by Nida Monis
When was the last time you took time to explore your inner-self? Ask yourself questions like, What do I want? What’s my purpose in life? What makes me Happy?
Self-Exploration is embarking on a journey to know yourself better, to evaluate and assess yourself of your weaknesses & strengths. And then utilizing them to their full potential for a life of blessings and better understanding. Definitely, we can never be perfect & will always remain flawed but we can constantly, learn & evolve to become a better person for not just ourselves but everyone around us.
The daily grind and our busy lives are constantly keeping us so consumed that we neglect the most important source of happiness. Exploring our inner-self can help us determine our Strengths & Weakness and thus it would give us a better idea how we can improve and utilize them. We are more consumed and occupied by what’s going out there than what’s happening inside. Soul searching is tough, besides who has the time eh? But it’s essential. Once you are on this journey of self-discovery, life becomes a bliss. Let’s talk about how we can explore the world that is within.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive for that which will benefit you, seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless. If anything befalls you, do not say, “if only I had done such and such” rather say “Qaddara Allahu wa ma sha’a fa’ala (Allah has decreed and whatever he wills, He does).” For (saying) ‘If’ opens (the door) to the deeds of Satan.'” [Ibn Majah]
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is the strength.” – Arnold
Some of the most common strengths we may find within ourselves are all these intangible things that we usually don’t value much – although they carry the whole weight of our character and personality! Following is the list of common strengths most of us may have and the process on how we can make the most of them in shaa Allah:
1. Being Loyal, honest and Caring:
Honesty is a virtue. Our Holy Prophet PBUH’s character has been one of the greatest example of honesty and truthfulness. His life is a perfect guidance for us to help us lead our lives. Being honest is a strength that will always protect you and keep you away from unnecessary issues.
Utilizing compassion and honesty in the best manner:
Be confident of this trait and embrace it wholeheartedly – as Allah says in the Qur’an:
“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].” [Qur’an – 2:42]
2. Love for Learning:
My love for learning has helped me get over many weaknesses because when you strive to improve yourself, your focus shifts to positivity – your focus shifts to problem-solving. Reading about different experiences, hearing stories and watching inspirational posts have always helped me looked at the brighter side of life.
Utilizing education in the best manner:
Education and knowledge is a beautiful way to grow in life as long as you are not engulfed in arrogance due to it – to utilize your learning in the best manner is to teach it forward.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.” [Bukhari & Muslim].
Trying to understand & truly feel what another person is going through (basically putting yourself in their shoes) is a trait most of us women naturally inhibit subhaanAllah. It’s not always easy, but if you want to be an empathetic person than you will always give priority to meaningful conversations & connections and develop a better understanding of people.
Utilizing empathy in the best manner:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The believer is the believer’s mirror, and the believer is the believer’s brother who guards him against loss and protects him when he is absent.” [Abi Dawud]
Looking back at myself and jumping from a pessimist to an optimistic person was quite a journey. And I still have my days when I don’t feel like focusing on anything. But most of the time, I am good at keeping my approach positive & even If I go astray from the path, I know how to bring myself back.
Utilizing optimism in the best manner:
People say that being optimistic is not the real approach or it’s not the reality but neither is being a pessimist. Allah is not unfair and would never test us beyond our tolerance. Then why be pessimistic towards life when Allah promises:
“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…” [Qur’an -14:7]
These strengths have helped me many times to turn my moment of weakness into a strength. Whenever you are stuck in that rut, look deep inside and you will find such qualities that will help you steer life back on track in Shaa Allah.
From a very young age, we start developing our personality traits & different experiences in life start to shape us. Without even realizing, with time – some of them turn into our weaknesses & some become our strengths. Let’s look into some of the most common weaknesses that we all go through along with ways on how we can overcome them as a Muslim in shaa Allah:
Whether you are a student, an employee or a housewife. Procrastination really adds more stress to life. And honestly, breaking a bad habit is hard. Delaying work, waiting for the last night before the deadline, & just leaving everything for the last minute. According to a research, 95% of us procrastinate to some extent. I remember in university days, I would wait for the last night before the big presentation, though I would get an A, it would still be a stressful night. A lot of us work great under pressure but that’s not always a good thing, It definitely makes me unorganized and extremely anxious.
