Even though as a child it was much easier, I was innocent then and wasn’t aware of things like mental health and social anxiety so I did talk to people.
However, when I was 13, my family moved abroad and we lived in the other country for 3 years. It was then I realized I couldn’t talk to people. I suffered so much loneliness, and it traumatized me greatly.
When we returned to my country, I thought my issue will end as I was home once more. I started university, but it just continued. It took me so long to make female friends.
I have always wanted male friends, I know I am a Muslim and there should always be that line between men and women, and it’s not as if I want to be in a haram relationship… It’s just that I see every other person my age having at least minimal contact with the opposite sex, and I don’t, and that makes me feel so bad about myself.
I feel ugly, I have struggled with low self-esteem my entire life especially pertaining to my looks. I have tried getting close to Allah, but I am so inconsistent.
Whenever I start building up habits like reading Quran, Seerah, and studying Tafseer, I can never maintain the habits for long and I lapse for a long time. I have also tried to better my social situation, but I am too afraid to take a step and then again. I am also so inconsistent, I just don’t understand why.
I really need your help.
In this counseling answer:
See a therapist /counselor for an assessment and ongoing counseling.
Make quality friends who are female and Muslim.
I would hold off on any male friendships even if it is halal due to your low self-esteem and feeling unattractive.
I encourage you to build up your self-confidence, self-love and become empowered in the fact that you are worthy, pious, and beautiful.
You can build good habits through determination and consistency with help from tips and advice from people who study habit building.
As salamu alaykum sister,
I am sorry to hear about what you have been going through, I imagine it has not been easy, even after moving back to your home country. Sister, it sounds like even though you were shy your whole life, you have been through a major life stressor which was moving to another country. Major stressors can trigger or impact existing conditions such as anxiety or shyness.
Age of Moving
As it was to be, when you made the major move to another country with your family, you were thirteen years old. This is a very delicate and difficult time as you were a young teen adjusting to puberty. Not only did you have to deal with the stressors and changes that come with adolescence, but you also had to deal with getting used to a new country. I can imagine that was very difficult.
You did indicate that you were very lonely and traumatized there. You were hoping that it would go away once you returned home but it did not. When you started studying at the university, it took you a very long time to make female friends.
Seeking to Make Friends
Currently, you wish that you could make more friends. You would like to have both male and female friends. No doubt at the university there is mixing between males and females and that is okay as long as you know the limits set by Allah.
You did state you know that line and you will not engage in haram relationships or actions. You also state that you feel bad about yourself, that you feel unattractive, and have been struggling with low self-esteem your entire life.
Sister, you may at some level want male friendships in order to validate that you are pretty, desirable, and not unattractive as you feel.
Sister, being that you have low self-esteem and feel you are unattractive, (which I am sure you are very beautiful by the way), this can lead to some vulnerabilities and traps.
Some boys are very keen at picking up when girls are suffering from low self-esteem or from girls who feel they are not pretty. Some boys may prey on this and will use this vulnerability to their advantage. They can try to trick you into doing things you would never do. Thus, I caution you on your hoped-for friendship with boys.
Self Esteem and Empowerment
Sister, having a healthy sense of self, high levels of confidence, and self-esteem put you in a better position to not be taken advantage of. It also puts you in a position of empowerment. When you know your worth, you are less likely to make choices or decisions that are against your belief system or goes against your values.
When you value yourself you tend to set stricter limits. When one suffers from low self-esteem or feels unattractive in a social circle, they can be easily taken advantage of sometimes. They may do things that they ordinarily would not do seeking to please others in order to get self-validation and be considered one of the group.
Seeking Love- Self First
Sister, I encourage you in sha Allah to seek out Muslim sisters as friends.
Try to seek out sisters who have your best interest at heart. Seek sisters who truly follow Islam and love and fear Allah. When seeking out friends, choose friends who love you for you. I am sure you are very beautiful. However, your shyness, anxiety, and possibly other events in your life have diminished your self-esteem and self-confidence.
Also, I do not know whose standard of beauty you are following but Nigerian women are known for their beauty. Once you realize how beautiful you are and how precious you are in the sight of Allah who created you, you may begin to see your social world in a different way. You need to love yourself first.
Lastly, while physical beauty is nice, the true beauty of a person lies in their kindness towards others, a loving, caring heart, and a lover and believer in Allah swt.
Social Anxiety and other Mental Health Issues
Sister, regarding social anxiety and other mental health issues you discussed, I am not sure if you have ever been to a counselor or received a diagnosis.
At this time, I do kindly suggest that you do seek out counseling in your area.
A counselor can help you learn how to overcome your insecurities, increase your self-esteem as well as love and appreciate yourself. By going to counseling on a regular basis you will be able to overcome any social anxiety or mental health issues that you may have.
Anxiety especially social anxiety is extremely common with millions of people suffering from this disorder. It is treatable and it is common so please do not feel any stigma if you do have it.
According to the Social Anxiety Institute, social anxiety disorder is the third largest mental health care issue. Some of the symptoms include fear or emotional distress when introduced to other people, being the center of attention, meeting people who they think are important, social encounters, and interpersonal relationships such as friendships.
If you have social anxiety, it can be treated successfully with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Building Good Habits
As you discussed your inability to maintain good habits for a long time such as reading the Qur’an, I kindly suggest that you try the 30-day habit builder.
According to those who have had success with 30-day challenges, they hypothesize that it is difficult to do something consistently when you feel you must do something forever. However, with the 30-day habit Builder, you tell yourself you’re just experimenting with a new behavior.
Once you get past the 30 days you will be close to making a change that is more permanent. If you feel like giving up or not doing it within those 30 days, remind yourself it is only 30 days. Some research has shown that doing something consistently for around 1 month can turn into a habit or a lifelong activity.
While there is some debate on that many have had success. I encourage you to try it and I have included a link so you can learn more.
Sister, as you do have a few mental health issues going on according to you, I do recommend that you see a therapist /counselor for an assessment and ongoing counseling.
Again, the mental health issues that you described are very common and millions of people have them and it is treatable. I would kindly suggest that you make quality friends who are female and Muslim. I would hold off on any male friendships even if it is halal due to your low self-esteem and feeling unattractive.
I encourage you to build up your self-confidence, self-love and become empowered in the fact that you are worthy, pious, and beautiful. You can build good habits through determination and consistency with help from tips and advice from people who study habit building.
I hope that this has helped you in some way and that you will take the steps forward which are needed to begin your healing Journey.
We wish you the best.
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