.W).

ACTIVITY:
Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Now sit down and evaluate yourself. Write down all the good and bad in you in two separate lists. Or you can use the Self-Acceptance Worksheet I have created for you! It’s editable online as well as printable, so use it however you like.
CLICK ON THE BUTTON TO SIGN UP AND DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE Self-acceptance worksheet!
Mention all your insecurities as well as all the feelings of denial, shame, guilt, rejection and hurt that happened in the past. 
I agree that’s alot to do but you owe this to yourself! I’ll tell you what to do with them at the end.   

B) Self-Efficacy

It is the belief in your ability to accomplish something. An optimistic belief in your capabilities to achieve a goal or perform a task. Self-Efficacy plays a vital role in determining your productivity, work performance and success.
A MUSLIM’S POINT OF VIEW:

But before we dig deeper into self-efficacy, three beliefs form the essence of self-efficacy in Islam: 

1) Muslims who put an effort in this life to walk on the path of Islam are dearest of all to Allah. This belief is so powerful that it can overcome any type of insecurity and put a break to constant self-criticism. You should rest assured that Allah is pleased with you as long as you are trying.

Allah says in the Quran:

 “And that his effort will be seen” ( Surah Najam: Ayah 40)

2) Believers need to trust Allah in everything they do. That is called Tawakkul.   Tawakkul is derived from the root wikalah and means the appointment of a trustee (wakil). It means that we must believe in the limitless power of Allah. And understand that we are nothing without Allah and have everything if we have Allah by our side! Therefore, Muslims cannot rely solely on their individual or combined efforts/qualities. 

Allah says in the Quran:

“[Then] when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in Allah:  Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.  If Allah helps you [believers], no one can overcome you.  if he forsakes you, who else can help you?  Believers should put their trust in Allah. [The Qu’ran Surah 3: 159-160]”

“Say: Only what Allah has decreed will happen to us. He is Our Master: let the believers put their trust in Allah. [The Qur’an, Surah 9:51] ”

3) We need to add Insha’Allah to our work goals. It means nothing in this world happens without Allah’s approval, including our daily tasks.  

Allah tells us in the Quran: 

“And never say of anything, “I shall do such and such thing tomorrow”. Except (with the saying) “If Allah wills!”… ” (The Qur’an 18: 23-24)

 

How will high self-efficacy benefit you?

You will be able to achieve all of the amazing things below:

  • Develop a deeper interest in your work or study
  • Set yourself a more challenging goal
  • View difficult tasks as challenges not as threats to avoid
  • Be more committed to your task
  • Recover fast from disappointments and failures
  • Take less stress while working or studying!

How to attain high

self-efficacy?

#1) Focus on experiences & tasks in which you excel
Successful experiences boost self-efficacy and our failures tend to lower it. So you should focus more on your successes. It is important to aim high and be ambitious, but it’s more important to be realistic. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself that you are unable to achieve, you end up lowering belief in yourself!
#2) Observe your role models

Nothing is impossible to achieve if someone else has already done it right?

Everyone has role-models that we think are similar to us in some way.  They could be from your family, Islamic scholars, famous people, friends, relatives etc.

By observing how they are doing what you want to do, you are sneakily raising your self-belief. Your brain is saying, if that person can do it, so can I!

Ideally our role-models should be our Prophet, his companions, family and the great Muslims that existed in earlier times.

But we see them as perfect humans who always pleased Allah and we see ourselves as defected victims of this era. That needs to change.

Those were people with real problems like ours and made many mistakes like we do.. To relate to them, you have to dig deeper into their lives and not be overwhelmed by their highlighted positive versions.

And despite the centuries that have passed, they can still serve as our role-models in these times that we live in.

#3) Spend time with influential people

What other people say about us and our abilities influences us. Listen to speakers that move you.

Watch videos of people who influence you in a positive way. Sit in the company of friends that have a positive effect on you.

They will persuade you to do things you can’t persuade yourself to do!

#4) Get more done in healthy emotional & physical state

I feel euphoric… I want to flyyyyy..

Ever felt like that? That’s because when you are in a great mood, you tend to work harder with a greater belief in your capacity.

Simply put, if you are in a pleasant emotional state you are likely to perform better. So try to get more done while you are feeling goood!

Similarly, when you are healthy and physically fit, your belief in your abilites increases. That’s why Islam tells us to be grateful for our health and try to do as much as we can while we are young and healthy!

ACTIVITY:
Make a list of your achievements and successes in life. I promise you this is the last list you have to create.. Again, this is also included in the Self-Acceptance worksheet I have made for you!
CLICK ON THE BUTTON TO SIGN UP AND DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE Self-acceptance worksheet!
final task:

By now you should have 3 lists:

List #1: What you think of yourself.. your good qualities, habits etc

List #2: Your bad qualities, insecurities etc

List #3: Your achievements

Cross off the bad qualities/ insecurities that you can do nothing about (the ones that you CAN’T change). Cross off the things that you compare about yourself to others.

  • Now write Alhamdulilah on top of the list of your good qualities AND achievements. That one little praise will completely transform the way you think over time. Saying Alhamdulilah boosts your self-belief because you will be content that Allah chose to gave you so many blessings. Further, it allows you to stay humble as all praise is for Allah. You get nothing to be arrogant about!
  • Finally, write Insha’Allah on top of the list of bad qualities that you CAN fix. (e.g, anger issues). That praise will give you immense hope that as long as you make Allah your partner, you can achieve anything. And if you can’t attain something in life, it’s purely cause Allah has something better in store for you!

Fill in your worksheet & stick it on the wall, or in your daily journal/planner or your study table. Looking at it everyday, will surely make you a grateful, humble and an optimistic Muslim over time.

CLICK ON THE BUTTON TO SIGN UP AND DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE Self-acceptance worksheet!

If you managed to reach the end of this halal psychological maze, then I salute you! 😀 

I wish you the best of luck! If you liked this article, share it with your friends/family members so that they benefit from it too Insha’Allah.

Do you struggle with unhealthy self-criticism? How do you keep your inner critic from lowering your self-esteem? Let’s chat in the comments section below! 

KEEP READING…

Founder & Author l Muslim Youth Programme
Aimen is a Medical Doctor who teaches self-development to young Muslims struggling with the fitnah of this century. Her aim is to educate and empower Muslims with practical advice on self-development, productivity, studies and health, with insights on Islamic psychology. Jumpstart your productivity and take action on your goals by signing up to her latest FREE productivity Bootcamp for Muslims.
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