Find out the reasons behind your procrastination? Is there a certain task that you don’t like doing? Is it because of poor time management and being unorganized? In my case, It’s about time management. Sometimes I spent too long on one task and that reduces the time for the other one which in the end makes me procrastinate. Now I am trying to overcome this through focusing on completing my tasks in a timely manner & writing them down on a to-do list.
The Prophet (ﷺ) used to say, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from helplessness, laziness, cowardice and feeble old age; I seek refuge with You from afflictions of life and death and seek refuge with You from the punishment in the grave.” [Bukhari]
I think to some degree we all have fallen into the trap of self-criticism. Over analyzing & questioning my abilities, I am not good enough for this position? I am not prepared for this presentation, I should have spent more time on this assignment, I am not pretty enough etc.
We live in a sad world these days, a world that is surrounded with the constant advertising of how perfect every part of the body should be, how much money we should be earning & what brands we should be buying. Instead of focusing on the internal growth, the media is so much focused on the superficial world that a lot of us lose our-self in that vicious cycle. For the longest time, I have been struggling to overcome this, it’s not about eliminating the problem completely, it’s about constantly trying to improve yourself and learning to deal with such weaknesses.
The two things that have really helped me overcome or subside self-criticism were:
I) Reading good self-help books
Reading can help you understand how to deal with a situation through someone else’s experience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a book, it could also be small articles etc.
II) Constant self-talk (basically preaching to myself)
Like Robert Kiyosaki said: “It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life. It’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “None of you should say: ‘My soul has become evil.’ He should say: ‘My soul is in bad shape.”‘ [Bukhari & Muslim].
3. Worrying and Over-thinking:
Spending hours & days about a certain issue and sometimes blowing things out of proportion due to over thinking.
Worrying > Over-thinking > More Worry!
It’s a never-ending cycle that we somehow get stuck into. And believe me, you won’t even realize that you are circling round and round in this loop. A lot of times I have to jolt myself out of that worrying state & that’s when “Faith” steps in.
Overcoming Worrying and Over-thinking:
Having faith keeps us sane. Otherwise, how will everything make sense? We are blessed with the most beautiful religion, where Allah promises to take care of all our worries and all our stresses. I know it’s easier said than done but when you have done everything that you possibly can, all you have to do is leave it to Allah – the Best of planners!
“Allah is the protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into the light.” [Qur’an – 2:257]
Scrolling down my feed, I saw this beautiful girl with a gorgeous well-decorated house & just adorable kids on a perfect family trip. Instantly, there is a second of envy: why am I stuck in this cold winter when everyone is having a vacation? Right there – you have to stop yourself. You just stole a moment of joy from your life by comparing it with someone else’s. The comparison is the thief of joy.
By comparing yourself you are actually demeaning all your struggles, things that you have achieved and belittling yourself. Being thankful & looking at the unfortunate really shifts the focus from our lives to their lives. And how blessed we are.
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.” [Ibn Majah]
You can’t be a better person if you don’t know what you should improve of yourself in the first place. According to Psychology Today, here are some of the major benefits of having self-awareness – which for some people, can be a journey of a lifetime!
- Happiness and vitality with less inner conflict – When your outside actions are in accordance with your inside feelings and values, you will experience less inner conflict.
- Better decision-making – When you know yourself, you are able to make better choices about everything, from small decisions to big decisions. You’ll have guidelines you can apply to solve life’s varied problems.
- Self-control – When you know yourself, you understand what motivates you to resist bad habits and develop good ones. You’ll have the insight to know which values and goals activate your willpower.
- Resistance to social pressure – When you are grounded in your values and preferences, you are less likely to say “yes” when you want to say “no.”
- Tolerance and understanding of others – Your awareness of your own foibles and struggles can help you empathize with others.
Our mind is a powerful tool. We can play by our own rules. Either we can focus on our flaws and get frustrated or We can learn & change ourselves. Overcome any weakness by holding on to faith & believing in yourself. Digging deep & finding what’s hidden inside is definitely a challenge but once you get into the habit of writing down your Strengths & Weaknesses, it can really help you improve your overall life and decision-making abilities. And always remember, don’t be too hard on yourself, any change takes time, it’s always a slow and gradual transition. You are always one decision away from a completely different life.
BIO: Nida Monis, a blogger at My Life’s Canvas, a mother to a beautiful girl, a Muslim positive life influencer, who believes the world could be a much better place if Kindness & love becomes a universal language.