In the previous article, we briefly talked about self-love and so I’d like to go more into detail on the subject today because loving yourself is as important as cultivating a healthy self-esteem.
Self-love is the active practice of accepting, caring and encouraging yourself.
There are a lot of misconceptions around it like the idea that loving yourself leads to arrogance and narcissism. As muslims, one of the worst things that could happen to us is becoming arrogant because it is the characteristic that Allah dislikes the most. When Iblis refused to obey Him and to prostrate in front of Adam (as), he showed arrogance by saying “I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay” (Quran 7:12).
So it’s important to clarify that loving yourself does not mean thinking you’re better than others, like Iblis did. You can love yourself without becoming full of yourself, acknowledge that there is a balance to aim for.
If right now, you’re the type of person that struggles to love yourself, ask yourself some deep questions. What does it mean to love yourself for you? What is holding you back from doing it? Maybe you haven’t forgiven yourself for past mistakes. Are you too tough on yourself? Do you depend on other people loving you to feel better? Be honest with yourself so you can understand what is truly going on and what you can do to make changes inshaAllah.
If you feel guilty for taking care of yourself, think about it that way: if your boss gave you a car for work, you would take care of it because you need it, because it would affect your performance as an employee if you broke it, but also out of respect for your boss and fear of getting fired, right? See, it’s the same thing with your mind, soul and body. They are blessings from Allah and you have to take care of them to fully serve your purpose in this life. Let go of the guilt that’s holding you back from appreciating yourself.
Another myth about self-love is that if you start caring for yourself you don’t care about others and become selfish. And that’s also taking things to the extremes. Self-love does not prevent you from loving others. In fact, you can love others better when you know how to love yourself first. Your relationships won’t be based on your neediness for love and affection anymore.
If you never cater for your own well being, you’ll start resenting the people around you. That’s something I’ve observed in my own behavior as a new mother. Women who dedicate themselves to their family are strong mashaAllah but you can tell that they’re tired! Resentment builds up when we start blaming our husband and kids for our emotional and physical exhaustion, personally I was the one putting pressure on myself to be perfect all the time. . By providing time and care to yourself, you become a better provider for your loved ones. You also set a good example for your children, showing them that it’s okay to take time off to recharge.
The last misconception I want to mention is the idea that self-love is a luxury. That you can only take care of yourself through spa days, membership at the gym and expensive gifts to yourself… Self-care does not necessarily mean spending money. Just think about our Prophet (pbuh), he would regularly isolate himself on Mount Hira to meditate. For me, that’s self-care at its best and it’s a practice coming from the best role model, Rasulullah (saws). If you’re still sceptical, here are other examples of free ways to nurture yourself: journaling, exercising using YouTube videos, cooking something special for yourself, drawing, reading, listening to a relaxing podcast, singing and dancing on your favorite song, taking a hot bath, taking a nap, going for a walk…
See? There are loads of ways out there to take good care of yourself for free.
Now that you know how important and affordable it is to love yourself, let’s have a look at how you can start doing it, because action speaks louder than words.
First, pick one self-care activity that you will add to your daily routine and that will be easy to commit to. I know everyone has a different amount of free time so it’s important that you find what works best for you.
Once you’ve fully incorporated that habit in your routine, you can add another act of self-love, it can be a weekly one this time. Keep on adding those good habits as long as you have time for them.
If you’re struggling to find time, look at the things that you are already doing and that could be transformed into self-care sessions. For example, dhikr after salah can be a real moment of mindfulness and meditation instead of something we rush while thinking about what we’re doing next. Salah itself should be an opportunity for you to breath and relax, it’s the time you get to talk to your Creator and disconnect completely from the world, it’s a real blessing from Allah aazawajal.
Another example, if you often get stuck in traffic on your way to work, use that time to do something for yourself like listening to an audio book or breathing exercises. Also, consider replacing bad habits with good ones. Instead of grabbing your phone as soon as you wake up and scrolling through Instagram for 20 minutes, grab a pen and a notebook and journal! I promise you, it will make you feel so much better than that aimless scrolling.
After a couple of weeks of applying these techniques in your life you should have a routine that feel right for you and that allows you to practise self-love and self-care bi idnillah. Now it’s your time to shine, go and think of how you can love yourself better then DO IT!