This is the fifth post of the series ‘Musings For The Ardent Soul’ in which I aim to radiate benevolence via these documentations.
This is a topic that I could speak forever about.
Because this is a relationship that will outweigh any relationships you had, have or ever will have. As Oscar Wilde so gracefully articulated, it is indeed the beginning of a lifelong romance.
Without self love, your level of iman (faith) could be at the peak, yet one trial from Allah سبحانه و تعالى can send you reeling in a myriad of negative emotions. You can sip all the detox teas and kale smoothies in the world, yet without self love, you would not flourish in terms of your health, or any aspect of your life.
Our newsfeeds are bursting with quotes pushing us to embark on a journey of loving ourselves, but for someone who may be struggling to stare at his/her own reflection in the mirror, this notion is pretty much alien, and difficult to grasp. This concept, usually advocated by “chirpy” people who are always in the highest of spirits, may not be their cup of tea.
But I am here to tell you that the definitions of self love you may have come across are not entirely right. As a matter of fact, some of them illustrate this as being conceited, or loving yourself extravagantly to the point where you radiate arrogance, pride and superiority. That is not, and should not be your definition. On the other hand, self love is more than just bath bombs, body wraps and salt glows. While they play a key role in uplifting your mood and changing the rhythm of your day, if the way you love yourself is not changing the way you perceive yourself in this world, it is time to rethink the way you embody this concept.
I struggled to preserve a healthy degree of self love within me. I sat with myself a number of times, wrestled to quieten down my inner mean girl and connected with that innocent, open hearted and vulnerable girl that we all have inside of us. I waged war with the ego maniac within me, yet failed to convince her that ego is my soul’s worst antagonist as that voice had become the source of my anxiety, suffering and unease. She kept me locked away in my own minute world, separated from the present moment.
But today, I love myself enough to look at her dead in the eye and say, you are not welcome here anymore. I chased away her cobwebs that I had let linger far too long. Told her I was not sorry, for now this is MY time in the sun. (This Was The Year by Lang Leav)
“The difference between my darkness and your darkness is that I can look at my own badness in the face and accept its existence while you are busy covering your mirror with a white linen sheet. The difference between my sins and your sins is that when I sin I know I am sinning while you have actually fallen prey to your own fabricated illusions. I am a siren, a mermaid. I know that I am beautiful while basking on the ocean’s waves and I know that I can eat flesh and bones at the bottom of the sea. You are a white witch, a wizard. Your spells are manipulations and your cauldron from hell yet you wrap yourself in white and wear a silver wig.” – C. JoyBell C.
We triumph in planning out our entire lives; our careers, dreams, families, homes, vacations, etc. but we never stop to reflect over the kind of people that we want to be in all of these beautiful facets of our lives. If you want to be a person who completely trusts Allah سبحانه و تعالى, what level of energy are you vibrating at?
I grew up seeing women who were mighty religious, yet neglected their appearance, health and most importantly, their aspirations and career. It is time for us to discard the fallacy that pious women are supposed to stay home all day, amidst the anguish of the four walls. “Who will marry you if you are gearing up for a broad career?” People who are familiar with me would describe me as someone who is ‘vocal’, and someone who believes that we all have the responsibility to dismantle injustices, no matter how trivial. In this process, I have been called a rebel at times, or “too much.”
But lo, grab your cup of positivi-tea and dive right into the lives of Khadija B. Khuwaylid (RA), who was a successful merchant and one of the elite figures of Mecca. Nusayba B. Ka’b al-Ansariyah (RA), who fought in defence in the Battle of against the Meccans. Khawla B. al-Azwar (RA), who participated in the Battle of Yarmuk against the Byzantines, and was known to possess the ability of the famed general Khalid Ibn al-Walid. Aa’ishah B. Abi Bakr (RA), who apart from being one of the prime narrators of hadith, played a vital role in the political opposition during the third and fourth caliphs, Uthman Ibn Affan and Ali Ibn Abi Ṭalib, along with leading an army against the latter at Basra. Zaynab B. Ali (RA), who was a leading figure of the Ahl al-Bayt (Family of the Prophet) during the seventh century and played a central role both during and after the Massacre at Karbala AND Rabi’a al-Adawiya, who spent her early life as a slave in Southern Iraq before attaining her freedom, and founded the Sufi school of “Divine Love.”
Whilst we are familiar with the accomplishments of contemporary Muslim Women, the fact that Muslim Women also played a crucial role in the pre modern Muslim world is rarely appreciated. By sharing a handful of attributes of a few of these luminaries from Islamic history, it is my aim to dispel controversial stereotypes (among both Muslims and Non Muslims) and spark further interest and inquiry into women’s history in the Medieval and Early Modern Islamic world.
(Well, well, well. There she goes, using her post about self love (or basically anything) to ‘spew’ her feminist notions. Getting my stances back on track.)
In this process of loving yourself, the choices you make can either come from a place of love, or fear.
When you heave yourself to perform Salah out of fear of Allah سبحانه و تعالى’s wrath.
When you pursue the career path your parents opted for you out of fear of not being accepted by them.
When you cram a semester worth of study in one night out of fear of failing.
When you drill your muscles at the gym out of fear of getting fat and ultimately, being ridiculed.
When you distress yourself in a skimpy dress out of fear of being underdressed at a party.
When sacrifice your comfort to cater to the demands of others out of fear of losing them.
And when you are your worst critic out of fear of not attaining perfection.
Or, you can continue doing everything you have been doing, but for the sake of thrill it gives you once done. Because when your life consists of acts coming from a place of fear, there is always a price to pay. You will burn and wear yourself out, as your energy senses your desperation and backs off. The feeling of fullness you are supposed to experience when you manage to tick off every ‘milestone’ will follow with a burden in your mind, and an ache in your soul as you have already compromised your own sense of well being.
But when you operate from love, all that you do would be for the sole purpose of nurturing your being and soul. You will want to be the best version of yourself for yourself, and the ones whom your heart is truly inclined towards. You will push yourself during the days where you just “do not feel like it” and act your constant motivator and remainder. Because when you come from a place of love, everything that you do is an extension of that love.
You need to fill yourself up with love, so that the love you give others can spring from a place of overflow. There is no way you can nourish your world if you are empty within. Today, decide on your self care and pampering ritual. One way I pamper myself is when is when I pause and savour green tea (brewed with cinnamon, ginger, jasmine flowers and leaves, lemon leaves, rosemary, spearmint, thyme and lemongrass for fragrance as it heightens the floral bouquet) as it serves as an alluring reset button to gather my thoughts.
Engaging in these habits alleviates my mood, and leaves me at ease as they blossom my spiritual wellbeing. That inner glow that comes from committing to doing what makes you merry, despite how trivial it may be, illuminates to those around you. And that is the best thing about mastering your self love ritual(s). When you fill yourself up, the people around you are magnetically drawn to your energy for you share your happiness and love with them. Is it not beautiful?
In order to reach the peak of this element, you ought to shred a lot of repulsive layers, too. While you are focused on eliminating toxicity from your life, you may fail to realize that you are, in fact, a toxic person too. And perhaps, just perhaps, it is you who is hindering your inner peace. But in this process, be gentle with yourself. No one will back yourself unless you do. Be your own cheerleader, and encompass yourself with endless positive encouragement. You will be with ‘you’ for the rest of your life, so develop a relationship of love with yourself. You are rarely going to get it right the first time round, but accept your mistakes with grace as those mistakes are the foundation for you to finally be at peace.