Often 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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)