Low Self Esteem: A Disease Among The Youth


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, The Most Kind

It’s a silent one, but the affects are at large. It is one of the main causes of depression in the youth. It could be one of our closest friend, colleagues that suffer from it, or someone in our household, whether it is siblings or our own children. It’s hard to recognise it in some, and in some it is easier. We could be the ones who are impacting on it, without realizing, not that it is of any fault of our own, but it’s something which is rarely brought to attention, and rarely admitted by those that suffer from it. Those that haven’t experienced it, will have difficulty understanding it, or relate to it. It stems from a form of irrational thought. It is a major barrier or an obstacle that one suffers from, and there are no set solutions you can give to people that have low self esteem because it’s all what they have developed in their own mind, or in their ‘own world’.

The effects of it many of us underestimate, for some it has a lesser degree of affect, they may not interact well with people, may want to be alone a lot, lack confidence or lack of self belief, or low educational attainment, for some it leads to drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and committing crimes, many of which Islam condemns. One that suffers from it, takes negative comments to heart, and receptive to what others think of them. They always evaluate themselves- which is praiseworthy in Islam – yet it is a lot of negative evaluation, which blinds them from the good they have, which causes a veil for them to see their inner good, and leads to a vicious cycle. Some aim to please people, and this can affect a person’s deen, as we should intend to please Allah only in all that we do. It varies depending on what age they are.

Alhamdulila, we know Islam is a cure for all things, especially on individual reformation. Relating it from personal experience, I hope this can benefit us all insh’Allah, and see the beauty of Islam. Also recognise its dangers so we can prevent what leads to self destruction.

Before dealing with the effect, one needs to deal with the cause. Although the cause cannot be usually rewinded and changed, knowing its causes can lead to its solution. The causes are many, without going too much into detail.

From childhood, a child may be criticized negatively with those around them, which leads to lack of self worth. A child needs to be praised and told that they have done well for them to recognise their abilities and the praise gives them their confidence. Many parents have full time jobs, and cannot devote their time enough to their child. This lack of attention is another cause. Children need a lot of time and especially love. The more you speak to a child, you will find them more talkative from a young age and their language is very rich. Playing with children, with their toys, and encouraging them to play with other children, helps them have better social skills. The ages between 2-10 is a crucial time for kids and affects them for majority of their life. Finally, it could be from traumatic events which took place earlier in life, which put insecurities in them and put their confidence low. The crucial issue lies with the parenting style.

If we look deep into it, it’s what leads to a lot of sins. As mentioned before, it can lead to drug abuse, and crime. A dangerous one for women, especially the younger ones, is the attention of the opposite sex, the attention of the opposite sex makes their esteem feel a little higher, and so their beauty is taken advantage of. They may feel loved and seek a lot of attention, and also get attention, and feel somewhat uplifted from their insecurities, whereas in reality, it’s feeding the low esteem in a bad way, which only leads to more self damage.

Without getting psychological about it all, inshAllah I am putting forward how Islam came about to bring its cure, for me and it will for inshAllah many others.
Believing that turning to the deen was a way out of it, I began posing questions about how to deal with low esteem on Islamic forums, and how it was affecting me in my everyday life. I found many came forward and also had said they had the same issue, and in different forums people were asking the same question.

It really is a battle you have everyday within you, no matter how much a person tells you how good you are or what potential you have, you will never think that of yourself. Anytime you receive any negative remarks, all you think about is that, and you then feel more worthless. I looked at the Prophet’s (saw) character; he was an outgoing and friendly person, just perfect in every way. Suffering from low esteem will get you nowhere near implementing his character. I have many ambitions, whether I get there or not is up to Allah, but having this problem I thought to myself, I can’t get anywhere being the way I am. You feel trapped within yourself. I didn’t worry too much about the cause, but I knew it had to be dealt with. I found no way to get help for it, as many say see psychologists etc. Alhamdulila that was a blessing in itself that I had no access to any. Many times I suffered from depression, it got pretty bad. Du’a was my first step, asking Allah to help me overcome it. I read a lot about purifying the heart and the Akhlaq of a good Muslim, using Prophet’s (saw) example as my practical guide.

