In this counseling answer:
“If you can pinpoint some time or occurrence, thought or feeling that preceded the beginning of self-praising, then perhaps you will gain some insight as to why you do it as well as how to stop.”
As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,
I am not sure what you mean by self-praise. Is it saying something positive about yourself to counteract negative self-thoughts praising yourself for certain actions such as charity or kindness? I am also not sure if this happens all the time compulsively or only on various and sporadic occasions so I will try to answer to the best of my ability.
You stated this “self-praise” began about 8 years ago. Do you recall how it began and why? If you can pinpoint some time or occurrence, thought or feeling that preceded the beginning of self-praising, then perhaps you will gain some insight as to why you do it as well as how to stop. For instance, if you were failing miserably at school and your parents constantly stated: “Oh, I know you can pull your grades up, you are so smart!” This praise, if internalized, may have served to boost your self-esteem to start believing in yourself academically, thus, resulting in good grades. However, if it was taken later on in the context that you are ‘higher, better than others”, it may have turned into conceit.
Sage states that “Self-praise is the use of positive statements made to oneself after exhibiting an appropriate behavior that one desires to increase. Such self-statements increase the probability that the target behavior will occur in the future (i.e., reinforce the behavior). Self-praise is one method of self-reinforcement, and, like other self-reinforcement strategies, it typically is used within the context of self-monitoring procedures.”
Perhaps, you are using self-praise as a sort of self-monitoring system to re-enforce the behaviors or thoughts you would like to increase or sustain. If so, while your intentions may be good to sustain/increase the behaviors you are praising, the method which you may be using is not. By self-praising to encourage a good behavior, you are sounding self-righteous with a lack of humbleness and humility. These are not qualities a Muslim would want as you know. However, as pointed out above, these techniques are used either consciously as part of a healing procedure or acquired through learned responses which becomes a habit.
As you stated that you tried to stop and cannot, I am wondering what methods have you used to try to stop, and do you truly want to stop. Is there a fear subconsciously that if you stopped praising yourself, yourself worth would diminish? Dear sister, I ask you to in sha’ Allah look at these questions with great thought. Perhaps, write down the reasons why you praise yourself and write down the feelings associated with it.
I also suggest that you make a list of your most commonly used ‘praise words’ and next to these words, write a corresponding word relating to how it makes you feel as well as the purpose of the word. In sha’ Allah, you will begin to see a pattern of your subconscious feelings emerging which will give you insight as to why this is happening. I would also suggest sister that every time you begin to praise yourself, you visualize a huge sign with the words ‘STOP’ written on it. This will be your cue to stop and count to 10 and say something different. For instance, if you feel like saying ‘I am such a wonderful wife’, visualize the ‘Stop’ sign, and count to 10 and rephrase your statement into one such as ‘I hope in sha’ Allah to be a good wife”. This is re-enforcing modesty, humbleness, and gratitude for Allah’s mercy in our requests to be better Muslims.
This will in time become a habit in sha’ Allah, and you will automatically use more Islamic and modest terms to describe how you feel, or rather how perhaps you wish you felt. As a habit takes about 21 days to develop, I would like you to do this for at least 21 days. It will take some effort sister, but I believe you can overcome this bad habit with persistence and determination. Make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) to help you with this problem, sincerely repent and ask for His guidance as you seek to become more humble and display modesty in regards to self.
QuestionsOnIslam states ‘it is possible to evaluate the limit of modesty in two ways: The first one is the modesty which develops in relation with Allah (swt). The modesty which originates from this awareness of being a servant to Allah (swt) and from comprehending Allah’s greatness, the modesty of those who do not think they have got anything special – independently – is worthy of praise”. It is my feeling and I may be wrong, that all this self-praising you are doing is covering up something else much deeper. I encourage you to find out what it may be and address it as well.
Often people with low self-esteem are taught to counteract the negative thoughts they have about themselves by finding good and positive traits to focus on and assimilate the positive into their cognitive thought processes. However, there is a danger that in some people it can develop into a habit (as you have) or a compulsion wherein they cannot stop. This may be anxiety related and may often have other underlying related psychological issues such as OCD.
While you did not expound upon your mental health status or other bothersome symptoms, I would suggest in sha’ Allah that you take the self-test for anxiety as well as seeking the help of a professional therapist in your area if you cannot control your compulsive self-praising, as it would indicate a deeper problem which needs evaluation.
You are in our prayers sister. Please let us know how you are doing.
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