Does Being on Facebook or Instagram Make You Feel Like You’ll Never Be Good Enough? If So, You Have to Read this.

I was having a chat with a new friend, N, on the topic of online personalities when she stopped me mid-sentence. Eyes wide open in excitement, her thumb swiped across the screen of her iPhone and proceeded to dance on its surface for several seconds. Beaming when she found what she was looking for, she slid her phone across the desk and exclaimed,

“Them! Their life is perfect!”

I looked at the images displayed on neat little squares. Tap.

I was about to respond when she spoke again. This time, I noticed the feverish pitch of her voice had disappeared; She sounded forlorn.

“I wish I could have a life like theirs.”

I was intrigued. “What do you mean?”

“Well, yeah you know. That girl, she’s so beautiful and she has a super successful online business. Her husband writes really well and has his own business too, and they really compliment each other. They live in a very fancy place and are always taking these wonderful photos and videos, travelling everywhere, without a care for money. Their blog posts are always so inspiring and you know…”

N’s voice trailed off and the room was silent for a moment.

“… they’re living the life that I want to have. But I can never be like them! They’re so… you know… perfect.”

In her silence I heard her say a thousand words. I looked down at the phone in my hand again. Swipe Two blissfully happy faces grinned back at me from behind the screen. I returned my gaze to N, only to find her head hung low, defeated.

I took a deep breath. I didn’t like what I had to say, but I knew I had to.

“Babe, I know them. The girl is one of my best friends. And they’re not as perfect as you think they are.”

Silently, I prayed that my best friend would forgive me (she did).

The Fallacy of Online Personalities

 

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I have ruminated on this issue of online personalities for a very long while, being on both sides of the fence. On one hand, I struggle with issues of self-confidence and sometimes even jealousy when I see “a perfect life” portrayed online. On the other hand, due to myonline personality (the one you’re reading now), I’ve heard of people who get issues of self-confidence and jealousy because they think that I am the person they want to be.

The truth is that neither of these situations are better than the other. With the former, I beat myself up and suffer heartbreak because I feel I can never be as good enough as someone else. With the latter, I beat myself up and suffer heartbreak because I feel I can never be as good enough as the person people think I am.

And because my heart was broken either way, I had to resort to collecting hearts on social media to make myself feel whole again.

It was only after a recent spontaneous lecture by Shaykh Ebrahim that I began to understand what was happening within me. According to the Shaykh:

“The degree to which you flatten another is the degree to which you flatten yourself.” – Shaykh Ebrahim

In essence, the dimension in which we perceive others makes all the difference as to how we perceive them.

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In N’s case, she perceived my best friend the only way she was able to — in 2D — because all she had access to was my best friend’s online personality made up of Facebook updates and Instagram pictures. And in my case, I was able to perceive my best friend in 3D, with all her depth and complexities, because I know her not just in reality, but I’ve had enough conversations with her to know who she is as a person.

Taking it a step further, when we continually view the life of others in 2D, we then begin to forget the complexities that live within us, and begin to view ourselves in 2D as well. Because N perceived my best friend’s life as perfect, then her own life is by definition the exact opposite: imperfect.

Sidetrack: This doesn’t just apply to online personalities. When we judge a person by first impressions, we are in essence perceiving them in 2D as well.

So to whom shall we place them blame?

As the answer usually is for the above question — ourselves.

I’ve read arguments online that the online personalities should take the blame because they’re the ones who create a false perfect image of themselves. But to these arguments I pose a question: “Why would anyone sane hang their dirty laundry in public?” Even in Islāmic thought we are asked to cover our sins!

The reason why we should blame ourselves is because it is us who choose to consume these images, and it is us who allow our thoughts and emotions to run unbridled and undisciplined. We see these images over and again, we flatten people, and subconsciously, over time, we begin to flatten ourselves.

We should blame ourselves.

After all that’s been said, I believe that it is still possible to consume content by online personalities without damaging ourselves to such an extent. What it takes is a keen awareness of what’s happening within us, and a determination to control our train of thought.

5 Steps To Accepting Yourself

Step 1: Remind yourself that online profiles are 2D (and cropped)

If you follow my Instagram account, you’d know that I’m in South Africa now, and you’d automatically assume I’m on a spiritual high for the past two months due to all the beautiful quotes and images I’ve been uploading.

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While those images and quotes are not made up, what most people forget is that those content are from quite literally perhaps only 5 minutes out of the 1,440 minutes in my day! How was I during the other 1,335 minutes? I’ll let you in on a secret: In the first month, I was actually so miserable and bitter that my best friend couldn’t help but break out in laughter when I called her to cry and complain; she had totally assumed I was in a state of perpetual bliss due to the content in my Instagram account.

