Discover Yourself: Break the Shackles of Inferiority

fish2Often in shopping malls, restaurants, educational institutions and in family functions, there is this girl who is trying to hide herself from everyone around. With eyes defining both fear and sadness, she wishes to be as beautiful as the girl sitting next to her. She wants to become as fairer, taller and confident as this girl in order to avoid the fear of being compared and the sadness that consequently follows it. But, her wish list goes on as the number of people she comes across in life is countless. These wishes increase each day when she meets someone better than her; her heart aches and she finds herself devastated. This scenario, with a few subjective variations, is something that goes on in many peoples’ lives. Not only girls, but boys too fall prey to inferiority complex. They are letting this plague take over their lives to such an extent that they are willingly stepping into the dungeon of depression. It would be well suited to use the word ‘willingly’ because no child is born with an inferiority complex. It is later in life when he/she learns to make such choices on the basis of various stereotypes the society is following.

Each one of us is blessed abundantly, and for sure none of us is deprived of Allah’s (swt) blessings.

Stereotype is Hype

A stereotype is a widely accepted view that is applied to a particular social category and every individual in it- without deeply knowing what that particular individual is like. Beliefs like all dark complexioned people are aesthetically inferior, men are insensitive, people who wear glasses are nerds, all riches are successful and lead a happy life, no Hijabi manages to get good marriage proposals or Hijab wearing women are oppressed are some examples of stereotypes that our societies follow. In short, these are man-made criterion that the human race has set to judge one another. Anybody who fails to satisfy these criteria is considered as “The Unlikable”.

Ever since most of us are put to watch TV as kids, we start feeding it in our minds that beautiful girls are as fair as snow, have impossibly tiny waists, are up to date with the latest fashion, and that they have sweet melodious voices to mesmerize everyone around. Such personas are often made to appear kind hearted, caring, well mannered, successful, smart and above all they are the protagonists. The antagonists are likewise made to appear the opposite.

In case of programs that young boys are subjected to, all the successful stereotypical characters own noticeable cars and latest gadgets, play video games, are clean shaven, possess a super muscular body, at times are rich too and above all manage to attract the opposite gender. In short, such stereotypes define gender roles and criteria for physical attractiveness in most of the existing societies. Unfortunately, racial and physical attractiveness stereotyping does not end in cartoons, but lingers on in most of the dramas, movies, literature, and art and even in commercial advertisements- ultimately forming the society’s mentality. Such stereotypes do change with the passage of time e.g. the ideal women in the early 1600s were voluptuous as compared to today’s ideals. People that don’t possess the admirable physical traits highlighted by some sources tended to alter and are still altering with what Allah (swt) gifted them. But, the part of the society that cannot afford to have alternatives catering their demands, fall prey to depression when subjected to never ending criticism.

Piety is something that any human being can acquire regardless of any physical, racial, gender or class discrimination.

Block Criticism – It’s not for You

Criticism occurs as most of us are in a habit of associating positive personality traits with people who seem physically attractive to us without even knowing them completely. In one of the psychological studies on physical attractiveness, male and female subjects were presented with photographs of some men and women from a college yearbook and were asked to rate the pictured individuals on a number of traits. The photographs had been previously rated as very attractive, average, or unattractive. Compared to the unattractive individuals, the attractive individuals were rated as being more sensitive, kind, interesting, strong, poised, sociable, outgoing, exciting, and sexually warm and responsive. They were also rated as having higher status and as being more likely to get married, to have a successful marriage, and to be happy. The only exception to this rosy portrait was that the more attractive individuals were rated as being slightly, but not significantly, less likely to be good parents than neutral or unattractive individuals (Dion, Berscheid, and Walster, 1972).

Imagine the frustration when one has a lock, but the key is nowhere to be found. But to end this frustration it is obvious that one will look for ways to find the key- the solution to the problem. This would be the rational perspective as throwing the lock away would add more to the list of incomplete tasks which when piled up becomes a burden for the whole life time. And this exactly would end up in regrets, and only regrets. In the same way, there are solutions adhering to which one can get rid of inferiority complexes, and some of them are as follows:

  1. The Real Criterion for Superiority

Unlike the changing criteria of society, Allah (swt) the Almighty has put before mankind only one criterion of superiority in Islam that is piety. Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Hujurat,

“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa (i.e. one of the Muttaqun.) Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Piety is something that any human being can acquire regardless of any physical, racial, gender or class discrimination. It liberates an individual to such a level where he embraces Allah’s (swt) will. He learns to bow down only before Allah (swt) the Almighty which saves him from bowing down before other peoples’ will. To be more precise, he discovers his true self that connects him with Allah (swt) Almighty, and discards other selves that he had been keeping to please the people. Such ‘selves’ are like masks that are well suited for different desirability criteria set by different people. But, when there remains no need to please the people, since no human was born to do so, one can get rid of these masks and breathe freely in open air. One may become popular by becoming desirable amongst people, but it is only in the remembrance of Allah (swt) that hearts find rest.

