Self-Confidence and Anxiety: Lessons drawn

Salam Alaykum.

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar”, my voice crows. Behind me sit 200 people, listening to my shaky voice. Noticing my leg, as it trembles almost giving away. My hands as they give away my nervousness, clammy. In Ramadan I was asked to lead a part of the Taraweeh prayer, everyone of us over 16 took 2 Rakat. As my turn came, I acted as if I didn’t notice, didn’t feel the stares nor the calling of my name until I felt a light tapping on my leg. My heart racing, feeling light-headed, sick even I stood up. In my last year of college, I was asked by the last years Islamic Society president to take over. Every khutba (Sermon), every Prayer I lead was a repeat, it felt like a never ending upward hill climb. I thought by the end of it I’d be used to it, I was looking forward to that. I’m still fighting with it.

Dr. Ivan Joseph, a Football coach at the University of Ryerson said, at a TEDx conference, about self-confidence, that it is a skill. A skill that can be trained and honed through a lot of repetition or more so persistence.  He noted J.K Rowling as an example, whose first draft was refused by 12 publishers until it was accepted. He mentioned that one of his athletes a goalie now playing in Europe set his target at 350 repeats a day for 8 months until he could catch it. Or as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book the Outliers “In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers (violinists) had each totalled ten thousand hours of practice.” The basis for the 10,000 hours rule to be an expert.

In all the stories of the Messengers as. (peace be upon them) you’ll find repetition and persistence as was God’s will. It required a lot of confidence in them selves and in Allah swt. to face the obstacles that we could not have imagined for ourselves. These however are supposed to guide us in our life, we are to take lessons out of these for our daily life.

Imagine that your society, your people, your family turned on you. Noah as. {peace be upon him) is a perfect example. This amazing personality called people to guidance for 950 years and only a handful of people listened to what he had to say. He preached, called, invited, warned, gave them the good news, night and day, as the Quran tells us. He did this all the time, around the clock. Even with all the effort that he put in calling them to the Guidance they refused to listen, would stick their fingers in their ears, would cover the heads with their garments to avoid having to see him, to avoid making eye contact. What would such a rejection for centuries, from people he knew from birth, watched grow up and up to their death, do to a person who didn’t have self-confidence and full confidence in Allah swt.?

What must have been the emotional state of Joseph as. who was abandoned by his brothers, then sold as a slave and thrown into prison until eventually becoming the governor to the king, if he didn’t have confidence in Allah. One particular part of the Seerah of the Prophet saw. came to mind. As he saw. received the Message for the first time he was afraid, he didn’t know what to think. He thought that God swt. was punishing him. This story highlights for me, in this context, the importance of positive reinforcement. As he saw. ran to his house calling for Khadijah ra. to cover him up, and he began explaining what had happened to him. Khadijah ra. began listing all of his good qualities and the good things that he had done for the people that called him As-Sadiq Al-Amin, to assure him of his standing with God. She believed in him instantly.

Moses as. was to speak out against the Pharaoh who was not only the leader of probably the biggest kingdom on earth at the time, but also killed thousands of babies for fear of an opponent. Moses was to oppose this ruler, and he had a speech impediment on top of that magnanimous challenge, and was even insulted by Pharaoh because of this speech defect, but it is him as. who is called Kalemullah the one who conversed with Allah swt. All of these Prophets as. have in common a confidence in Allah and in themselves of carrying out whatever Allah swt. willed.

An article I read a couple of days ago brought me to the attention of the hypocrisy that I and probably many have. We feel that what we have to say is of non-importance, the we are boring and at the same time we think that everyone would judge us, that everyone is watching our every step, looking to call us out as hypocrites, as being as non important as we feel. I started this post with an account of a year ago at Jumuah, I was certain that everyone noticed my voice shaking, that they noticed my trembling and they probably did, but so what? No one came up to me and said “you know how you were trembling and your voice kept changing, while giving the Adhan, that was hilarious.” I did not have to face Pharaoh. Numb yourself to the thinking, that everyone is out to get you.

That incident in Ramadan a year ago, was disabling, I felt horrible about my reaction it had never gotten so bad before. I let myself get lost in anxiety. In such situations it may help to fight it with logic. Anxiety is illogical, it is the fear of something that has not entered and most likely will not enter. Box it in, think about all the “what ifs” and work backwards. Think of instances where you have done something successfully, this has worked often during Parkour. Fall back on your achievements in times of hardship. Find positive reinforcement, whether it is from people or as Dr. Joseph did, write a letter to yourself in a time of happiness to regain confidence. But most importantly fall back to God, know that He will not leave you alone, that with every hardship there is ease.

By the end of my term as President of the ISOC, I was indeed getting used to giving talks. My limbs did not tremble as much, as it did at the beginning but with the end of College I was not put into situations as often where I had to give talks, presentations etc. so I began to fall back somewhat. Robert Kelsey, author of  “What’s Stopping You?” in a video series on confidence, said that it may always stay with you but it is something you learn to overcome. Always put yourself out there, start small, step by step. Advice to talk to cashiers or waiters are often given, they have to be nice to you and are most likely bored. Sheikh Omar Suleiman once mentioned that he asked a cashier how her day was, and she was over the moon that he’d ask, that she had a terrible day, her boyfriend broke up with her etc. wanting to get that off her chest and having no one to talk to.

Do not add to the negativity about yourself that other people are giving you for free. Surround yourself with positivity, Muhammad Ali would shout “I am the greatest”. No one except the One, will believe in you unless you do. God in His absolute Mercy will never abandon you, even if you have abandoned yourself. Every breath that we take is a chance He gave us to return to Him. Having Confidence in Allah and trusting in what Allah swt. has ordained for us enhances confidence in ourselves. We have to recognise when things are in our capacity to change and when things are in the Hands of Allah alone.

It was We who created you: will you not believe? Consider [the semen] that you eject? Do you create it yourself, or are We the Creator? We have ordained death to be among you. Nothing could stop Us if We intended to change you and recreate you in a way unknown to you. You have learned how you were first created; will you not reflect? Consider the seeds you sow in the ground – If We wished, We could turn your harvest into chaff and leave you to wail, We are burdened with debt; we are bereft. Consider the water you drink. Was it you who brought it down from the rain-cloud or We? If We wanted, We could make it bitter: will you not be thankful? Consider the fire you kindle. Is it you who makes the wood for it to grow or We? We made it a reminder, and useful to those who kindle it, so [Prophet] glorify the name of your Lord, the Supreme.” [Qur’an 56:57-74]

As usual this is intended as a reminder for me first and foremost

wa Salam,

Abdur-Rahman

Mu610

About Mu610

22 year old German Muslim currently studying at Bradford University in the UK. Born in Marburg, raised in Berlin and spent 5 years in Nottingham then moving to Bradford in September '12. Is fluent in German and English and has some knowledge of French and Arabic, has an interest in learning Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and maybe Urdu for now.

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