2020 was the year I got to know myself better.

The quarantines have helped focus my attention on critically evaluating myself in a brighter light. With social interactions severely limited, I was able to confront distressing feelings productively.

For instance, had it not been for all this social solitude, I would not have realized just how much my self-worth was derived from the approval and acceptance of others. It came to me as a shock.

So, when I no longer recieved approval from the outside, I started to seek it from my husband. However, soon enough, it exhausted both of us.

Gotta say these words feel very heavy as I am typing them but I promised myself to be honest and transparent if I ever wanted to help others. That’s why I decided to make a list of 6 habits I am leaving behind inshAllah.

1. The desperate need for approval

If you know me, you would know that I have been working on that for a while now. Why? Because I was a huge people-pleaser.

No more saying or doing things because I secretly wanted someone to slip me a compliment. Yes, I finally discovered the reason behind my exhaustion of meeting and spending time with people. It’s because the second I am with them, I start looking for any opportunity to make them like me and accept me.

Therefore I shifted all this energy to look for ways to please who only should be pleased: Allah, our Creator, The Almighty.

Every time you find yourself getting nervous because someone might be “disapproving” of your actions, immediately ask yourself, “what does Allah think of me? Does He approve? ”

If it pleases Allah, then continue and don’t mind anyone else. If not, then adjust your behaviour.

وَعَنِ النَّوَّاسِ بْنِ سِمْعَانَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «لَا طَاعَةَ لِمَخْلُوقٍ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ الْخَالِقِ» .

An-Nawwas b. Sam‘an reported God’s Messenger as saying, “A creature is not to be obeyed when it involves disobedience to the “Creator.”

2. Judging others

I often find myself judging someone because they are different than me, or assuming things about others which turn out wrong 99% of the time. It’s time to put down the gavel and do a little introspection.

By looking into this proverbial mirror, I noticed that I am a culmination of flaws; the sum of imperfections. I would hate it if someone had presumptions about me or if they distanced themselves from me due to prejudice or worse yet, not-so-great quality of mine.

As cliche as it sounds, I started to see myself in others and I reminded myself that Allah (SWT) is the ultimate judge.

Allah (SWT) will hold me accountable and I will have to stand before Him and give each person his right on Judgment Day.

I feel terrified just thinking about it.

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌۭ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَكُونُوا۟ خَيْرًۭا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَآءٌۭ مِّن نِّسَآءٍ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًۭا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا۟ بِٱلْأَلْقَـٰبِ ۖ بِئْسَ ٱلِٱسْمُ ٱلْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ ٱلْإِيمَـٰنِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمُونَ

O believers! Do not let some ˹men˺ ridicule others, they may be better than them, nor let ˹some˺ women ridicule other women, they may be better than them. Do not defame one another, nor call each other by offensive nicknames. How evil it is to act rebelliously after having faith! And whoever does not repent, it is they who are the ˹true˺ wrongdoers.

3. Overthinking

Overthinking is my best friend and my enemy. I am addicted to it and yet I hate it so much. But because of Allah’s mercy, I have been able to manage it much more efficiently lately, Alhamdulillah and I’m planning to continue working on it inshAllah.

Here are a few things that have been helping me:

  • Letting go of trying to control my thoughts and observing them instead
  • Remembrance of Allah through istighfar, especially when I have unwanted thoughts.
  • Breathing exercises to let my mind know it’s not a fight or flight situation meaning I’m not in immediate danger.
  • Making wudu and praying
  • Anxiety activity: Describe 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. This technique helps shift the focus from the overwhelming thoughts and ground you back to reality.

4. Prioritizing anything over Allah

Delaying my prayer because I need to cook first, or browse through my phone, or finish work are all just excuses. We convince ourselves that what we are doing is important, but under careful inspection, we realize these things can be put off for a few minutes.

Consider these questions/scenarios.

Would you delay an important Zoom conference because you “didn’t feel like it”?

What if I promised you $100 everyday conditional on you waking up at Fajir to receive it. That is the only time you can get the money. After the sun rises, the offer is revoked. Wouldn’t you get up every day?

Really think about your answers to these questions. I can only speak for myself, and from my experience, I find that my incentives are often misaligned.

It’s time to put Allah first above anything and subhanAllah, only by doing so will our life become better.

5. Self-loathing

I used to absolutely detest myself every time I made a mistake. I truly believed that by doing so I was somehow punishing myself and that made me less guilty, if that makes sense.

Until I reached a point where I became my worst enemy and critic. No matter what I did, how hard I worked on myself, I would still bring myself down!

So I noticed the main reason behind my self-loathing was that I was too consumed with the mistake itself instead of really fixing it. I was dwelling on the past constantly.

I genuinely believed that beating yourself up continuously was preferred as a Muslim, but that’s not even remotely true. Feelings of guilt and remorse are desired when committing a sin, however, the next step should be the actual fixing of the mistake without all the self-loathe, why? Because self-loathing will eventually lead you to despair.

So I changed my entire paradigm from, “Why should I even bother improving when I am a hopeless case”, to “O Allah please forgive me, I made a mistake and I will strive to make it right inshAllah”.

۞ قُلْ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Say, ˹O Prophet, that Allah says,˺ “O My servants who have exceeded the limits against their souls! Do not lose hope in Allah’s mercy, for Allah certainly forgives all sins.1 He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Consistency versus Intensity

So does that mean, I will be able to ditch all these habits and live a completely stress-free life from now on? No, I know I might stumble every once in a while, but that’s okay. Because the goal here is consistency.

Keep moving forward and don’t forget to make Dua every step of the way, because, without Allah’s help, we would achieve absolutely nothing.

What are you leaving behind and what are you taking with you inshAllah?

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