So the next time you see pretty beaches, hipster cafes, and perfect smiles abound, remind yourself that what you are seeing is only a screen capture of an entire endless reel of video footage; it’s not all there is to it.

Step 2: Know that everyone — every single one of us on this planet — is fighting a hard battle

Once you are reminded of the dimension factor, you then need to begin recognising the depth and complexity that each human being on earth posses; no one is without problems or trouble.

I once knew a millionaire who had all the money to do whatever he wanted and seemed like he was set for life. However, I later found out that the poor man could not even sleep at night without pills and alcohol because he was constantly anxious of people stealing his money and his partners’ loyalty to him.

No-one’s life is perfect. People have issues, couples have fights, everyone’s fighting a hard battle. That’s real life.

Step 3: Be aware that you yourself are in your own battle

Now that you’ve addressed the way you consume the media of the other, the next step is to then shine the focus on yourself:

Just as others have their battle, so do you.

This seems like a statement that’s a given, but often many among us are too harsh with ourselves, beating ourselves up for things we feel we have fallen short of. Be gentle with your own soul, and recognise that you too have your own battles and you’re not just wasting your life away.

Step 4: Identify and count the gifts and blessings you’ve been given

A depressed (not in the clinical sense) person is a person who does not count his gifts and blessings.

What really happens when you constantly view the online content of others’ is that you are constantly being made aware of all the things that you don’t have in your life. You don’t have that fancy Ferrari, you don’t have that beach holiday at the Maldives, you don’t have that handsome husband as a partner(!).

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Thus, just by looking at the ratio of time you are online to the time you spend actually reflecting on your life, it is thus not surprising that your attention is occupied with the things that you are lacking with, as opposed to the gift and blessings that God has given you in abundance.

“Which of the blessings of your Lord shall you deny?”

So the next time you’re feeling like you’re never going to be good enough, count your gifts and your blessings, and know that God created you with all the things you need to have your own “perfect” life.

Step 5: Learn from the good and improve yourself each day

Lastly, learn and benefit what you can from these online personalities, but at the end of the day, make an effort to improve yourself.

I have been doing some mentoring work the past few weeks, and what I discovered was that when people feel despondent of their own lives vis-à-vis the life of others’, the true issue that lies at the core is that the person himself knows deep inside that he has not done all he can to be a better person and to lead a better life.

In the end…

…  No one in this world can tell you (not even a million online personalities from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatever) that you’re never going to be good enough if you yourself know from within you that you’re doing the best you can each day to be the best version of you. 

Okay? ;)

P/s. I’ve just put up Shaykh Ebrahim’s books for sale right here on Fadhilahwahid.com! Check them out :)

Quick Guide to Masjid Customs

I remember the first few times I reentered the masjid after years of avoiding it. I was literally lost in all sense of the word – from finding the way to the wudhu’ area and the prayer hall, to being flat-out confused as to why everyone prayed two rakaats for Maghrib as opposed to three*. The fact that a pakcik shouted at me to put on a hijab did not help either (but more about that later)!

Entering a new territory, or even trying something new, takes lots of courage. We are forced to leave our comfort zones and enter the ‘great unknown’, a space filled with doubts, questions and loads of fear. I’ve been there, so I really honest to goodness, know how it feels.

Recently, I spoke to a sister who wanted so much to enter the masjid, but her fear stopped her. And because I am here in Malaysia and I cannot physically be there to accompany her, I have compiled together a very brief guide to masjid customs (as according to Singapore & Malaysia). My hopes are that insyaAllah your ‘great unknown’ will be reduced, even by a little.

This guide is by no means comprehensive, but insyaAllah, it will be enough for you to start making that first step into the house of Allah SWT. May all of us benefit!

1. The azan (call to prayer) signals that the time for a specific fardh prayer has arrived

If you would like to pray alone, you can start praying once the azan is over, but do so at the back row so that others who want to perform prayer in congregation can do so without you being in the way. However, if you would like to pray in congregation (recommended!), read on.

Fact: Each row of prayer is called a ‘saf’.

