I'm single because my family had a belief that marriage should only happen within one's family. Since there weren't a lot of cousins in my generation, it couldn't happen. My family doesn't socialize outside the family. They've tried to find a match outside the family a few times, but got disheartened and scared. I've realized that I'll have to ask my own sources like friends etc to help me find a spouse.
The trouble is, I'm scared, and sadly, I also don't have friends with social connections. The professional matchmakers have very high standards when it comes to women. If you're older than 25, not breathtakingly beautiful and rich, they don't even bother introducing you to nicer families.
I don't like using the word 'standards' when talking about human beings, but I have lowered my standards all the way down to hell, and it made me realize it's also not a good strategy for a woman. I have tried to shed away my unfair desires, like I don't seek the merits in a partner which I don't have myself. I'm not VERY attractive, so I'm not looking for a beautiful partner, although I do need some level of physical attractiveness, but my priority is someone who is beautiful inside. It is a cliche, but as a woman in a patriarchal world, I don't want to end up with an abusive person who isn't an evolved soul. I have a Masters degree, but I'm not too fussy about my partner having a certain degree. So when I talk about wanting an educated partner, it means someone with an evolved, civilized, and educated mind. And yes, I do need some level of financial stability. I'm not trying to do the math too hard. I've suppressed a lot of feelings and ideas. But it just confuses me. Is it wrong to want a nice partner unless I'm super pretty and really young myself? Even after doing away with most materialistic criterias, I feel scared that I don't deserve a good partner. Sometimes I wish I could get a chance with someone out of my league. But I want someone who's at least a good, well rounded, civil and mature person. I can work on my looks because I've been told I'm ugly and no man will want me, but even becoming pretty won't make my self-image issues go away. Mainly, I have this fear that I'll end up with a crude, ugly-from-inside, terrible human being because I don't deserve nice things in life.
Salam Alaikom Sister,
Thank you for sharing with us your concern.
As I understand, you would like to get married, but you are struggling with thoughts about your self-worth, your attractiveness, and your general standards for marriage.
You feel that you do not deserve a good partner, but you also state that you deserve somebody “evolved, civilized, and educated mind” and you “do need some level of physical attractiveness, but your priority is someone who is beautiful inside”
And you write that you are “not very” attractive, but you also write that you find yourself “ugly and no man will want you”.
I am sorry for your situation, sister. But I have the feeling that these issues have a lot to do with how you perceive them, not how the situation actually is. Reading your letter made me remember the following ayat of the Quran:
Indeed, Allah would never change a people’s state ˹of favour˺ until they change their own state ˹of faith˺. (Quran 13:11)
If you want to see yourself as a smart, lovable, nice human being, worthy of the love of others, first, you have to change your perception of yourself. How?
Learn to love yourself
Sister, you have to learn to love yourself. Accept yourself for who you are. Accept that Allah created you this way, so certainly there is wisdom behind it. Start with loving Allah with all your heart first and foremost instead of any desires and expectations you are seeking to fulfill.
Still there are some who take others as Allah’s equal—they love them as they should love Allah—but the ˹true˺ believers love Allah even more. (Quran 2:165)
Here is a powerful dua from Prophet Dawuud, supplicating for the love of Allah and those who love Him:
“O Allah, indeed, I ask You for Your love and the love of those who love You, and for the action that will cause me to attain Your love, O Allah, make Your love more beloved to me than myself, my family and cold water.”
Also, accept that you are not perfect, nor do you have to be. Everyone has some defects, and everyone has something attractive and lovable. There is no need to look at some artificial standards of social media or manipulate photos, which many times reflect a distorted image of reality.
Furthermore, attraction is a very subjective thing. There is really no need to worry about it, because there are definitely many people who will find you attractive for some of your physical or inner qualities.
Once you accept yourself and learn to love yourself, you will realize that you won’t be bothered by what others think about you.
In order to gain self-love, practice more positive thinking and gratitude. Do not be harsh with yourself, but kind when you are thinking about yourself.
Ask yourself: what am I good at? It can be anything: good at cooking, making jokes, having good ideas, being organized, whatever. Write them down and make a list of these qualities. You will see that certainly there are many positive things about yourself.
Find the Roots
Lack of self-love and self-esteem can be traced back to childhood, when one does not receive enough unconditional love but is subjected to too many harsh critics.
If you were not praised for your actions and were frequently chastised for them, whether at home or in school, among peers, etc., you can easily internalize these words over time.
These judgments, unfortunately, can turn into your “inner voice”. However, this does not mean that these beliefs are correct!
I am not sure what experiences led you to not feel worthy enough to be loved and attractive. But certainly, you can change these beliefs and replace them with healthier, more realistic ones. How?
Challenge Your Thoughts
Challenge them and see whether they are true or not. Write down these negative thoughts about yourself, then replace “yourself” with someone close to you. Would you say that this person is ugly, does not deserve love, and no one will marry her? If not, why are you so harsh with yourself?
Another practice: try to find evidence for your beliefs. Is there any evidence that you are not lovable, that you are ugly, etc.? Also, can you remember moments when exactly the opposite happened? As an example, you were praised for some of your qualities.
With these practices, you will realize, insha Allah, that your negative thoughts do not always reflect reality. Try to find the middle path by embracing positive ideas about yourself. You can learn about cognitive restructuring here and here.
Write Down Your Criteria
When you are looking for a spouse, write down the criteria you have. You can make a list as a ranking: what is the first most important quality, the second one, the third? You can also list the qualities that you definitely would like to avoid. When you are clear about your goals and conditions, it will be easier to express your needs and search with more clarity.
Also, you can ask yourself: what is the intention of wanting to get married? As we are going to be measured and rewarded according to our intentions:
“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1)
Remember the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who advised religiosity instead of outward appearance, status, and wealth. Having a good character is a better indicator of success in relationships than the rest of these conditions. Of course, you do not have to disregard these qualities either; just make sure that your priorities are in accordance with the Sunnah.
If you implement these steps and you still find yourself having a lot of negative thoughts about yourself, try one-on-one counseling. In long-term therapy, you can have guided assistance to overcome these patterns and learn to love yourself more.
I wish you success and ease.
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