Self Love: A Letter to my Sisters
An Excerpt from the new version of Jihad of the Soul
by Zarinah El-Amin Naeem
Ladies, believe it or not, the world is full of beautiful, loving, caring and God-fearing men. No matter what the statistics say, our world was designed in a way to ensure that life exists, and having a good mate is a big part of that. So before we begin, let’s strike out the thought that there are no good men out there.
Now, since good men exist, what’s the real problem? Why do there appear to be so many single sisters and why do so many single sisters continue to attract the wrong men? The answer is a lack of self-love. Sure, you could blame the brothers but that is not what we’re about. Our goal is to affect what we have the ability to change - and that is ourselves.
This issue of self-love has come up so many times since I’ve begun to talk Muslims sisters about relationships. Before you start yelling, “That’s not true, I love myself,” hear me out. We females are complex beings. God made us loving and compassionate but in order to extend, attract, and recognize true love, we must begin with love for self. Appreciating and loving who we are gives us the power to create our own good circumstances and gives those around us the permission to do the same. Self-love breeds confidence and happiness. When we accept ourselves for who we are and act out of love, we are able to accomplish anything in life.
On the other side, a lack of self-love can be one of the most damaging forces in our relationships, whether they are family, friendships, or romantic. Self-hatred and low self-esteem are often difficult to ascertain. No one says, “I don’t like myself,” but we certainly show it in other ways. When we feel jealous of that other sister because “she’s always so fabulous, I wish I looked like that,” we are exercising a lack of self-love. When we feel the need to buy the latest purse so that others will admire it, we are exercising a lack of self-love. And yes, when we unconsciously sabatoge our lives by allowing people unworthy of us in, we are exercising a lack of self-love.
Deep down, some of us don’t feel worthy of a loving, committed relationship and so we settle for less than what we deserve. Though God is All-Forgiving, we have not been able to forgive ourselves for our faults. We begin to harbor negative thoughts and as you know, negativity breeds negativity. Instead, consciously increase your love of self and practice of self-forgiveness. Begin by making a list of 10 reasons you love yourself. They could be as simple as I bring joy to my parents and friends to I know how to make a mean pound cake! The more you realize how special and worthy you are, the more you will begin to love yourself and emit the happiness that comes with love.
Increasing our love of self is a soul exercise that must be practiced regularly. We all get into a rut and need reminding that we are loved by God and therefore more than worthy of our own love and the love of others. When you truly love and know yourself, you begin to understand that Allah always has a plan for us and guess what….singlehood may be just what you need in order to focus on yourself. Singlehood affords you the ability to focus on yourself and your relationship with Allah without many of the responsibilities of family. Recognize the beauty within and accept yourself for who you are at this moment and live your life!
Now for my sisters whose self-esteem and self-love is so far off the charts that every man you meet is “not on my level,” get over yourself! Do not turn your self-love into arrogance. Believe me, I too believe that I am a fly sista, but I know I have faults. There are several things I need to work on and you are no different.
Many sisters have become arrogant and in turn deny blessings because they didn’t come in the “right” package. I purposefully put this section after our discussion on self-love so it’s clear that I am not asking you to settle for just anything in your life, and certainly not any man. I’m asking you to truly reevaluate your life and your standards and to open your eyes long enough for you to realize that the man God has in store for you may be in a different package than you originally dreamt of.
I’ll give you an example: I always planned to marry an older man who loved to travel and was my deep brown complexion. In the end, my husband is two years younger than I am, enjoys amusement parks but not extended travel, and is light-skinned! Not to mention when we married he was a full time student on student income. Honestly, he would have never been on my radar but is truly who God meant for me to marry. I have grown in many ways (often through tough times) and have become a better person, all from stepping outside of my comfort zone. Good things can come in unexpected packages.
Don’t be so “perfect” that your arrogance prevents you from living your best lives. The Quran states, “And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance. Verily, you can neither rend nor penetrate the earth nor can you attain a stature like the mountains in height.”(17:37)
Exercise self-love and exercise thankfulness. Our greatness and our qualities come from Allah alone and until you fully acknowledge and thank the Creator for bestowing you with the gifts that you have, more blessings are being blocked. Have you ever been in the company of someone who loves life and appreciates what they have? They seem to attract goodness. Being thankful is a magnet for compassion and kindness to enter your heart. Be thankful and relish in the goodness of life.
So ladies, I ask that we begin (and continue) to love ourselves so that we are able to truly love others and receive the full blessings of God. Here’s a quick affirmation for those days when you need a boost. Repeat it until you truly believe it:
God made me in a perfect mold. I am special, I am beautiful, and I am blessed. I thank God for all that I have and all that I am. I forgive myself for my shortcomings and acknowledge that I am on the path to goodness. I love the woman I am and the woman
I’m meant to be. I’m thankful and I love me!
May God bless your journey.
Read more from my book, Jihad of the Soul online at www.jihadofthesoul.com.
Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, M.A. is an anthropologist whose current research focuses on contemporary issues facing Muslims in America. Her debut work Jihad of the Soul:Single Muslims Struggling with Religion, Identity and Desire has garnered rave reviews and is currently being used to teach college students about American Muslims. She founded The Niyah Company as a result of both her personal and professional experiences and aims to promote cross-cultural understanding and personal enhancement through arts, cultural and travel related information and activities.
In addition to speaking and writing, Zarinah is a community organizer, an avid international traveler who supports development work in Africa through her foundation. She is married to Halim Naeem, a doctoral candidate in psychology and the president of Seven Shades (www.sevenshades.org). Together they live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and have one cute and inquisitive son, Sufyan.