It takes courage and motivation; you can do anything, as long as you are not your own barrier, because that is the only barrier. I used the Prophets (saw) example and over time my confidence grew, I put myself out there and aimed for sincerity. Constant dua was what gets one through and remembering the ayat where Allah says Allah doesn’t change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. In whatever we do, we have to make the effort as a way for the barakah to come through.

How do we prevent this from happening to our children? Giving children time and love, teaching them both negative and positive criticism. Not expecting too much from our child, but help guide their steps slowly in each stage of their life. Parents have high expectations from children, some expect too much and it becomes a burden on them feeling that they may fail. Not that we shouldn’t aim high, but going easy on them and helping – rather than making- them make their decisions.

This is a critical issue, and although briefly mentioned the effects are what sometimes may feel impossible to overcome. One needs determination and sincere intention. We have the Prophet (saw) as a practical guide, we have Islam and Allah as our Wali, which gives us hope in all situations. There will be some that aren’t aware that this is the root of their problems, and maybe those close to them can help tackle it. Alhamdulila, there is much potential out there, and it needs to be spread. It needs to be spread by interaction, channeling and filtering ones contribution through all walks of life.

I pray Allah gives us strength and the ability to overcome our inner struggles and shortcomings. Ameen

Let Allah be the ruler of your hearts, not the duniya…..

Any good is from Allah and any errors are from myself.

Sr Aysha Khanom

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14 Comments

  1. Sr Aysha Khanom says:

    Asalaamualikum,

    InshAllah if brothers and sisters would give their views on this issue for mr further research into this, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Wasalaam

  2. Abu Malik says:

    Jzaki Allah Kair Sr Aysha Khanom for this perfect article about this very critical issue.

    This issue shows-among many other examples-that we have to read and understand Syrah of prophet sala Allah alih w sallam.

    Jzaki Allah Kair and Jzak Allah Kair Shaikh Suhaib.

  3. Atif says:

    May Allah swt bless you for this article for it has lightened my heart. I especially thought that I was the only on who had a problem with self-esteem. Many of the things which you stated in your article bring a lot of truth into my low self-esteem issue. Before I was practising the deen I had a lot of problem with myself and that certainly flowed into how I look to how I spoke. Being in the West, you get dragged into superficial things such as beauty and status. All I knew was that the good looking people where the ones who were sought out for and were likely to be more popular…Everything I tried to do was to make people happy because I wanted them to like me, when in reality I never liked myself and in some sense still don’t…

    When I started to practise, part of that started to degrade and Alhumdulillah I felt like I didn’t need to rely on my looks or my friends to make me happy. My salaah took my depression away but still at times I get days were I feel really low because I do one thing wrong and I over evaluate my self and start to put myself down. Plus the nature of my work it means I have to get evaluated all the time, therefore anything negative can really ruin my day even if its nothing personal… I can’t help it just naturally happens where I over think and try to rectify myself everyday. I have self-belief knowing that I can change myself for the better and that I can become something, but the problem lies who am I doing it for?

    It’s really complicated for me, and I rarely discuss this issue with anyone, mainly because I just to be normal and put in the back of my head! But Allah swt knows how sensitive I can be and its a real struggle somedays, my main problem is that I don’t actually realise who I am and being content with my abilities. Rather I am always trying to be like the “best” at everything. Also I’m trying so hard for people to think good of me, when in reality I loose focus and forget that it is only Allah swt is the one who really matters

    You are also right by saying parenting is something which can make a big difference. Even now I get scared of asking questions or being confident in asking question for which I feel I will get rebuked in or made to feel stupid. If you saw me down the street or saw me at work, you would never acknowledge these attributes with me, I hide them well!! In reality I guess dua is the best weapon for these, but in reality this has been the only time where I feel can open up and talk about it. I feel that if I shared these comments to someone else, they wouldn’t understand. Therefore Jazakhallah khair for posting up a sensitive area, maybe inshallah this will open up further avenues which people like us can talk and improve ourselves for the sake of Allah swt. Please remember me in your dua’s

    Wasallam

  4. I think that much of the blame for can be lain at the door step of the schools that children attend. They are thrust into a strange and hostile institutional environment where all social relationships within it are distorted. This is where they spend most of their youth until they enter the “real world” where things are vastly different.

