I have two main problems. One is that I think I have social anxiety for a couple of years. I used to be a very outspoken person; I used to go to poem competitions and loved the attention of the people. Since I became a Muslim in my senior year of high school, I am getting more and more introverted.
Obviously, the fights with my family and the continuous comments and stares of the people I get make my self-esteem very low. It reached the point when sometimes I don’t even want to go out of my home. When I meet people I know, I am that funny, moderately speaking person, but when I need to talk to unknown people…that’s my nightmare. I mean not in the shop or in the pharmacy. I can handle that, but for example, I want to teach Arabic for others, Muslims or non-Muslims. Maybe in a private class I will be able to do that (though I am still not sure), but in a group, no way! I will be blocked.
I also wanted to go for a writing course which is full of non-Muslims…I couldn’t do it. I am not sure whether I am good enough for it or it is even worth it; maybe they will even look down on me. I just cannot speak in front of a group of people even if they are Muslims. I am very shy and even my family noticed that my voice has become almost inaudible. I read articles on the issue and try to tell myself to be proud and that I am better in front of Allah because I am a Muslim, etc.
Sometimes, it gets better, but I feel I need an exact guidance or plan I can follow to become again a self-confident and social person. (I work from home and the mosque is far; the meetings are at late afternoon which is too late for me, so I don’t have much opportunity to socialize, but I am working on it.) The second problem is about my dreams. I am actually not sure what my dream is. I am interested in too many things and cannot find the time to complete all. I cannot choose from them either. I continuously have difficulties choosing between more than one option. (Even in the store, I spend long minutes to decide which product I want. Same goes to the ice-cream shop.)
Also, I get bored of things quickly. Sometimes, I feel so passionate about something, but the other day I am lazy; I feel I am not good at it and I am not interested anymore. Maybe, it changes back a week later and I feel passionate about it again. God knows what I want, because sometimes I really don’t. Right now, my big struggle is between writing and religion. I mean I love writing and do it regularly for almost 2 years ( blog and articles) and I even have some ideas for books, but not sure whether I have talent for it, whether it is worth putting lots of time and energy in it, whether it will be published or not…
Sometimes, I feel it is just wasting time and I should focus more on studying the Quran, tafseer, learning more about Islam, and serving the ummah; making big dawah projects, teaching the new Muslims, translating books and videos, etc. That sounds more useful and surely I have passionate about it, but…I still wish writing books, too. Some days, I just leave the time to pass without actually making any step to either this or that way; and the time is running. Few years and I will be expected to have kids. Then I will not have time like now to achieve big aims for a while….
In this counseling answer:
• Joining groups with sisters who share similar interests will make the building of friendships even easier.
• Write a list of the various things you want to do and think about the following things: why are you passionate about them?
• Don’t hesitate about whether you made the right choice; just run with your idea.
• Don’t forget to take some time for self-care.
Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam dear sister,
It sounds you have problems with social anxieties; however, given the history that you have provided, these anxieties sound quite rational. You have undergone a major life change in becoming a Muslim – something that has definitely impacted every aspect of your life. Undergoing such a change can take a long time to adjust to, and inevitably there will be difficulties along the way.
In addition, the unfortunate portrayal of Islam in the media can contribute further to social anxieties – for born and revert Muslims alike. So, rest assured that your feelings and experiences are perfectly natural.
However, that doesn’t take away your desire to overcome these anxieties and make life more comfortable. The key is that, as you say, you are working on it. This shows that you are motivated and driven to make this change, and, in sha’ Allah, this is what will push you forward to overcome the difficulties.
The first thing is to accept that it is not a problem that will disappear overnight, and it is something that you will have to actively work on. Given that you are far from the mosque and, therefore, face-to-face interaction with other sisters is difficult, a good first step to take might be to engage with other sisters via online platforms. There are numerous online groups for sisters with varying interests, including writing groups (which ties in nicely with your second issue). Engaging with other sisters online can be a good start in boosting your confidence. You will find many other sisters who have been going through exactly the same as you have. This will provide a good sense of support to you.
Once you meet other like-minded sisters, you might take it a step further and have a phone/Skype conversation with them. Talking with other sisters you feel comfortable with will give you a chance to talk without the fear of being judged. Although, it is not recommended that you become over-reliant on the internet to build friendships to the point when you no longer feel able to mix with people face-to-face. But it can be a useful way to increase your confidence to feel more comfortable talking to people face-to-face. Just find the healthy balance between talking with people online and in person.
Joining groups with sisters who share similar interests will make the building of friendships even easier. The common interest will spark discussion in which you can be passionate and confident about the topic. Such gatherings can also be a source of gaining knowledge in the field that you wish to pursue.
In these groups, you will find mixtures of people; sisters who also feel, like you, that they are not good enough, but you will find some very inspirational sisters who will support you in moving forward with your passion. You will also find sisters who have been in your situation and overcome their anxieties and, thus, will be able to offer some really useful advice. Whichever path you chose to take with your writing/teaching, etc., they will also be able to advise you based on their own experience with, for example, publishing a book.
Joining such groups will assist you, but doesn’t necessarily help you to decide exactly what you want to do. You say you can’t decide whether to focus on religion or your writing. It can be a really confusing time when you have so many things in mind that you wish to pursue, and you feel passionate towards them all on and off. Skipping from one activity to the other can lead to a lack of productivity. But there are a number of ways that can help you overcome this problem.
Firstly, write a list of the various things you want to do and think about the following things: why are you passionate about them? What do you hope to achieve with them? Who will benefit from them? Is there a way you could combine any of them with anything else on the list?
Doing too many things at once leads to lack of productivity and loss of passion. So, instead, think about the possibilities of combining any of the items. Given your interest in both writing and religion, why don’t you combine the two and write about religion? There are many Muslim writers out there who do this, fulfilling both their passion for writing and religion. It’s a great way to spread daw’ah, too. You can write either factual, non-fiction books or Islamic fiction – either will serve this purpose.
Linking back to what I mentioned earlier, there are groups dedicated to supporting Muslim writers. These would be the best places to get advice on how to progress and tackle the more difficult things such as publishing. They will also give you support in not giving up on your ideas, aiding you to maintain passion towards the project. These groups will also raise your awareness of any courses going on, either online or in your local area, which you could participate in to improve your skills. This will impact further your confidence.
Once you think about all these things, in sha’ Allah, you will have more clarity about exactly what you want to do. Once you are happy with this, just go for it and don’t look back. Don’t hesitate about whether you made the right choice; just run with your idea. It may be that you make adjustments to your idea later based on new ideas or feedback from others, but stick to it and keep close to others in the same circle that you chose to progress. They will support you to remain on track with your task.
At the same time, amongst your passions for your chosen work, don’t forget to take some time for self-care. Give yourself time off away from work; rest and recuperate so that you don’t get tired and don’t feel fed up with what you are doing. This can help you to continue approaching your work with fresh eyes.
May Allah (swt) guide you to make decisions that make you happy and content, that are pleasing to Him (swt), and beneficial to yourself and others in both this life and the next.
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