Self-Esteem and Islam – Part 1

Who am I?

Self-esteem is a realistic respect for or favourable impression of oneself, or simply self respect.  Having a high self-esteem comes with great responsibility as a muslim trying to live up to Islamic morals and attain high Islamic characteristics and behaviours. 

Self-esteem is misunderstood as how one feels about him/herself based on their personal achievments, their beauty, their social status and the like, rather than basing it on how their thoughts and actions towards themselves and others are associated to making them feel good about themselves.

There is a difference between high self-esteem, arrogance and pride.

Arrogance is a negative trait in which one thinks highly of oneself, compares oneself with others and believes he is better than others.  Arrogance is a false sense of self-worth.  It is when you think you are better than others based on what societies standards, — ‘I am wealthy so I am better than you’ or smarter, taller, prettier, etc.  There is a discrepancy between who they are and who they perceive themselves to be.  A truly grounded or healthy person has no need to be arrogant.

Pride can be both negative and positive; negative pride is the same as arrogance. Positive pride, on the other hand implies a sense of responsibility toward everything that you aim at doing, that you try your best in whatever you does.  Taking pride in something is about trying to excel in what you do, to improve yourself, to make whatever you do better, to do your best; and to feel good when you have achieved that goal; in this sense it is similar to the concept of ihsân in Islâmic terms.

Self-esteem can be negative (low/unhealthy) or positive (high/healthy); at the positive end of the spectrum it is a sense of feeling at peace with yourself when you have done the right thing in the best possible manner; when you have lived up to your expectations and according to your high values.  There is no discrepancy between who you are or who you believe to be.

However, at the negative/low end of the spectrum it manifests itself in two ways… either as a sense of worthlessness or the flip side of it, as arrogance. 

High self-esteem is can be characterized by you being: tolerant, patient, respectfull, responsible, honest, seeking to improve whatever you do (ihsân), self-motivated, willing to take risks, loving and lovable, kind, generous, helpful to others, and takes responsibility and control of their lives. 

Low self-esteem can be characterized by behaviors that exhibit insecurity, victim mentality, weakness, lack of confidence and self-absorption; since worth is believed to be an external quality that comes to one if one possesses something, e.g. wealth, education, etc.  Low self-esteem is due to a discrepancy between the guiding self-ideal (how I would like to be) and the perceived self (how I am).  And it is to cover up the discrepancy that one acts arrogantly.

(There’s more to come in Part 2!)

By Amanda Adhami

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One Response

  1. Dear Amanda
    Assalamualaikum
    Your write up on self-esteem is an oasis to me. Your explanation slots well into my mind, just like the other half of a ‘broken[ coin
    Wish you well in your effort to project ideas or documentations in line with Islamic principle.
    Last but not least, appreciate it if you would allow me use some if not all phrases that are correct and apt in dealing with self-esteem matters in my daily life to propagate Islamic values.
    Thanks
    Wassalam
    ali othman,1604hrs.Friday 280111.(andalas)

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