Broken Labels: Choosing to Define My Own Self-Worth

Broken Labels: Choosing to Define My Own Self-Worth October 20, 2017
societal labels Muslim self-worth
Photo by Dawid Zawila on Unsplash

I have my bachelors in English and masters in Elementary Education. Growing up, I found public speaking and oratory to be exhilarating; I loved captivating the audience with my words and persona. To be able to create an image with words and transport the reader or listener into my own imagination was gratifying.

I always knew I was meant for a purpose beyond myself. My greatest pleasure was talking and teaching about Islam. I went to an Islamic school when I was younger and my teachers instilled a love of the deen in my heart. When I spoke, I wanted to use my words to transfer that love into the hearts of others.

I am now a mother of two young boys, a wife, and have chronic pain, which means I live with pain as one might live with a dysfunctional appliance at home. Its presence is known, annoying, repugnant and disdainful, but you get used to it. Maybe the first day when it fails, you’re shocked, up in arms ready to fix it. However, days go by, maybe weeks, and nothing works; the appliance remains dysfunctional, working sometimes, puffing and spluttering the next. You get angry, but decide to just keep it around. You walk by it every day, annoyed by its presence.

But the difference is, I can’t just buy a new body. Hey, I don’t have a receipt, but my body is broken; by any chance, can I get store credit? I live with my pain and it knows me; sadly, it dictates me. I can’t walk well, forget about exercising, and can’t sit without the help of a cushion — and even with that, only for 10-15 minutes.

When I became sick, my perception of self, who I was meant to be and what I was, clashed and battled in a tumultuous internal war.

When I became sick, my perception of self, who I was meant to be and what I was, clashed and battled in a tumultuous internal war. It rose to the surface in the form of solitude, anger, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness. It would exacerbate at the insensitivities of others: ‘Why do you need so much help?’ ‘Why can’t you multitask like me?’ ‘Why can’t you get up and do something?’ After all, I don’t have a visible deformity or illness; I have what is called in our circles an “invisible illness.”

I thought I was meant for so much more than being a broken mother and wife. I began to look down on myself and felt the eyes of others were doing the same.

In all my years at Islamic school, despite learning the deen and spreading it to others through teaching, I never internalized it until I became sick. I had knowledge in my mind, but little did it help me in times of true, suffocating darkness. Knowledge is meant to be a light, but it was my burden during those times.

In all my years at Islamic school, despite learning the deen and spreading it to others through teaching, I never internalized it until I became sick.

The Qur’an teaches us that a husband and wife are meant to be garments for each other. Doesn’t it sound lovely? I didn’t really know what it meant until my husband helped me through my darkest moments. He gave me the rope I needed to climb out of my abysmal ditch, and covered me with words of encouragement and truth:

“You are a mother and a wife. Allah placed so much importance and relevance to these two roles because you do so much and it will never go noticed, even though it should. You are in pain, yet you still cook and clean, take care of the kids, and handle all your responsibilities. Most incredibly, you never think twice about it. You wake up at night for the kids, even though you are in pain and exhausted.

You do so much and no one should be able to take away your happiness and your worth. The only person that thinks you’re worthless is you. There are things out of your control, but what you can control is your happiness. I know who you are, and Allah knows who you are and what you do. Let people say what they want; Allah knows the truth, I know the truth, and you know the truth.”

I have had to redefine myself… I am learning to embrace the role and circumstance Allah has given me, because there is nothing greater.

I have had to redefine myself. I am strong, loyal, selfless, empathetic, and desire to be more kind, compassionate and patient. Being a mother and wife is not glorious in society today. You’re invisible, it’s thought. What words come to your head when you think of the term motherhood? Many individuals today will think of the words boring, worthless, insufficient, archaic, and unsatisfactory. Islam teaches us the worth of mothers and wives with words such as love, patience, sacrifice, unconditional, compassionate, teacher, and Paradise.

I am learning to embrace the role and circumstance Allah has given me, because there is nothing greater. It’s not whether being a mother and wife is worthy of me, but whether am I worthy enough for the task.

Outside the context of societal labels, who are you?


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