2. Once the azan is over, most of the congregation will start performing their sunnah prayers

A sunnah prayer is not a compulsory prayer, but an additional prayer done by the Prophet SAW. However, there are specific sunnah prayers with different rakaat done at different times of the day:

  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers before Subuh (Fajr)
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers before Zuhr
  • 2 or 4 sunnah prayers before ‘Asr
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers before Isya’

Fact: A sunnah prayer accompanying a fardh prayer is called a sunnah rawatib prayer. More specificially, a sunnah prayer that is done before a fardh prayer is called a sunnah qabliah prayer (where‘qabliah’ literally translates to the word ‘before’).

3. After a short while, the ‘azan’ will be heard again

Notice however, that this time, instead of repeating the phrases twice, the bilal (the man who recites the azan) will only recite it once. This second ‘azan’ is actually called the Iqamah, and it signals that congregational prayer is about to begin (you will start seeing people shuffling to the front saf).

Fact: The term ‘bilal’ actually comes from the name of the companion of the Prophet SAW, Bilal Bin Rabbah, who was the first ever in history to recite the call to prayer.

4. Start praying in congregation

You made it this far, Alhamdulillah! At this point, I understand that sometimes its hard to remain focused during prayer when you don’t understand a single word of Arabic.

It’s ok. Really.

The next time you are in the train on the way to work / school / holiday etc, open up that iQur’an app on your phone, and learn the meaning of the first verse of Al-Fatihah by heart. Slowly increase your understanding, verse by verse, day by day. There is nothing like prayer with understanding, alhamdulillah

Fact: The Imam will recite the verses aloud only during the Fajr, Maghrib and Isya’ prayers

5. Closing Du’as & Sunnah Prayers

After saying the “Assalamualaikum”s once the prayer is over, the custom here in Singapore/Malaysia is that most Imams will start reciting a du’a with the congregation. However, some Imams don’t.

Again, it’s ok.

Reciting the du’a loudly was part of the practice of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, and so was reciting the du’a softly. Hence, when the Imam recites it loudly, you have a choice of following his lead (or not). Likewise, when the Imam recites it softly, you can do your own du’a. Both are acceptable, inshaAllah.

Additionally, you might notice some people actually leaving the saf during or after the du’a, and starting another set of prayers. Just like there are sunnah qabliah prayers, there are also sunnah prayers after the fardh prayers (which are called sunnah ba’diah).

These too would vary accordingly depending on the fardh prayer:

  • 2 or 4 rakaat sunnah prayers after Zuhr
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers after Maghrib
  • 2 rakaat sunnah prayers after Isya’

Once you are done, spend some time just soaking in the atmosphere of the masjid, use it to reflect and have conversations with Allah SWT, and don’t forget to leave a small donation before you go!

Fact: All mosques in Singapore are asked to be financially self-sustainable, which means that your small donation actually helps a lot in paying for their bills and whatnot.

BONUS: The masjid attire dilemma

Remember I mentioned in the introduction I got shouted at by a pakcik due to my improper dressing? I forgot to mention that he did it from the first floor of the masjid, whilst I was on the second floor, in full view of the entire masjid.

Totally embarrassing. But also, totally my fault.

I entered the masjid wearing a pair of t-shirts and jeans, and had the mindset that the masjid and community should actually welcome the youth in all manners of dress. After all, isn’t it good enough that the youth actually want to enter the masjid?

What I failed to realise is that there is a proper time and place for everything. When we meet our boss at work, we are expected to dress in office attire. When we visit the Minister or Sultan, we are informed to put on formal wear or risk being turned away. So why do we feel like it’s perfectly fine to ignore the dress code when we want to enter the house of the King of kings?

A loose cardigan and a shawl wouldn’t take much space in your bag, and they take all of ten seconds to put on prior to entering the masjid ;)

I hope this short guide to Masjid customs benefit you, and Alhamdulillah, inshaAllah everything up there is sahih (correct) as it has been checked and approved by an ustadhah I know. Remember that the first step is always the hardest, but as the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. says,

Allah swt says: “When my servant takes one step towards Me, I take ten steps towards him. When my servant comes walking towards me, I come running towards him.”

May Allah swt make our change easy for us, and may He keep us on His deen, and gift us the blessings of determination, courage, and patience to change ourselves for His sake. Allahumma ameen!

*The reason  people prayed two rakaats for Maghrib prayers was actually because they were not praying Maghrib! They were praying the sunnah prayers heh silly me.

How to Enjoy your Dining Experience at the Restaurant of Life

Welcome and thank you for dining at our restaurant — the Restaurant of Life. Every man, from the first to the last, have gone and will go through these doors and have a meal with us, but many have and will leave the restaurant unfulfilled and unhappy.

But not you. Definitely, not you.

