Low self-esteem vs. Arrogance


This piece was also written 3 years ago, I just edited it a little to make more sense.

I’m a person with low self-esteem, and consciously chose to be this way ever since I was a small child. In more than two decades my thoughts about myself have shown very little change, and in sha Allah I will always be like this, or have even lower self-esteem.

Because I think it’s a good thing. Why? Because there’s not a single thing that can rightly make us feel proud of ourselves. Why? Because every good thing is from Allah. Can anyone give me an example of something they find good about themselves? I will ask you where you got it from. And then, I will ask you who is worthy of your praise? Who should you hold in high esteem?

I think we all have two opposite mechanisms in us that sometimes warn us against arrogance and sometimes against humiliation. For example when we get a compliment we may find it hard to accept because we don’t want to feel arrogant. But when somebody insults us we feel threatened and try to defend ourselves. Because we neither want to be praised nor humiliated.

It’s just that these two mechanisms vary in degree for every person. Two similar incidents occurred to me as a child and an adult, but with a different outcome. In primary school, one of my classmates told me that I should become a teacher because I’m so good at explaining things. I liked hearing this compliment, but I immediately felt guilty and told myself to stop feeling good about myself because I’m no better than any other person. I was also feeling bad towards my other classmates, who might be sad because they’re struggling.

In college the same thing happened, my Spanish teacher was very proud of a story that I’d written and started praising me in front of my class. I tried to look as neutral and unaffected as I could, because again there were two thoughts running through me: I’m not good, and others may feel bad. But now she started getting angry at me for not showing my happiness, “Why aren’t you smiling?!?!?!” she shouted at me in front of my peers and I felt humiliated. I went home sad and hoped someone would tell me that I am good. I felt like she disapproved my character, which I was apparently proud of without even realising. Had I truly understood that all good comes from Allah then her comment wouldn’t have hurt, I know that there’s nothing praiseworthy about me!

Every time someone insults us or makes us feel bad about ourselves we get an insight in our weaknesses. What makes us weak is the exact same thing that makes us feel good about ourselves. So for me, it’s that I consider myself a considerate person, and when my teacher didn’t acknowledge this, or in fact humiliated me because I am like this, I felt shattered. Therefore this experience thought me that I still hold myself in high regard when it comes to certain subtleties. And as I said in the beginning, there’s not a single thing that can rightly make us feel proud of ourselves. And if I truly live up to this truth then nothing can possibly shatter me, since I’ve disassociated myself from all of my good characteristics. I’m simply a soul and the only thing that’s mine is my intentions. And these are not known to anyone, including myself as I struggle to find out what my true intentions are while so many thoughts and feelings are involved every time I intend to do something.

I can only have a problem with low self-esteem if I consider myself worthy of praise, and what other than arrogance can define such a thought? It is hard to have low self-esteem, because the majority of people have a problem accepting the true nature of humans. We are weak, sinful, ungrateful, you name it. We don’t have to view ourselves as praiseworthy to live a happy and fulfilling life. We have a Lorf who is worthy of all praise, upon whom we can depend on all times. If we can free ourselves from our need of approval from other humans we will truly be free.

I believe that to truly love ourselves and any other being we must first acknowledge the source of everything beautiful. Only then can we love without expectations from ourselves and others. And only then we can get rid of our fear of being humiliated, since loving means putting yourself in a vulnerable position open for rejection. That, in my opinion, is true love. And because I truly want to love the Creator and the creation I will keep working on my low self-esteem 🙂