I know we are all treading lightly as we step into the new year. Desperate for a fresh start, yet cautious of the unknown ahead of us. It’s been a feeling I’ve shared with family members and friends as we talk about our hopes for 2021. It is common practice to set goals for yourself at the beginning of the new year, and this year should be no exception. Some of us may be discouraged to do so given the way 2020 played out. But the reality is, this is life, 2020 or not. We plan, aspire and dream, and Allah (S) is the best of planners.
As my family and I are still navigating our grief and healing
from the personal losses we endured at the end of last year, I am thinking more deeply about what it means to honor myself in the days, weeks and months ahead. As daughters, sisters, mothers, caregivers, we often take the back seat when it comes to filling our own cup before that of our loved ones. When we are not taken care of, we take care of others half heartedly, running on barely enough fuel to get us through the day.
Over the past several months I have seen the impact this has had in how I interact with my kids and husband. I can’t take care of my family and give them 100 percent if I’m not taking care of myself first. Honoring yourself goes beyond the traditional “self care” we hear and read about. While activities like pampering yourself with a spa day, going on a hike or enjoying a cup of coffee alone or with a friend are important and can help you recharge, I invite you to think deeper and more intimately about what honoring yourself means to you. Think about your mental, physical and spiritual health.
In an effort for us to help each other help ourselves, I took to my Instagram to ask my followers and peers, “what does it mean to honor oneself?” The responses I got were spot on to the personal goals I set for myself and have been a source of inspiration as I implement this concept in my own life. Below are some themes to consider as you travel this journey.
Put Yourself First
This is much easier said than done, I struggle with it on a daily basis. But learning to put your needs before those around you will make all the difference. This can happen in many ways and can be as simple as saying “no” for the sake of your mental health and sanity. As much as we’d like to think we can do it all, in reality we can’t. We were never meant to. Asking for help and learning to say no are powerful tools when used correctly and with respect.
If you feel inclined to still help (when help is asked for) but can’t offer your time or services and are able to help monetarily, then do so. The key takeaway here is to allow yourself to say no when it better serves you. It doesn’t diminish your commitment to helping and community. We must make sure of our own capacities.
Putting yourself first also comes in the form of prioritizing your own well being before others, especially those who don’t prioritize you. Admittedly this can feel impossible, especially if you take care of family. Caring for myself is something I am actively working on.
How do we start? Let’s look at the relationships in our lives – friendships, family relationships such as husband and wife, but also relationships with our parents, siblings and extended family. We also have peers and colleagues at work and acquaintances within our communities. Sometimes it’s worth your while to sit down and filter through those individuals who are negatively affecting your mental health and are putting a strain on your relationship.
Remember that relationships are a two way road, and repeated patterns of neglect, disrespect, and disregard by one side is a sign that perhaps they should not be that important to you. We have to make decisions based on where we find ourselves when it comes to our mental health. Our bodies, health, mind and wellbeing – in all of its forms – are an amanah from Allah (S) that we are accountable for and will be asked about.
It is our obligation to uphold that trust and take care of ourselves in order to be able to perform our most important duty, which is to worship Allah (S). It’s not easy to prioritize yourself when you’re always tending to everyone else before you. Believe me, I know. I love to give my all to those whom I love. But there comes a point where you give your all and find nothing left for yourself.
That is detrimental.
Know Your Self Worth & Respect
Recognizing your self worth and respect is another important way to honor yourself. We often measure our self worth by determinants like life achievements, social status, how many friends we have or even how many “likes” or “follows” we receive online. In reality, self worth and respect comes from within and is not limited to these social parameters. Being happy with who you are as a person, recognizing your right to be respected and the value you contribute to society are all essential components to a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
Increasing your self understanding
is a great way to know your self worth and respect yourself without letting those around you disregard that respect. Too often we are our own worst critics. Believe that you are capable and worthy while dismissing the negative thoughts and doubts that come along the way.
Be confident in who you are, what you believe and value, and stand up for your own rights. Decide for yourself what are the things you will allow to enter your life and what things you will not tolerate.
As Muslims, our religion is our way of life and guideline for our morals. Let that pave the path for you when thinking about things in your daily life that may or may not line up with our Islamic teachings. This can be as simple as cleaning out your Instagram feed
and filtering out those accounts that are a waste while keeping the ones that bring meaning and value to you. What we see directly impacts the way we think and feel. Social media has made it too easy for us to feel less than merely based on a perfectly curated photo, number of followers, likes and amount of engagement.
If you find yourself too immersed in that world, consider cutting it out completely and reconnect with the reality around you. Or, at the very least, take the apps off your phone for awhile.
Stay True to Yourself
More recently, I find myself telling my husband, “I don’t remember who I was before this.” Or, “I don’t even know who I am anymore. I don't recognize myself in the mirror.” As we grow up, our responsibilities and roles in life grow too, and those things can help us become better individuals. But, they can also take a toll on our true selves if we don’t care for ourselves.
Too often we (women) lose ourselves in our roles as mothers and caregivers. More recently, I have found it healing to take a step back and revisit who I was before taking on these roles. What did I enjoy? What did I like about myself? What dreams and aspirations did I have? What is my purpose here and what nurture does my soul need in order to stay connected with Allah (S)?
Taking time out to dig deep into yourself will help you revive the season of life you are in and help you reconnect with yourself. We often don’t remember to be kind to our own selves. To nurture yourself, love yourself, connect with yourself. But just as other relationships need ongoing maintenance in order to keep them thriving, we too need to tend to our relationship with ourselves to keep going.
Invest in yourself by exploring new hobbies or revisiting past interests. Find avenues and fresh ways to reconnect with Allah (S). Keep up a morning dhikr routine
, have a small but consistent wird
that you recite daily, join a (virtual) halaqa group or take a class. The internet has made it more accessible than ever to access our faith, take advantage of it! Our relationship with ourselves and those around us can not thrive if our relationship with Allah (S) is lacking.
Be kind, be gentle, and take care.