You will leave these doors fulfilled and happy. When your meal is done, you will step outside, content. And when you look back into the restaurant, you will have nothing but the sweet aftertaste of an unforgettable experience; the kind that leaves you with no regrets, the kind that restores you with hope in tomorrow.

“Why is it,” you may ask, “why is it that I will leave fulfilled and content, when countless end up with nothing but the bitter aftertaste of regrets? Aren’t all of us dining at the same restaurant and served with food cooked by the same Chef?”

The answer is simple, our wonderful guest. Although the Chef is the same, and the restaurant is the same, there is one element that differs for every guest that enters through those doors – the guest himself.

You. You are different.

You are unlike any other guest that enters through those doors. And thus your outcome will be different.

You see, in the Restaurant of Life, it is you who will determine your own dining experience. It is you who would have made the choice, consciously or unconsciously, to leave with a sweet or bitter aftertaste. It is your thoughts, decisions, and actions that will determine if you will look back at this dining experience with fond memories or regrets.

So step in, and have a seat. The Chef will be serving you His special shortly, cooked especially for you with nothing but love and infinite Mercy. To help you get the best of your dining experience with us, here are 5 House Rules that you should follow in the Restaurant of Life.

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How to avoid the mistake of harmful sharing

I used to share every single interesting thing I come across on social media. Any content that made me laugh, caused tears to stream down my face, or even those which left me fuming with anger, were all shared,  just because I could

At first, I didn’t think much about it. It’s just sharing content, right? However, over time noticed a similar pattern in my actions and emotions when it comes to sharing content on social media:

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First, I noticed that whenever I find content that I found interesting, the first thought that comes to my head upon consumption of said content is: “I should share this.”

Then, without any hesitation, I’d click on the “share” button, spend a minute (or maybe fifteen?) adding my thoughts and feelings as comments, and then give my confirmation: “Submit”.

My shared content and comments now online, I’d then spend the next few minutes “casually” reloading my page again and again, feeling my heart skip a beat whenever the number of likes and shares increase.

When that number eventually plateaus, I then find myself subconsciously looking for the next piece of content to share or comment on. In my mind, I could see nothing wrong in what I was doing; in fact, I was doing a service! I was educating people with my “insights” or delivering entertainment, depending on the nature of the content.

And so I consume and share, consume and share, without giving much thought.

Unfortunately, without realising it, I had gotten myself addicted to the “rewards” of sharing content — the affirmation of my opinions, the satisfaction of receiving attention, and the security in making connections.

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What do you choose to see?

Since enrolling into the university’s news team, I noticed a peculiar thing happening to me.

It started innocently enough; an action born out of necessity even. As I walked through the hallways on campus, my head began to automatically turn to face the notice boards lining the walls. With every step, I would scan the boards in their entirety, looking for noteworthy events that my team and I could include in the next day’s broadcast.

Unsatisfied by the lack of physical posters, I did the same in the virtual world. Like a perpetually turned-on detector, I would scour the internet for hours sifting through online groups, websites, twitter lists and even Google alerts to get the pulse of the university. Then the scanning slowly spilled into reality. Every single waking moment, every step I take and every moment I experience, my mind asks only one thing – “Is this news?”.

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How to be an Early Riser

Years ago, my morning routine would involve getting up for Fajr prayers on the third siren sounded by my mum, stumbling out of bed and tripping over fallen blankets, and walking like a zombie to the toilet. Then I’d do my prayers while still being half asleep and dive right back into bed, even as the sky had long transitioned from black to blue.

“Five minutes, five minutes,” I’d croak to my mum, my head buried deep in the crevices of the pillow, my fingers gesturing the number. She would stand at the door, hands on hips, and roll her eyes while warning me that it would be my fault if I was late for school.

In contrast, today I am writing this at 5am in the morning, and have actually been up since 4am. I’m wide awake, my mind busy yet clear, and I’m all set for the day!

In the first article of the two-part series on Good Mornings, I shared the benefits of being a morning person – the why of things. Today, I will be sharing how you can evolve from being a morning-zombie to a morning-cookie in 5 simple steps:

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Good Morning!

At the peak of my busy period last semester, I would often be found juggling a mountain of assignments and tests, along with my 1,001 writing activities for my newsletter, website, journal, and other publications (on top of producing my live radio show, Tracklist for the Dean’s List).

Despite that, I constantly found myself having enough free time for some me-time, like going for dinner with friends, reading book after book, attending extra classes both online and offline, or even watching the ever-exciting The Mentalist series.

What’s my secret?

I have a morning routine. And I try my best to stick to it every single day without fail.

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