  1. Help Yourself by Helping Others

If you had been subjected to criticism because you couldn’t fit in the society’s criteria of beauty or desirability, and intend to bring a revolution in people’s mentality; bring a revolution from within yourself at first. Try not to do to others what you had to face. Sometimes in an attempt to face the harshness of the society we ourselves become harsh in order to fit in it. Along with that pray for the ones who are or were being harsh to you once. Return them with something good and simply follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa) who never wished bad for the ones who wished bad for him. It is through forgiveness that you would be able to relieve yourself of the pain you had been carrying all along. Let it go and move ahead with firm belief in Allah (swt) the Almighty. Remember what Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Fussilat,

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

  1. Acknowledge What You Have Been Blessed with

Most of us don’t know how much we’ve been blessed with ever since our birth; probably because we never took out the time to focus on this aspect of our lives. This happens because most of us are busy noticing what we don’t have, and what others have. For sure if we spend our time thanking Allah (swt) for what we have, we wouldn’t get any time whining for what we don’t have as Allah’s (swt) blessings upon us can never be numbered. Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Ibrahim,

“And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them. Verily! Man is indeed an extreme wrong-doer, – a disbeliever).” (Ibrahim 14:34)

Each one of us is blessed abundantly, and for sure none of us is deprived of Allah’s (swt) blessings. But, along with that Allah (swt) tests His slaves due to His wisdom that He is aware of, and due to a benefit that He wants His slave to attain. Consider the example of a rich man who has every luxury that any man unlike him would wish for, but despite of the entire treasure, he cannot sleep well at night without taking tranquilizers. On the other hand a farmer with very little income has been blessed with a good night’s sleep. Both have been subjected to certain trials, but they are not deprived of Allah’s (swt) blessings at the same time.

  1. Beauty is Only Skin Deep

Do we appreciate doctors, writers, counselors, social workers, Daees, Ulema etc. due to the good looks that they possess? Or is it due to the work that they do? If we’ll manage finding out the answer to this question, we would certainly be introduced to the real meaning of beauty.

  1. Beauty is Culturally Defined

As mentioned earlier, the criteria for physical beauty is different for different cultures. With so many cultures all around, it is difficult to mould one’s self according to anyone. You might end up pleasing a fraction of people, and displeasing another. That is when Islam stands high by bringing in concepts that can be universally acted upon. This is because Allah (swt) the Almighty is aware of everyone’s needs and that is why He revealed to mankind a system that caters each one of us. So, simply bring back what you had lost earlier.


Concluding by focusing all my words to pinpoint one beautiful fact- I would like to say that if you are beautiful by thought, you’ll certainly meet people who are beautiful by heart. For that you don’t need to alter your physical self, but to change your thought. Such bonds that you’ll make will never end up even if you turn old or do not possess the beauty that you once had. To be precise, focus all your energy on doing something that really matters, because the world is becoming short of beauty that comes from the heart – the everlasting beauty. Remember the following Hadeeth for refreshing your Iman:

Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Verily, Allah (swt) does not look for your faces and your wealth; but He looks for your heart and for your deeds.” (Muslim)

Struggle All the Way to Jannah

steppingstonesA believer’s faith in the meta-physical aspects of Islam: Iman, is not something that is in a constant state, but is in a constant state of flux. Every Muslim experiences highs and lows of Iman, and often at times these highs of Iman empowers a believer to make some life changing decisions. Similar is the case with a young Muslim girl, when she decides to start taking Hijab, and guard her modesty for the sake of Allah (swt). Slowly and gradually, the way she dresses up, the friends she hangs out with, the way she thinks and responds to things around her, everything changes, and Hijab becomes an essential part of her personality. But with this comes an extra responsibility. And some extra struggle.

So when she goes to a wedding (a typical Desi wedding), people stare at her or some aunties constantly give her smiles, as if she really needs it to feel comfortable in the crowd.  Ironically, it actually does the opposite; but she struggles.

When her mother wants her to loosen the scarf a bit, so that the flashy and glamorous neckline of her dress is visible; when she can see that her mother is a little uncomfortable with the piece on her head, and that she wants her daughter to look beautiful (according to what our society defines it), she struggles.

And when somebody asks her the reason for doing Hijab, and says: “But you are so beautiful.” Her heart sinks, not because she understands their point but because they don’t understand hers. And she struggles. She struggles within the boundaries of her heart.

When we have the right to look glamorous for the society, why don’t we have the right to guard our modesty for the sake of Allah (swt)? Suddenly, people give you a suspicious look, as if there’s been something wrong in your life, may be a tragedy, which made you take the decision. Parents think that there’s something wrong with their daughter and that she needs to comply with the society norms. Taking Hijab becomes something “abnormal” and the girl becomes an “extremist”. “She just needs to be normal!” So Hijab is for the ones who’re not really a part of the society. “They are different. They are not like us. We are not like them.” And this is something that is said by a mother, or father, or a friend, of a Muslim family.

How can one expect to have a distinction, without taking an exam?