    The trauma of schooling should not be underestimated. Furthermore, had children been exposed to real worthwhile endeavors like work, creative production, apprenticeships, internships and the like they would have discovered many many opportunities where, through work, or valuable socialization they might derive a great feeling of satisfaction.

    Good grades are hollow and satisfaction is brief, genuine accomplishment is zero. This is a very important topic but its roots should be studied in detail and much of it can probably be traced back to the general malaise of institutionalized Western society.

  5. muslimah111 says:

    Salaam Sr. Aysha Khanom

    Do you have a personal e-mail, that I can contact you?

    I would like to ask you some questions.

    Wasalaam

  6. Sr Aysha Khanom says:

    Asalamualikum

    JazakAllahu Khayran for your replies so far.

    Br. Atif, Allah give you strength, like i said it takes determination and sincerity. Everytime you do something, always think to yourself will this please Allah (swt) and is this what the prophet (saw) would do, in so and so manner? Making Allah the pinnacle of your actions.

    Remember you can never please people enough, and people forget, but Allah never changes and never forgets. You can never lose by pleasing Allah..

    You might be in situations where you have to turn down people.. but for the pleasure of Allah… having low esteem, you will waiver to please the person….all in all, choosing people over Allah will lead to regret..

    Keep this hadith in mind: I will relate the meaning here and the Prophet’s (S) exact words, he (S) said that if we desire to please people at the expense of pleasing Allah , Allah will be displeased with us and he will cause the very people were trying to please to be displeased with us. On the other hand, if we desire to please Allah even if it is at the expense of pleasing people, Allah will be pleased with us and he will cause those very people to be pleased with us.

    Keep praying and Allah give you courage! Ameen

    ‘theManOfFewWords’.. Jzk… good point..

    Wasalam

  7. Sr Aysha Khanom says:

    Salaam..

    Muslimah111 Yes sure, I will give you my alternative email, and once you email me i’ll give you my proper one..

    AYSHA.KHANOM@student.mmu.ac.uk

    Wasalam

  8. nsaq says:

    Salaam. I would just like to make a quick comment.
    Firstly thanks for the article. Secondly, I really recommend the following books if anyone has self-esteem problems.
    - Instant confidence
    - How to talk to anyone (92 tips)
    - The art of persuation (James Borg)
    I have found these to be of great benefit. They revolve around some really good practical tips, which work, If Allah wills.

  9. mima says:

    Very nice post mashAllah… I can relate to br. Atif and sr Aysha..

    I completely agree that if we were to follow Prophet Mohammad May Allah’s Peace Be Upon Him we need to have a high self esteem.

    I notice an interesting pattern here… we ALL hav been sucked into Islam coz of our low self esteems… I feel then its a blessing in disguise. As we progress in our character mahsAllah.. our self esteem has been raised by Allah!

    I will say little regarding why I think I had/have low self esteem.. but give things I found useful by Mercy of Allah. You may call them tips:

    1. Build Character rather than Personality (Difference can be understood from Bool 7 Habbits of Highly Effective People by Stephan Covey).

    2. Practice practice practice.. I practiced speech and alhamdulillah now i present well. and hosted a ceremony full of a hall of about 300 ppl.

    3. Dont dig the hole ur in. if u find negative thoughts coming. STOP! They serve as garbaged for the mind.

    Lastly id like to say that scavengers like sexual predetors are not hard to find who prey on ur low self esteem. I was very near to becoming prey and Allah saved me. i wanted attention and someone was WILLING to give it to me. He used covert ways to get me to give him what he wanted…Praise be to Allah he saved me.

