One of the major barriers to productivity I often hear about when I meet sisters across the world, is the lack of self-confidence. I know from personal experience that is isn’t easy to develop confidence – some people are born with it, but I believe for most of us, it has to be developed and nurtured as we grow! I often have friends and family tell me I carry an aura of confidence about me; some wonder ‘what’s her secret?’ – it has has certainly taken some training! It is really disheartening to see Muslim women who are so talented, educated and ambitious thwart their progress and productivity because they have low self-esteem. I’d like to explore how we sisters can boost our own confidence with practical tips from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Firstly, I want to remind you that Allah has honoured women, affording us rights more than 1400 years ago and endowing on us the opportunity to earn the highest stations in Paradise, through the various roles we play as daughters, wives, mothers and Muslimahs in our society. We only have to look to our historical examples of female scholars such as Aisha bint Abu Bakr to learn that achieving confidence is not a sign of arrogance or being against Islamic values. In fact, one can be confident in their faith whilst being a Muslimah in pursuit of her goals.
Remember, Allah says: “And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verse 70]
Let’s look at some of the ways I have learnt to personally conquer my fear and boost my confidence:
1. Have self-belief
As a Muslimah, if you don’t believe that you can achieve something, even if it’s a small task, this can impact your confidence greatly. The first step is to develop a positive mindset and have the belief that you are capable of doing what you set out to accomplish with Allah ‘s Help. This will take some internal work and will not be done overnight, but start by telling yourself that Allah wanted you to be the best Muslimah you can be in every aspect of your life – this will get you on the road to developing confidence.
2. Use positive language
What kind of language do you use in your daily life, whether at work, home or in the community? Do you tend to use the words ‘can’t’, or ‘don’t believe’ or ‘not sure’ often in your responses? If you do, then perhaps you are using what psychologists call ‘self-limiting’ terms which can prevent you from being confident. Instead, try to say ‘I can do this’, ‘I will inshaAllah achieve’, or ‘I am capable of..’ as this kind of language will increase your positivity and give you a sense of self-belief.
3. Dump your negative thoughts
When negative thoughts and whispers enter your mind then remind yourself of the positive language. Don’t allow yourself to be put down by these thoughts, as this will prevent you from achieving your set goals. Try writing down negative feelings and thoughts, then tell yourself the opposite of what have you have written. For example, if you have written: ‘I can’t do this because I’m not good enough’, tell yourself ‘I will try to do this and I might actually be good at it’. If you let negative thinking sabotage your productivity, then you may feel regret later in life.
4. Write down a list of your strengths
One of the most powerful exercises I have done with my mentor on a regular basis, is to discuss and write my own strengths. As an example, I have written that I have ‘good interpersonal and communication skills’ and then written an example of when I proved this such as at an event when I met with someone new. This short exercise should take no more than 20-30 minutes but will serve as a great way to increase your confidence, especially when you are feeling down. Use this list of strengths to motivate you in whatever area of work you are focussing on.
5. Read up about confidence
Confidence is not something we are all born with, but it is certainly a quality we admire in people around us. Some are gifted with it, while others have a ‘quiet confidence’ about them which we may not always perceive. There are some great resources out there to help you with confidence; one of my favourites is ‘How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking’ by Dale Carnegie. You can also search online for the many other tools and articles on why self-confidence is important especially in women, in both professional and personal capacities. Read up on the female scholars and pious women, and take lessons from their personalities and ways they handled their affairs – they are the best of examples.
6. Receive compliments gracefully
When I look back to my days of low self-confidence, I re-call compliments being vital to giving me a boost – especially when they were from people I respected, like my teachers. Some sisters on the other hand find it extremely difficult to receive compliments, and sometimes ‘defer’ them, so they put themselves down, instead of graciously thanking someone for their kind words. Although this should be carefully balanced with avoiding feelings of pride or complacency, accepting compliments when you’ve earned them can remind you that you have good qualities and traits to contribute. Respond to these compliments by saying ‘thank you, that’s very kind of you’ while acknowledging that you always have more to learn, to keep your humility.
7. Pursue something you are good at
There’s nothing more empowering than discovering you are good at something. Once you know what you are good at, you can gain a sense of self-fulfilment and maximise your confidence. For many sisters I meet, there are so many dreams and ideas they have, yet the environment or family expectations mean they are unable to pursue such activities. My advice is to keep trying until you are able to do this, it will in turn have positive psychological benefits for you and your family when you do what you love.
8. Network with new Muslimahs
Meeting new sisters is always a test of our own confidence as it can take us out of our comfort zone, but it is also a great way to improve your self-confidence by telling people about yourself. Before you go to an event, meeting or somewhere where you can network with people, think about the interesting things you like or have done to use as talking points. Hopefully it will ensure that the people you talk to have a interesting conversation with you and remember you as a confident Muslimah!
9. Be independent
Being able to do things without depending on others is a huge morale booster as it gives you a sense of empowerment and self-dignity. This may be doing something you haven’t ever done on your own before, like learning a new skill or practising a new hobby. For years I failed at driving many times before I passed! The ability to accomplish something completely independently will give you a real confidence boost.
10. Make this special dua
There is a beautiful du’a which encapsulates the need to always ask Allah to help us improve ourselves in our faith and character. It is no easy task, and this du’a will give you the strength to be confident and productive Muslimahs!
(Moses) said: My Lord! Expand for me by breast (with assurance). And ease for me my task. And untie the knot from my tongue. That they may understand my speech.’ [Qur’an: Chapter 20, Verses 25-28]