During the month of March, Azkar and I set out to rediscover ourselves. For me, this was never a problem. I always knew who I was and especially in college, I really loved the person that I had become. But in the past three years I’ve gone through some major changes. I graduated from college, moved to a new city, started grad school, and had to rebuild my life completely. Somewhere along the way, I lost track of who I am.
In March, I put the conscious effort to pay attention to my interactions with others, my feelings on certain subjects, and my daily reflections in a means to learn more about myself. Because how could I ever expect to let anyone know me, if I didn’t even know myself?
Below are 11 things that I learned about myself in March.
- I accept and appreciate myself as an introvert. I’ve always known that I was an introvert but it was confirmed when I took the Myers-Briggs test a few years ago. I had always assumed that I get along better with other introverts, but this month I really looked into my relationships with others around me. My best friend, Azkar, is far more extroverted than I, yet she is among the few people that I feel completely comfortable with. If I am among a group of strangers, I tend to stick with the other introverts, as I find it easier to connect with them. However, I find introverts who are in authority to be very, very intimidating. And it may have to do with the fact that they do not express validation easily, and when I am working with authority, especially as an introvert learning skills that I will use in my career, I seek to be validated in those instances.
I have also learned that once I am comfortable with a situation, I can act in such a way that many people would not know that I am an introvert. In college, I took it upon myself to make changes within my university that I thought were needed, and because of my leadership role, many people did not believe that I was an introvert. I learned that there are times, where I must be more like an extrovert, despite my natural suppression of this characteristic, in order to get things done.
I have not yet read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, however I’ve read a couple of reviews about it. The reviews suggest that the book emphasizes the notion that we live in a society that celebrates extroverts. Society caters to extroverts. Cain describes that from a young age as schoolchildren, we sit in our classrooms with our desks facing each other, promoting children to become extroverts. From my experiences in middle school, high school, college, and even grad school, I see that the more outgoing and chatty people are the ones that the rest of us are held in comparison to. But why is that the case? Introverts have so much to offer society, and many times the reason they are not as chatty is because they think through everything systematically to ensure that their facts are accurate and their thoughts are clearly portrayed. Isn’t this extent of thoroughness a valid reason to celebrate?This month has led me to appreciate my status as an introvert a lot more because I realized that I am happy and comfortable with the person that I am and I don’t need that validation from society. I also learned that just because I am an introvert, it does not necessarily mean that I get along with only introverts. I think there is a good mix of introverts and extroverts in my life and it makes for a good balance.
- I can’t do everything. I always enjoyed being involved in extracurricular activities, both in school, and in my community. However, lately I’ve been realizing that maybe getting too involved is not always a good thing. Sometimes I get so busy with studying that I neglect my other responsibilities, and when that happens, then I am not doing my best. I realize now that it’s better to be actively involved in one or two projects so that I may focus my time and efforts solely on those. I no longer worry about being an overachiever like I did once upon a time. I just want to be content. And I want to truly enjoy the things that I am committing my time to instead of rushing through them just to say I did them.
- I am worth more than I give myself credit for. This was a major realization for me this month, because I’ve never truly considered my worth before. Read more about my thoughts on this here.
- I am happiest and most myself around happy people that look for the best in others. I have been learning more and more about how much I hate complaining. I think it is for this reason that I seek to be optimistic about everything, good and bad, in life. I understand that we are all human, and sometimes complaining is a natural part of being human, but when I am around those who constantly complain or gossip, then I am also influenced to do the same. These things lead to a pessimistic outlook on life, and I do not want that for myself. But when I am around those who see the best in life and the best in others, then I am encouraged to do the same. I don’t want to surround myself with negative people, because then negativity will define me. I want to seek the best in others and in myself, always. And I want to project a positive attitude so that I may inspire happiness in others.
- I have a bigger impact on others than I realized. I never thought that I would have an impact on anyone, really. But this month taught me otherwise. Someone whom I never expected to have an impact on before told me that their life was influenced tremendously by me. It all came as a huge shock to me because I never intended to have an impact on this person’s life. I was just being myself. I guess the lesson in this is to always conduct myself in the best manner, because I don’t know whose life I may be changing.
