Take a look at yourself. Look into the mirror. What do you see? What do you see on the outside? By the word ‘outside’, I do not mean your physical looks. Not your skin color or the shape of your eyes. Certainly, Allah has created man in the best form, as stated in the noble Quran.
“We have certainly created man in the best of stature.”[Ah-Tin: 5]
Rather, by this word, what I mean to ask you is, do you look like a happy person, full of energy and radiating a glow of happiness and love? Or is it a depressed, gloomy face that you are looking at? A face drained of all energy and hope? Messed up hair that hasn’t been taken care of in ages?
What do you see when you look into your own eyes in that mirror? Do you see eyes shining with hope and love, or with a faint glimmer of hope flickering on and off? Or is it dreary, sleep deprived depressed eyes that you see?
Observe yourself truthfully and carefully, and answer these questions to yourself.
You might have been wondering why I’m asking you to observe this yourself. You might be clueless about what I’m trying to talk about here. It’s all about us. Not being selfish, but our own ‘self’ is a crucial part of our lives. It is the one thing we have to change if we want to change those around you. The one thing you have to understand if you want to understand concepts such as self-concept, self-esteem, and self-love. Let us first have a look at what these concepts are.
According to Baumeister(1999), self-concept is “the individual’s belief about himself or herself, including the person’s attributes and who and what the self is.” Put simply, self-concept is the way you think about yourself, whether positive or negative. It is what you see in yourself, how you believe yourself to be. Take a notebook and jot down the first things that come to your mind about yourself. Are you happy, sad, energetic, kind, empathetic or what else? You see, that is your self-concept roughly jotted down on a piece of paper.
Now think deeply. What does your self-concept look like? It is positive, or negative? It’s in your hands to change that, all by Allah’s will of course. It’s up to us to love ourselves, to change ourselves for the betterment of our own selves and the ones around us.
Self-esteem is the extent to which we like, accept or approve of ourselves. it is the degree of evaluation of ourselves. A person with a high self-esteem is bound to have a positive view of them whereas a low self-esteem means thinking negatively of oneself.
Self-esteem plays a great role in building a successful self or building self-love. As mentioned before, a person with a high self-esteem will be more optimistic and hence love his own self more deeply. A positive consequence would be boosting one’s self-confidence levels as well as the self-image. On the other hand, a low self-esteem will result in lack of self-confidence and a great deal of pessimism.
Self-esteem is also related to self-concept. As you can see, a person with good positive self-concept will, in most cases, have a high self-esteem.
Finally, we come to the concept of self-love. Closely related to self-esteem and self-concept, self-love is how much we love ourselves. A person with a positive self-concept and a high self-esteem are going to love one’s own self to a much greater extent than a person with low self-esteem. It is imperative to learn how to love ourselves. In order to love others, we need to love ourselves first. This isn’t being selfish. How can you let yourself go into ruins while trying to love and please others?
The big question: How?
How to love our own selves? Many of us hate ourselves, degrade them and feel demotivated and depressed. How can we change these negative attitudes towards one’s own self? Here are some tips:
- Avoid perfectionism: Know that as humans we all make mistakes and that nobody is perfect. So don’t feel demotivated and depressed every time you make a mistake. Don’t give up. We all learn from our mistakes, and success also comes after failure. So instead of being a perfectionist, try to gradually improve and carry on at your own pace. Instead of trying to complete a huge task perfectly at once, divide the task and do step by step.
- Get rid of the negative company: Whether it be friends, your boss at work, if they pressure you too much, and scold you all the time about your flaws, get away from them. Keep your distance. Don’t become a victim of peer pressure, conforming to all that they say and do, even if your heart yearns otherwise. Remember that your own self, and your mental health, is much more important.
- Appreciate the blessings Allah has given you: If you are feeling down in the dumps and feel like you have nothing, and need a push to boost your self-esteem; then just try to count the number of blessings Allah has bestowed upon you. Take a piece of paper and make two columns. In one column write down the sad events that are happening in your life and what you feel is missing from your life. In the other column, try to list down the blessings Allah has given you. Think about it. Your senses, the ability to walk, the hands you are using to write with, the piece of paper, the glass of water that you just drank; all these are His blessing that He bestowed upon YOU. Think of the people who haven’t got these simple yet precious blessings too. Don’t you wonder how much you have been blessed with? Doesn’t that make you love yourself even more?
Abu Hurairah narrated that the 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.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
- Utilize your skills: There are days that you feel like you are of no value to this world. That you are useless and know nothing. That’s false. Completely false. Everyone has been created for a purpose and everyone has been created uniquely. Each one of us has a special talent, even if some of us don’t know it yet. It’s up to us to discover that talent, to flourish it, to foster it. So do what you are good at, what interests you. If you are a natural author, then write, write and write. If you love drawing, then keep on drawing. Join an art class if you wish. If you have a passion for cooking, then bring it up, and cook as much as you want. It will bring peace to yourself and make you love yourself more, as you finally begin to understand that you can do something, that you are actually great at something.
- Give compliments to yourself: As humans, we all yearn for compliments and praise from others. If you don’t get it, then you feel degraded and your motivation just disappears. Well, then why don’t you try complimenting yourself occasionally for a change? Let’s give it a try and see whether it elevates your mood and self-esteem even a little. For instance, you make a schedule and finish everything according to it. Congratulations, you’ve just made a great achievement! But alas, no one appreciated your work this time. No one said a word of praise or looked at you with a smile and a hug. No worries, just tell yourself that you’ve done a great job. Stand in front of the mirror and give yourself a big smile. Then treat yourself to something that you really love, say some cake or ice cream?
Above are just a few ways to love yourself. Just remember, yourself matters a lot. Groom yourself, love your appearance. Love yourself for what you are. Appreciate your own abilities and make use of them. Accept that there are ups and downs in life and that your self-needs to grieve every once and then. Smile often, and do not degrade yourself. Instead of giving up on tasks without even trying, start with the motive of doing and completing it, no matter how hard it might be or how long it might take. You know you can do it. You know you can love yourself.
“Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself – no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as YOU see fit – not because you think someone else wants you to be different.”
– Stacey Charter