Assalaamu alaikum, everyone and welcome back to another Honest Hijabi moment! Today I want to talk about self-improvement/self-love and how to begin. I put improvement and love together because I don’t think we can have one without the other. I don’t believe that self-love is solely accepting ourselves as we are and not pushing ourselves to be and do better. Showing love to our minds, bodies, and souls takes work and sometimes that work is not easy. So to begin, the steps below talk about the mental work we need to do. For a long time I didn’t realise how powerful having control over my mind would be. Oh how I wish I could go back to 14 year old me and drill that into my big stubborn head. But I’m learning it now and let me tell you that it comes with so much freedom that you never realised you could have. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Step 1: Set up a solid base to work from.
We all know the saying that goes “Without a solid foundation, a structure cannot last.” Or something like that. Same thing goes for us. If we try to glow up only through shallow methods while ignoring the deeper changes that need to take place, our transformation will be temporary. A shallow glow up would be buying new makeup, changing up your hairstyle, and buying new clothes. Fun? Yes. Trans-formative? Absolutely. Impactful and long lasting? Not so much. So for a glow up that never stops glowing, we start with mental and physical health. This involves strengthening our deen, meditation, practising mental self-discipline, therapy, getting your levels checked, getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, getting physical, etc. This can also go deeper into letting go of relationships, things, and habits that bring you down. From this we can create a much smoother canvas to start painting ourselves onto.
Step 2: Build your character.
This one should be simple but some of us, like myself, didn’t have the best role models in this area growing up so we have to learn on our own. Character basically encompasses your moral values and personality. Having good character can look like being kind, keeping promises, acting with compassion and empathy, being generous, following through, being honest, being loyal, etc etc. These are really good traits to build up in ourselves but come with a lot of practice. These will carry you forward in life and bring you across all kinds of people and situations that will allow you to grow your personality as well. When we have these traits in place, we can build our personality around it to be whoever we want to be. We will also make friends easily and gather up beautiful life experiences that add more to us.
Step 3: Get to know yourself and stop over adapting.
One thing with growing up shy is that you tend to form a habit of adapting to those around you in order to blend in and survive in social situations. Couple this with my parents’ lack of social skills and a smooth social life and I entered my 20’s so bored of myself. Of course I had a personality but I was always so concerned with stepping on people’s toes or messing up that I suppressed a lot of it. I only gave answers that I thought people wanted to hear and therefore, no one ever really got too close to the real me. It’s hard to make friends that way and only makes you feel bad about yourself. So, stop it. Stop adapting so much to the people around you that you disappear completely. You are beautiful as you and you have every right to be yourself and have opinions as they do. You’ve worked on your character so if you act and speak through that, you have nothing to apologise for if someone chooses not to like you anyway.
Also, start journaling so that you can become familiar with your inner thoughts and feelings. This is also a great way to ramble and get all of the word vomit out of your system (just in case you struggle with that like I do). You can also conduct mini interviews with yourself where you write down lists of simple, easy to answer questions about you and answer them as truthfully as you can. This really helped me figure out what I liked and what I’m like so that I can stop being a doormat who just says “I like everything” whenever someone asks my opinion.
Step 4: Detach from other’s expectations and criticisms of you.
Something I wish I had known a long time ago is that you cannot become attached to what other people think of you. You shouldn’t become attached to the people themselves either. Just think of this: if you didn’t care what other people thought of you, what would you go out and do with your life right now? Go write that question down and then answer it in writing and reflect on it. What would you do without all of the unnecessary attachments to unnecessary people and their opinions? If that person is not close to you and they’re not someone that supports and encourages you, then what their brain comes up with about you doesn’t matter.
I used to want everyone to like me so bad so I would end up so attached to how they perceived me. I wouldn’t even really care for these people myself but for some reason I still wanted to be a certain way so they would like me. I would still sacrifice my precious time to go bore myself hanging out with them just to get some kind of invisible reward. This isn’t to be mean or dismissive of anyone. This isn’t about being petty and snobby and nasty to people. This is about learning to set boundaries so that you can live your best life. If there are people that are freely putting you down or expecting a lot out of you without giving much in return, then they are not the people for you. Why are you so worried about what they think of you? What do you think of that person? Do you like them? Are they fun to be around? Are they worth your time? You are not at everyone else’s mercy when it comes to your own well-being and social life. These are things that you build up for yourself and it’s time to be more discerning about who we let onto the building site.
Step 5: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
This is so important because taking oneself too seriously can undo so much work and make things stressful and weird with those around you. While it’s important to set boundaries and make necessary changes, remember to have fun with it and maintain a good attitude throughout the process. When you need alone time, don’t just shut your loved ones out. Let them know it’s all good, you just need some time to yourself. If someone jokes with you about what you’re doing, don’t immediately take it to heart in a negative way. Usually they mean well and as long as they’re respecting your new boundaries, it can be fun to laugh about it and bond over it. People gravitate towards chill, easygoing people and the more you can laugh at yourself and have fun with life, the more you’ll be that person. So those are my 5 quick steps to starting self love.