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Low Self-Esteem Led Me to Exhibitionism



Reply Date

Sep 16, 2017


As-Salamu `Alaykum. The problem I bring to you is very shameful to me, and something I have not been able to control. It actually started a few months ago. An online friend, whom I have been chatting with for some time, asked me to take my top off. Just for fun and games, I did. I have always had self-esteem issues, so to hear him praise my body felt nice. Unfortunately, it did not stop there. I moved from taking my top off to committing sexual acts over the internet. I moved from doing it for my contacts to absolute virtual strangers, whenever I felt bad about myself or my life. I can't seem to stop; it has become an addiction although I want to stop it. I can't continue degrading my body and my family this way. Will Allah ever forgive me? Please help me!



low self esteem


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum dear sister,

Thank you for writing to us with this very important question as well as trusting our response. While you did not discuss your home life, or indicate if you were in school, or working, or had a strong network of Islamic friends, these would be important considerations as they may give answers as to WHY you are doing this. I would like you to ask yourself the following questions and think about your responses. Is your home life happy? Have you experienced abuse in any form? Do you feel loved? Are you happy? Are you socially active, do you have close friends? Do you love yourself? Do you feel attractive? What advice would you have for a friend who came to you with this issue?

While I know you did not come here for questions but an answer, I do ask dear sister that you ask yourself these questions. Write them down and analyze them in context to your online behavior. This will help you better understand WHY you are doing what you are doing. Once you understand why, you can begin to stop the behavior (however dear sister, I ask that you stop it now).

Based on my experience, it seems that it is not just because you have low self esteem that you are doing this, but it may have deeper roots. While what may have begun as haram “fun and games” appears to have now turned into a need to be an exhibitionist as well as an addiction. While you are not an exhibitionist in the clinical sense (showing your private parts to unsuspecting people to shock or disgust them), you do have a desire to exhibit your body for sexual pleasure or stress reduction. Psychology Today describes exhibitionism as “a condition marked by the urge to expose one’s sexual organs to others, particularly strangers”. While I am unclear if this behavior is purely for sexual gratification or not, I urge you to also examine how you feel when you are engaged in this behavior.

Sister, I ask you to repent to Allah for this behavior, ask for His forgiveness, and PROMISE yourself you will stop immediately. Even if you do not love yourself right now, be assured that as a Muslimah, you are loved, cherished, and held in high esteem in Islam. You must begin to walk in the light of your own faith in Allah (SWT) that whatever has led you to this behavior will be resolved. Whether it was abuse, bullying as a child, loneliness, anxiety, etc., you CAN overcome it if you trust in Allah and make a conscious effort to stop.

I also suggest dear sister that you seek counseling from a therapist if you find you cannot stop on your own accord.  Although I do not believe this is a sexual addiction in that you are seeking a physical release, (but an emotional release; something that has developed from a need for self affirmation, false sense of being accepted/loved, and a way to reduce stress), it is a sexual issue as you are showing your private parts. I believe the etiology lies in your emotional deficits, no matter how false yourself perceptions may be.

Please also see the link on Stress Reduction Techniques. I urge you dear sister to follow up with the links, stop immediately, repent, ask for Allah’s forgiveness, and know that any positive reactions you feel you may be getting are not positive; they are demeaning. You are a beautiful, intelligent young woman. You are also fearful of displeasing Allah (SWT) based on your concerns if you will be forgiven. I am confident that through prayer, du’aa’, Qur’anic recitation, you will find the light within yourself to value yourself, love yourself, and most importantly, love and fear Allah (SWT) more than you love the attention you get online by exposing yourself. Yes, Allah is most forgiving and forgives all but shirk at the time of death; however, you must take the first steps towards loving yourself, and that begins with stopping this addiction of self harming behavior.

You are in our prayers dear sister. Please let us know how you are doing.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

About Aisha Mohammad

Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word poetry projects.

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