Babies love to look at themselves in the mirror; something parents or those with younger siblings can attest to. However, before around 18 months of age these young ones don’t understand that the baby in the mirror is actually them. They just enjoy seeing a cute little smiling human being. As children we may have the healthiest attitude to our bodies, as at that age we were not aware of societal views on what is physically attractive. If we were chubby or overweight we didn’t consider that a bad or good thing. It just was. Just as, if we had birthmarks, big noses, ears, or foreheads.
In our first couple years on Earth, quite frankly we probably didn’t give any thought to how we looked at all. If we did we certainly wouldn’t have let our parents or carers take photos of us in funny un-matching outfits or when we’ve just woken up with messy hair, looking like startled squirrels! The way we looked did not define us in any way, however as we became aware of societal views, the way we perceive ourselves and others changed completely. Girls may begin to feel insecure about their thin lips or their natural hair or their body shape. Boys may feel insecure about being labelled ‘lanky’, being short or their lack of facial or body hair. What confuses us even more is the constant the shift in “ideals” e.g, thin eyebrows were the ideal at one point and now thick dark eyebrows are considered more attractive, a thin ballerina-like physique was the ideal for women but now a curvier physique is seen to be most beautiful. Baggy clothes and not much attention to body shape was once the story for males, and now tight clothing with bulging muscles is held to be the standard of attractiveness.
However, what is perhaps more detrimental is that we learnt to compare ourselves to others; models in airbrushed pictures, celebrities, even our friends. We may have wished that we had their eyes or their nose or their body shape, their muscles or even their skin tone, but we have to remember that Allah (SWT) made us perfect, in our own ways.
“By the fig and the olive, and the Mount Sina, and this city of peace (Makkah), We have indeed created humankind in the best of moulds.” ~ Quran 95:4
You were created in the ‘best of moulds’. Remember that Allah (SWT) has formed your every feature; the length of your eyelashes, the shape of your eyes, the size of your forehead, and even the way fat distributes in your body. Look at your eyes in the mirror, the colour and all the little details in them. Your eyes are a masterpiece. Remember that Allah (SWT) chose and crafted everything about you, even your birthmark or the mole on your arm.
However, some of you may be reading this and thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because your features are not typical. Maybe you have heterochromia (eyes which are not the same colour), or as a woman your bodily hair grows quickly perhaps because of a hormonal imbalance, or maybe you’ve lost a limb or an eye. Or you have had third degree burns which have altered your features, or acne, dark under eyes, big teeth, skin pigmentation, or whatever it may be. There’s so many reasons you may feel unattractive or inadequate but you are beautiful, and if you still need to work on believing that remember that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts and accomplishments” ~ Muslim.
What is truly important is that your heart is beautiful, that you have faith, and you work to put that faith into practice… and we understand that this is an easy thing to say and a much harder thing to feel. Especially if you have nagging relatives that tell you you’re too large to fit in cultural clothing, or macho men that make you feel less adequate, or fully able bodied people that whisper in your presence – whether it is through bullying, gossiping or even just staring – it is not important how society perceives your appearance.
We understand, it’s really hard. However, by directing our focus to constructive things in relation to our physical body, with time we may feel less self-conscious about how we look. If something isn’t constructive, like weighing yourself every week, scrolling Instagram, spending hours watching Youtube tutorials on how to bleach your skin, exercising beyond your capacity and etc, you need to honour your own mental health. Ask yourself, what changed from when I was a baby that didn’t worry about the way I looked or how people looked at me? You grew, but so did your awareness of other people’s perception, and that isn’t always healthy.
We must take care of ourselves, of course. However as long as we are able to function healthily, why must we adhere to social ideals when Allah already says He doesn’t care? We should also consider how our attitudes and thoughts reflect what Islam says about physical appearance. Everyone is different, unique and special to Allah – are we as open minded, accepting and respectful as Islam promotes?
How do you remain body positive? Share your experience and top tips below so that we can all inspire each other!