- I still have a long way to go to be where I want to be. I have not yet crossed anything off of my bucket list for the year. I realize that I need to manage my time better, procrastinate less, and find my motivation. In the past, my most productive times have been early in the morning, immediately after praying fajir. I got more done in those early morning hours than I did in the rest of the day. That hasn’t been happening lately and I need to re-establish my post-fajir routine so that I can make the most of my days and reach my goals, inshAllah.
- It is extremely difficult for me to express my feelings to others. In the past, the idea of expressing my feelings was always supported by negativity because it made me feel vulnerable and weak. I guess it may have to do with the fact that I grew up an only girl amongst three brothers. As a child, my brothers always made fun of me whenever I did girly things, like cry or hug them. As a result, I had to become “tough” to relate to my brothers, so subconsciously I stopped showing my feelings. But I have learned, this month in particular, the opposite of what I have grown to believe–expressing feelings requires strength and courage. I truly admire those who express their feelings because they have the ability to form a unique connection with the ones they love, and that is something that terrifies me and inspires me.
- I seek change. In the past, change was something that I hated. I’ve been through my fair share of major life changes, and with every major change, I have been deeply affected. But now it seems crazy to think that I actually want to continue to experience major changes in my life. Because now I realize that with every experience, and every person that I meet, I will be enriched. They will all aid in molding me into the person I am meant to become. And who I am today is not exactly who I was yesterday. Because I’ve experienced more today and despite how insignificant the change may be, it is a part of who I am becoming. I never considered living in a place other than Suburbia, IL, but after years of moving across the world, and across the country, I have gained so many new experiences, and met so many different people and I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out without them. I don’t like change because I don’t like new beginnings, but once I’ve established myself in a new place and new environment, I gain a lot out of the experience and it is totally worth it. So worth it, that I want to experience these changes again and again.
- I don’t trust myself as much as I should. Maybe that’s because I lack self-confidence. In a TED talk, Dr. Ivan Joseph explains that in order to build self-confidence, we mustn’t take criticism so personally, even if it is meant to attack us personally. Usually I can gauge situations for what they are–whether good or bad–but I always doubt myself because I don’t know for sure. Most times, I will never know certain things for sure, but I need to trust myself on certain issues and not worry about the criticism of others. I need to go with my gut.
- I get too attached. My earliest recollection of true attachment was when I read Harry Potter for the very first time as a child. I was so heartbroken by the end of the book because I wanted to read more about the magical lives of Harry, Hermione and Ron. Since then, I’ve gotten attached to characters, to people, to stories, to ideas, to dreams. Anything that engages my heart is fair game for my attachment and anyone who truly, deeply opens up to me, is susceptible to my attachment. In her book Reclaim Your Heart, Yasmin Mogahed calls pain “a form of forced detachment” and she calls the things that cause us pain “false attachments” and says that these things are the things that cause barriers on our path to Allah. Mogahed continues,
To attain that state [of stability], don’t let your source of fulfillment be anything other than your relationship with God. Don’t let your definition of success, failure, or self-worth be anything other than your position with Him [Quran, 49:13]. And if you do this, you become unbreakable, because your hand-hold is unbreakable. You become unconquerable, because your supporter can never be conquered. And you will never become empty, because your source of fulfillment is unending and never diminishes.
- I don’t bail when the goin’ gets tough. I never really considered this idea before this month. I realize that I like to work through struggles with my loved ones. When someone I am close to is having a truly tough time with something, I want to be right there with them, getting through it with them. People have told me before that they don’t want to get close to me for my own protection–they do not want to suck me into their struggles. But really, if you mean enough to me, I would want to go through those tough times with you so that we may grow together. That’s what love is about. It’s not that I love to suffer, or that I enjoy hardships. Rather, it is that struggling in the way of someone you love only strengthens your love for that person. In a similar way, struggling in the way of Islam–with prayers and hijab–brings me closer to God.
I know that the things I learned about myself this month may not always apply to me because I am constantly changing with every new experience. But I realize that I can’t lose track of who I am again, despite how busy I get. I need to keep tabs on myself so that I may understand my tendencies, and adjust them accordingly. I want to know myself always, so that I may allow the right people into my life and so that I can make the most of my time on this earth, inshAllah.