    If you have low self esteem.. i have learnt being a female.. that almost always someone will be willing to give u the attention u so deparately want. DONT FALL FOR THAT TRAP. PERIOD.

    Regards,

  10. Farwa says:

    what are the main causes of low self esteem among young ones?

  11. lala says:

    If we look deep into it, it’s what leads to a lot of sins. As mentioned before, it can lead to drug abuse, and crime. A dangerous one for women, especially the younger ones, is the attention of the opposite sex, the attention of the opposite sex makes their esteem feel a little higher, and so their beauty is taken advantage of. They may feel loved and seek a lot of attention, and also get attention, and feel somewhat uplifted from their insecurities, whereas in reality, it’s feeding the low esteem in a bad way, which only leads to more self damage.
    that is so true that was one of the things i was thinking about trying to wear makeup and short skirts ,trying to constantly picture myself being someone am not and trying to fit in ,crying my eyes out because i was lonely and trying to impress and be good for the oppisite sex
    thanks alot jazakllahkhair sister for this enlighting article

  12. Omar Islam says:

    Very Good Article, Sister Aysha, and very good comments by the rest. May Allah reward all of you!!! Because After 3 years of posting this article, it still has usefulness and effect on people. Incredible how we can use the internet to increase our Hasanat…long long after we have posted something. Subahnallah, sometimes I also wonder what happened to the people who have posted about their problems several years ago after I read them. May Allah have helped and guided them to the best life they can have.

    I felt that I needed to share my story too:
    My low self-esteem, actually started around teenage years. Before that I was a very happy confident child.

    Despite my parents being wonderful and religious (Now at age 30 I can really appreciate all they have done for me) they still could not completely cope with the transition to a new country and how to support and guide me at the crucial teenage years. Let’s say they were not prepared, and were dealing with difficulties themselves.

    What happened was I went from a child at age 13 that used to count the number of times a day I would remember Allah (literally tried every 30 minutes to do dhikr, whether I was eating, playing, or on a bus, whatever) to a 16 year old boy that was lost and was trying to find his way and was not remembering Allah anymore. I was developing sexually and was confused about what was happening around me. I asked my parents (at age 14 or 15) about sex and will never forget when they said something like it’s not time for you to know this or that. I believe from that time I lost trust in them somehow. Hamdullah, I never went or did sin, but I was slowly rusting from the inside and the confusion and frustration was increasing (without me even knowing it sometimes). By the time I reached university I was mentally and physically (obesity) not doing well. But most of all I can describe the feeling as being lost, dropping out of 2 scientific majors before I found the one that was right for me and even that one took me ages to graduate from. The first year of that major I really enjoyed, but then the low self-esteem and frustration and confusion started again by the end of that year. Basically my whole twenties and university time was a living hell psychologically speaking. My self-esteem was almost 0, my Deen was 0, I became reclusive and avoiding people as much as possible and I was living on my own far from my parents and anyone who could mentally support me.

    After many years somehow my parents convinced me to finish my studies and from then on my life changed (it’s ironic how they kind of fixed what they had done wrong or what they had been lacking to give). The diploma got me a job and now at age 30, I’m going to get married to a wonderful woman (we did our official Nikah, but not ceremony yet).

    However, I still suffer from a lack of self-esteem sometimes and this kind of gets worse sometimes because I am in a long distance relationship with my fiancée. The distance from her including my low self-esteem sometimes makes me clingy and needy. Once I realize I’m doing this I try to change.

    I know that when I finally will get married in a few months it will be such a relief for me mentally, sexually, physically, psychologically. Even when I am around my fiancée (when I visit her) I am so super confident and happy, its like being another person.

    I cannot explain to you how it is to have someone you love (husband or wife) and trust with all your soul, and can tell them your deepest darkest thoughts and secrets. Someone who loves you with all their heart and soul. It is like being each others doctor, lover, mother, father, sister, brother and best friend.

