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Help Me Navigate This World Obsessed with Beauty

17 January, 2023
Q Assalamu Alaikum!

I am single due to some familial restrictions. That is, my family isn't very social and active in this regard. My mother isn't interested in finding a match for me because she thinks I'm too ugly and fat to get married.

Something I want to clarify. I live in a bigger body and am genetically fat. I've been bodyshamed my whole life and people don't believe it that I don't have any unhealthy eating habits or that I've tried diets my whole life. As a grown woman, I've realized that I don't want to be at war with my body my whole life. I've decided to be gentle and forgiving towards myself and focus on making my lifestyle healthier according to my own needs, instead of forcing my body to fit a size it's not genetically meant to be. Obviously i might become somewhat smaller in size. But i won't become the super skinny ideal. But i have started liking myself the way Allah made me and I'm trying to nurture myself without worrying too much about looks.

But that's my journey. The fact remains that others don't share it with me. To them I'm ugly and morally corrupt because skinniness equals virtue.

I'm comfortable being celibate and single too.

But I'm pressured to become skinny so i can find a husband. Because men want wives who are tiny. Obviously physical perfection isn't something we can guarantee as humans. So how do we navigate this world obsessed with beauty while not fitting into a mould? Should i give up on the idea of marriage because I'm not skinny? I can become somewhat smaller but not the size zero ideal. I'll still have some flesh on my body because that's my genes. Should I give up on this idea that maybe relationships are about being together with all the ups and downs of our physical realities? It's very confusing and i think my head's all messed up. I'm not very picky about looks myself. To me it's about having common core values like kindness and loyalty as spouses. But obviously the world wants glamour etc. My family also won't explore matches because they are sure I'll get rejected.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

  • The only standard by which we need to measure ourselves is the sight and pleasure of Allah.
  • Switch focus. Simply do not pay attention to these ads, images; they are artificial and distorted manifestations of reality.
  • Feeling accepted by your family members, especially your mother, is indeed something that can be much harder to ignore.
  • If you would like to get married, do not give up; rather, look for alternatives.

Salam alaikom wa rahmatullah sister,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I understand what you are going through.

And while it seems that you are still struggling with “navigating in this world,” alhamdulillah, in your letter I also read very positive and self-accepting comments about yourself.

And I would start with this, as this is so important, masha’Allah.

Accepting Yourself

You say that you do not want to be at war with your body and have started to be gentler and more forgiving with yourself. You say that you focus on having a healthy lifestyle and habits according to your needs instead of trying to strive for a body shape to fit into societal expectations.

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Sister, masha’Allah, you are on the right track. This is the right approach.

You know, our body is an amanah, a trust from Allah (swt). He created you this way, and there is wisdom and perfection in His ability to create, so we should not question and doubt our physical appearance. So exactly as you say, our primary concern should be taking care of the health of our body.

Yes, there is pressure from society, but the only standard by which we need to measure ourselves is the sight and pleasure of Allah. This will help us accept ourselves as we are and try to be healthy in order to be able to serve him better.

Beauty and Standards

Sister, beauty is a very subjective thing. We are created in diversity, and while no one is perfect, everybody has something beautiful and adorable.

And human attraction perfectly fits into this diversity; our likes, tastes, etc. differ. Additionally, personal taste is somehow influenced by cultural norms and expectations, but beyond that, everyone has their own personal beauty standard.

Another thing are the trends and fashion that want to tell us what we should look like, what we need to eat, do, etc. in order to be “happy.”

These trends are created purely for the purpose of consumption, commerce, and money generation, and they serve the interests of some, but they are not “real” standards.

So, if you are asking how to navigate in this world obsessed with beauty, I would say that by switching focus. Just simply do not pay attention to these ads, images; they are artificial and distorted manifestations of reality.

It is actually something very important to keep in mind, as this distorted reality can affect your mental health and well-being, leading to issues with self-worth, self-esteem, and even depression for not “being good enough.”

Feeling Accepted

So, if you notice that some content has a negative impact on your self-acceptance, simply unfollow and remove it.

At the same time, I think that feeling accepted by your family members, especially your mother, is indeed something that can be much harder to ignore. This lack of unconditional love can result in your struggle with fighting the beauty standards of society.

Sister, I am very sorry that your parents think that you are ugly and no one will marry you. I am sure that this is not true.

It must be hard to deal with this, as you do not deserve this criticism. No one, especially your loved ones, should disrespect you this way, as it is like disrespecting Allah, who created you in this shape.

You say that your mother does not bother with finding you a spouse.

Sister, I am not sure whether you have talked with your mother about how this makes you feel. I encourage you to talk to her about this. She needs to realize that her words are harmful and not beneficial.

You might involve a mediator (counselor, imam, other family member) who helps you find healthier ways to treat each other in the family.

Your parents cannot prevent you from marrying as long as your goals and attitude in the marriage search are Islamic and your future spouse meets the conditions of an Islamic marriage.

Find Alternatives

Actually, it is her (your parents‘) duty to support you in finding a spouse, but if she is not there for you, you might find someone else who helps you with the search.

If you would like to get married, do not give up; rather, look for alternatives.

Is there anyone in the community you can turn to? If there is a trustworthy member there, you might share your willingness with him/her and ask for his/her help with the marriage search.

Or try to mention your willingness to some friends and people in the community. You do not need to be loud about it; when it is appropriate, share your plans with others. 

Also, there are options online. Nowadays there are Islamic marriage search sites, and you can look around there also.

Take Care of Your Self-Esteem

And one more thing: you say that while you start to like and accept yourself for who you are, others are not sharing your views.

Sister, if anyone is trying to hurt your self-love and worth, know that it is not about you; it is about them. They probably have their own issues with accepting themselves.

So, please try to distance yourself emotionally from those comments. The most important thing is to love yourself and be loved by Allah.

Also, take care of generalizations: just because they do not accept you, I am sure that there are people who would like you as you are and for who you are.

If you think that you need to further strengthen your self-esteem, I recommend self-help books and courses on the topic.

Take some counseling sessions where you can boost your self-esteem and self-acceptance. Preferably, find a counselor with an Islamic approach.

This would also help you stand up for your needs regarding your future and marriage.

I am sure that, with the help of Allah, you will gain enough strength to articulate your willingness to find a partner, and, in sha Allah, your attempt will be successful.

May Allah help you with it,

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

About Orsolya Ilham O.
Orsolya Ilhaam Oszter holds a BA degree in Communication and Manager in Public Relations, with a specialization in Andragogy. She completed her studies in the BSc Psychology department of International Open University, where she also studied Islamic sciences. She obtained certificates in Islamic Counseling and Islamic Marriage Counseling. Previously she worked in a client-centered atmosphere; currently, as a translator, counselor, and content creator related to Islam, counseling, and psychology. She is a mother of 2 and lives in Spain.