Editorial Note: As part of Haute Hijab Academy, we are running a series on “building confidence” at various stages of our lives, talking about what deters us or takes away our confidence, why being confident is an important life tool and how to nurture confidence within ourselves and the women and girls in our lives.
When the hands of time turned the pages to my 50th chapter, I found myself at a crossroads. Society often leads us to believe that youth is synonymous with discovery, but I am a living testament to the fact that self-discovery knows no age. As a Muslim woman who had spent half a century balancing the nuances of tradition, faith and societal norms, my journey to find myself and build my confidence was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride.
Growing up, specific benchmarks and timelines were set for me – not just by society but also by my well-meaning community and family. Get educated, get married, have children and live a life that adheres to the teachings of Islam. While I cherish every moment and believe deeply in my faith, I sometimes felt stifled by expectations.
Over the years, I've met countless women, some younger and many of my age, who've shared similar feelings. They felt lost, their identities blurred between what they wanted for themselves and what was expected of them.
Life past the age of 50 brings with it a unique set of challenges and opportunities. As individuals navigate this stage, they often grapple with various factors that can dent their confidence. Whether it's having adult children, decades of experience in a career, or a blend of both, building and maintaining confidence becomes essential to forge a path where one feels at peace with themselves and their choices (or even lack thereof).
Deterrents to Confidence in Later Stages of Life
The transition into the later stages of life can be daunting. Empty nests, retirement, changing priorities and physical changes can lead to uncertainty, which can impact self-esteem.
Changes in one's appearance, especially as women cross the 50-year mark, can be poignant and challenging. Natural aging brings wrinkles, gray hair and other physical transformations that society doesn't always embrace. While these changes are a testament to experiences lived, wisdom gained and battles won, they can also be a source of vulnerability. Many women grapple with these shifts, juxtaposing their evolving self-image with societal ideals of beauty that often prioritize youth.
Additionally, the physical changes that come with age may make one question their usefulness. In today's fast-paced, ever-evolving world, there is a palpable fear among many individuals of becoming professionally and personally obsolete. With technological advancements and cultural shifts occurring at lightning speed, the anxiety of being left behind or rendered irrelevant looms large. This fear transcends job security and touches upon a deeper concern: The need to remain significant and valued in an age where change is the only constant.
Regret can further deter building confidence. Lingering regrets and unfulfilled aspirations cast long shadows over one's self-worth. When dreams remain just out of reach, and past decisions haunt present moments, they can erode the bedrock of confidence. These accumulated "what-ifs" and "if-onlys" often lead women to question their abilities, making them hesitant to seize new opportunities or believe in their potential.
It's a silent battle where the mind grapples with the weight of unrealized potential and missed chances.
With technological advancements and cultural shifts occurring at lightning speed, the anxiety of being left behind or rendered irrelevant looms large. This fear transcends job security and touches upon a deeper concern: The need to remain significant and valued in an age where change is the only constant.
It may seem dismal, but all is not lost! Beyond 50 offers a chance to cultivate and nurture confidence despite these possible deterrents. Embracing change, learning and looking up to inspiring role models can bolster your self-assurance. Building confidence is not just a personal endeavor – it has the potential to positively impact your well being, relationships and the generations that follow.
We know having self confidence and inner strength is important for us all. What we may not realize is how this can positively affect those who come after us (generations onward). So, let’s explore some bravado-building things we can do during this stage of life for our continued growth and self-assuredness.
Tips to Build Confidence in the Later Years of Life
If you're on a similar journey of rediscovery and confidence-building in your middle age, here are some things that have helped me along the way:
1, Self reflection: Spend quiet moments in contemplation. Understand what you truly desire from life now. It might be different from what you wanted two decades ago, and that's okay.
2. Seek counseling: Whether it's professional counseling or opening up to a trusted friend, talking helps. (But know that if you are continuously going to a friend to talk things out, counseling or therapy may be a better route.) Share your feelings and struggles; sometimes, verbalizing them helps them become surmountable.
The author at her local gym.
3. Take care of your physical health: Embrace an active lifestyle. Yoga, walking or even dancing around the living room can be invigorating. Physical activity keeps you fit and releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
4. Pursue a passion: Always wanted to paint? Or learn a new language? Now might be the perfect time. Doing something you love builds confidence like nothing else.
5. Educate yourself:
Being informed can be empowering, especially about matters that directly affect you. Continuously pursuing knowledge and learning something new
is a HUGE confidence builder. For me, diving deep into the teachings of Islam helped me understand its true essence, which is much more liberal and empowering than many believe.
6. Seek supportive communities: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. There are many groups and clubs centered around hobbies, books or even just women in a similar age bracket. They can be a great source of encouragement.
7. Celebrate small wins: Did you step out of your comfort zone? You may have spoken up about something you believe in. Celebrate it. These little victories culminate in more considerable triumphs.
8. Remember, It's never too late: Some of the most accomplished people found their true calling in their later years. It's always possible to rediscover yourself.
How is Nurturing Confidence Different Than Growing Arrogance?
If you’re a confident person, have you ever been accused of being arrogant or “full of yourself”? The concern that cultivating confidence might be misconstrued as arrogance is valid, especially within contexts that highly value humility, like the Islamic tradition. Islam, through its scriptures and teachings, places significant emphasis on humility. The Quran advises:
And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.
This emphasizes the need to avoid pride and arrogance, reminding believers to walk the earth with humility.
However, it's essential to differentiate between arrogance and genuine confidence. Confidence is believing in one's abilities, ensuring we fulfill our potential and serve our communities effectively. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:
The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both.
This hadith suggests that having strength (which includes confidence) is commendable and preferred, as long as it is paired with righteousness and good intentions. Therefore, confidence rooted in sincere self-assuredness and a desire to do good does not negate humility. They can coexist harmoniously, guiding Muslims to achieve their best while remaining grounded in their faith.
The author enjoying the beauty of nature while reflecting upon Allah's (S) blessings.
While the natural evolution of one's physical appearance and the societal pressures that come with aging can indeed weigh heavily on one's confidence, there is a shimmering beacon of hope. As we age, we accumulate a wealth of invaluable experiences, wisdom and insights. This depth-of-life understanding can be harnessed to foster a stronger, more resilient sense of self. Embracing our stories, celebrating our triumphs, and learning from our past can shift the focus from external perceptions to internal strength.
Moreover, with age comes the empowering realization that self-worth isn't merely skin deep. By connecting with our authentic selves and finding supportive communities, we can reframe the narrative of aging to one of empowerment and renewed self-assuredness.
My journey is still ongoing, and every day brings new challenges. But with every challenge comes a new opportunity to grow, learn and build on the confidence that has been steadily blossoming within me.
For every Muslim woman out there or for anyone finding their footing in middle or later ages, remember – your story is unique, and your journey is yours alone. Wear it with pride and confidence.