    But because I have suffered for almost the last 15 years from low self-esteem, including sexual deprivation and frustration, living in a corrupt Western society (opposite of my true belief system), lack of Deen, and possibly some sort of depression. So its not easy to totally get rid of it so quickly.

    Sometimes my weak Nafs (Ego/Soul) brings me back to a low self-esteem and I start over-thinking, saying things like what if I will still be like this after I get married. It’s a constant struggle to keep thinking positive, to be thankful for the great job and wife Allah has given me now.

    Now I look back on all of it…I can truly say, that what has saved me (from going into Sin, and being lost forever, like for example drugs, sex, alcohol, suicide) is the little bit of Hope I had in Allah. This hope was very tiny when I was farthest away from Allah, but never left me, and in these last years of my story (until now), I am getting closer and closer to Allah, like I have never been before, I am literally changing by the month…It is like I am catching up the 15 years I lost but at the speed of light :-), al Hamdullah!

    My story isn’t so bad, I personally know people have gone through much worse, but I believe there are millions of Muslims living in the West (or even in Islamic countries) that have gone through something similar like me.

    I want to tell all of you just one thing:

    As a Muslim it is absolutely necessary to have Hope in Allah, to try to become as close as you can to Him to get inner-peace in your heart and mind and to reverse the low self-esteem you have inside you. HOPE is the key to change, HOPE that you will become a better person, HOPE that you can change, HOPE that you will be free from the torment of your heart and HOPE of leaving the cycle of negative thoughts of your mind.

    Hope that you will find the right person to get married to, Hope that you will find a job, Hope that you will be healed from illness, Hope that you will get a child…..and finally Hope that when you die, Allah will have mercy on your soul, and open the doors of heaven to give you ever lasting relief from the worldly life and test that has been given to your soul here on Earth.

    Believing in Allah, the creator of your soul will give you HOPE, and hope will give you patience, and patience will give you strength, and strength will give you CHANGE. Change for the good ;) Inshallah!!

    Salam Alaykum

    • isa says:

      i cannot speak for anyone else but i think hope (certainly in my case) is dangerous. I believe it is best to just accept that things are a certain way and count out the days to the end of one’s life. Im 27 and i’ve suffered from these problems my whole adult life. I am very ashamed and embarrassed about my appearance and find being in social situations uncomfortable. I cannot work because my depression is made worse and i often have strong suicidal thoughts. If i was not a muslim i would have ended my life years ago. sometimes i pray for death..but i just tell myself that i must be prepared to see out the rest of my life if allah doesnt end me soon. It’s ok, i suppose coz i dont want to marry or have kids, i love being alone as much as possible. I wish i could run away and live in the wild and worship allah. I feel fine about things wen im on my own. The difficulty is when i have to be around other people. Im tired of being made to feel ugly and inferior. People have always said horrible things about my face, do u think any amount of anti depressants, counselling sessions will make me look better? no way. and as for changing my opinion about myself i think that is not right. I am what I am. If allah made me ugly and quite repulsive looking…do i kid myself into thinking i am good looking? no of course not. ALlah won’t change my looks and I don’t shouldn’t have hope that he will because i’ll wait and wait and wait and nothing will happen. I just need to accept that ‘yeah..im a pretty ugly looking person..but its not my fault’ course i still feel terrible in public which is why i won’t live out my days anywhere except the wilderness now.

  13. Isa says:

    I have had low self esteem since i was about 17 and im 27 now. it gets worse and worse. i feel so trapped and ashamed of my appearance. i have very strong suicidal thoughts, i cannot work. My depression is tearing me apart. i am thinking of either ending my life or running away and living in the wilderness for the rest of my life. I am so embarrassed of myself in social situations. I do not think things will ever change for me, as time goes by it becomes more difficult. i know for certain i would have executed myself by now if it weren’t for the fact that i am a muslim. I am not a functional human being and never will be. all the people i know are married and have kids and i am becoming more and more introverted and reclusive and suicidal as time passes. i cannot exist like this..i cannot.

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