In this materialistic world, where glamour is everything; a few hits on a profile picture or a few flattering comments about how beautiful you look, defines your worth and at times your dignity. It is indeed difficult to stick to your decision. And I don’t think it’s wrong to have these feelings. It’s human, perfectly human to fall. But how you strive and fight against your Nafs to rise up again (for the sake of Allah (swt)), is what defines your worth and you as a true submitter to Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) doesn’t want us to have an empty heart, cold and indifferent; He tests us by observing as to how we deal with everything inside it. Iman, love, and faith (Aqeeda) rest in the heart and so do hatred, jealousy and doubts. The point is not to clear your heart, but to beautify it with what is good for it, according to the Master who owns it.

How to deal with criticism

How do I deal with it? How do I answer them back? How do I tell them that this is not for anyone who wants to see me all dolled up, to please their eyes? But do I really need to give these explanations to feel good about it? Well, this has already been addressed in the Quran, to answer this restlessness.

“The life of this world is no more than illusion and vanity, while the abode of the Hereafter is far better for the righteous. Do you not understand?” (Quran 6:32)

Beautiful! He knows. He knows what you’re going through. And it was actually “meant” to be this way. So she struggles. But now we know, the struggles are indeed blessings. He repeats “Do you not understand?” Actually she missed the point. How can one expect to have a distinction, without taking an exam?  He is providing her with some bonus points to reach Jannah. By practicing patience, by being even extra polite to her mother and the aunties, by holding back her tears when she is alienated in a gathering, and by having complete faith in Him, and only Him. Her struggle would pay immense rewards Insha’Allah

Remember, “Isn’t Allah enough for His servants?” (Az-Zumar)

Ask the Savvy Parent – Dealing with advise or criticism

criticism_media_cycleAssalamu alaikum. I am a mom of three lovely girls under the age of ten. I am disturbed for a reason that whenever we socialize with friends or family, they always criticize my daughters like: her complexion is getting dark, she is gaining weight and so on and on. I do believe in grooming the personality, but feel it is way too early to start worrying about how my girls look, as long as they are healthy and within the average height/weight range of girls their age. But now, I am beginning to doubt myself, especially when everyone around me makes me feel inadequate. What are your comments?

Dear Parent,

I am sure that there are many parents, who can relate to what you are experiencing. It can be difficult to deal with such criticism, even more so, if it comes from close friends or family. At times, their comments can really have an effect on a parent. It can start the cycle of self-doubt and provoke one to start questioning whether he/she is doing the wrong thing. This is something you are already beginning to feel. The big question is: do you say something back? If yes, then what do you say?  How does one even say something, without offending the family members or friends?

Firstly, please, do not doubt yourself; you have the right attitude. The focus should be on nurturing a child’s personality and developing self worth. It is very important for children to love themselves just the way Allah (swt) has made them, without developing any self image insecurities. In this time and age, with all the glamorous media around telling one what to wear and how to look, is a serious problem, especially for girls.

I always give people the benefit of doubt and hope that they ask questions genuinely, wanting to know why one does or doesn’t do something; however, unfortunately, many a times this isn’t the case. So what do you do? Here are some suggestions that might work:

1. Set Limits

If you’ve already walked down this path with this particular criticizer, set a firm limit. Just because someone wants to dish it out, doesn’t mean that you or your kids have to take it. In some cultures, it is common for such things to be discussed or said in social gatherings. Sometimes people mean well, but remember there is a time and a place for such a discussion. Do not allow someone to criticize you in front of your children or in front of others.

2. Agree to Disagree

There are those who question us but are not open to hearing the reasons behind our decisions. We’ve all come across such relatives or acquaintances, who bring up a topic, just because they want an opportunity to tell us the many ways they think we are wrong or aren’t doing it right.

Often that comes from the concern stemming from their genuine love for the child, and I’m sure you can appreciate that. However, as a parent, you have a right to make your own decisions.

There may even be some issues, where you may never see eye to eye with certain individuals. In such cases, in order to preserve the relationship, it is best to find a way to agree to disagree.

Depending on the person, especially a family member, it can be difficult to say something without offending the person. Choose your words carefully. Perhaps work with statements such as “I can see that you feel strongly about this. I do too. You are very important to me but I humbly disagree with what you are saying. No heart feelings, we should better move on.”

3. Redirect/Subject Changer

One strategy for setting limits on critical conversations is to change the subject that is known in the west as “bean dipping”. For example, “Yes, Mrs. Busybody we are still ____. Can you please pass the bean dip?” Conversation over. That is it… hopefully.

4. Turn a Deaf Ear to Criticism

Finally, with some people, none of these things will work, and even if we make some excuse to redirect or leave the conversation, they will continue to criticize us. Somehow these people always find an ear willing to listen to them. It’s okay. Let them speak. You must find a way to remove yourself from the conversation. Don’t waste your time and energy on people, who don’t deserve it.

I know it hurts but their behaviour tells more about them than it does about you – and just think, if they are gossiping to someone else, at least you don’t have to listen to it.

In the wise words of Judy Ford, “What you think of me is none of my business.”

Insha’Allah I hope this helps and may Allah (swt) guide you to what is best. Ameen. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent