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Accepting your dark side

We are told at a very young age how to behave. The social parameters of ‘normal’ thoughts and behaviour are clearly set out for us and stepping out of those boundaries can have grave consequences. So, it’s no wonder that we find it hard to accept in ourselves those characteristics that are classified as socially unacceptable and could lead to a painful rejection.

Throughout history we have been taught that we must ‘kill’ the dark-side, those negative characteristics and weaknesses within us. But is that even possible? And if so, is it even healthy? What we resist persists, so if we spend all our time killing and eradicating a side of us, are we at risk of doing more harm than good?

As human beings, we were created with a full range of emotional responses and desires, classified as good and bad, and this is universal. So what we do know is that we are not responsible for the creation of these, they are natural and they have a function. So why do we need to hide the ‘bad’ ones and pretend they are not there. Sheryl Lee said, “the more we deny that we have a dark–side, the more power it has over us”.

“Avoiding our dark side can rob us of happiness, it can lead to depression and addictions because we are not truly connecting with ourselves or with other people.”

The healthiest way to live is to accept the beast within us, that way we can keep it in check. If we deny it and ignore it, it tends to slowly get out of control and in time much difficult to harness. It’s hard to accept the dark-side because we often feel afraid of the rejection that will follow if anyone finds out about that side of us. We get busy creating a world where we are ‘fine’ and the problem is out there.

Avoiding our dark side can rob us of happiness, it can lead to depression and addictions because we are not truly connecting with ourselves or with other people. If we continue to live a picture-perfect life, denying a part of ourselves we can become exhausted and lonely. When we accept the dark-side it lives in harmony with the light and we lead much more authentic and healthy lives.

Fully accepting ourselves as people with dark and light sets us free, we become a more whole and complete person. The pressure to lead a ‘perfect’ life is gone and we are free to accept what’s really there for us. Once we are able to accept ourselves as whole, complete and perfect as we are and as we are not, we are able to do the same for others. The feeling of fully knowing ourselves and another and being able to share that is true intimacy and connection.

How do we know what our own personal dark side is? So, we need to listen carefully to the judgements we make about others, these are often the same judgements we make about ourselves. If we find fragility in someone annoying, then chances are that we find the same thing in ourselves annoying too and will probably go to great lengths to hide it from others. In such circumstances, we may openly judge others and gossip about them to deflect the same weakness in ourselves.

We may suffer jealousy, ignoring or denying this feeling can lead to dysfunctional behaviours however, if we are willing to accept that such feelings exist within us and that they are natural then we are free to deal with them. If jealousy is the overriding feeling, then we have to identify the reasons behind it. If for example, we are feeling jealous of a friend who has had a great holiday with her dream partner then the reasons why we are triggered is because we want the same. Instead of wishing it away from our friend it’s healthier to wish the same for ourselves and then establish ways to have the same possibly even by asking our friend for advice on how.

Once we begin to treat ourselves with such compassion and not judge reactions within us that are normal and there to be understood, we are able to harness that side of us. We become more authentic in our relationships. We are better able to allow that authenticity to show in others without judgement. We no longer fear rejection because we fully accept and respect ourselves for all that we are and all that we are not. Fortunately, we are not just dark, or light, and our real beauty lies in the harmony of both.

By Aamna Khokhar

For more information and to access e-learning modules or book a one-to-one please visit leafcoaching.com


Aamna Khokhar is determined to equip people with the tools to strengthen communication, regard and love within their relationships. She helps people overcome destructive thought patterns, obstructive emotional responses and manage stress and anxiety. She believes that the management of these can help people heal their relationships and reclaim their self-worth and improve their lives. With a background in Psychology spanning 20 years and a qualification in life coaching Aamna has chosen to specialise in Relationship Coaching. She works with individuals as well as in groups and runs workshops on self-development and the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships, including finding love. She has recently begun creating e-learning modules allowing individuals to work at their own pace and leisure to ensure that self-development is a pleasurable part of their everyday lives. 

To contact Aamna please email on info@leafcoaching.com

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image credit: Akeela Ahmed


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Jamilla’s tips on dealing with anxiety around exam time (Part 2)

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Read Part 1 here.

In addition to depression, I was diagnosed with anxiety, which tends to worsen during exams. Even though I take medication for depression and anxiety, I still experience panic attacks before, during and after exams. I wanted to share with you a few things that help me get through exams without letting my depression and anxiety overwhelm me.
1. If, like me, you don’t really get nervous until right before the exam, then consider waking up as late as you possibly can (whilst still making it in time to the exam of course). This is because waking up hours beforehand will give you more time to stress yourself out. If you’re unoccupied, it gives your mind a chance to wander, to think bad thoughts or just play up your anxieties.
2. Make dua, lots of dua. When I don’t know what to do or if I’m scared and just need my mind to stop from wandering, I recite any dua or Surah that I can think of. The idea is to try something that helps you feel calm.
3. Don’t sit still. Go for a walk, pace up and down or even just move your legs up and down. I always find that movements distract me from my anxiety.

 

About the author: Jamilla recently graduated with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and is VP of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. Follow her on Twitter@JamillaTweets.

Image credit: Photo by PracticalCures.com.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Jamilla’s story of dealing with Depression and Anxiety (Part 1)

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If you’ve met me, just like everyone else does, you wouldn’t expect me to be dealing with a mental illness, especially of this severity. I’m in my final year of university, expected to graduate with a 2:1 (Inshallah), VP of a society and always up for hanging out with my friends or getting involved in extracurricular activities. When people discover that I have depression, and that I’m on strong medication to help me with it, they act shocked, almost as though they think it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be.

It is a daily struggle, from waking up each morning to completing my university tasks as well as my basic duties as a Muslim, all the while dealing with sporadic suicidal thoughts. And that’s the reason I want this series of posts to be able to reach out to those who are going through the same or similar things. For those who have been told their mental health is caused of lack of imaan (faith), or that it is taboo to talk about it.

Depression, anxiety and all other mental health issues are real illnesses, ones that need to be dealt with appropriately, and ones that require support which we, in Muslim communities, have not really acknowledged. Sometimes, people don’t understand why we’re finding it hard to pray, or fast, or read Qu’ran. I want this blog to help myself and you, not only to deal with your mental health, and for you to know that you’re not alone, but to increase our faith in Allah slowly, so that step by step we can build ourselves back up. Inshallah.

Whilst depression symptoms can vary from person to person (I, for example have depression and anxiety, so I won’t have the exact symptoms as someone with only depression or only anxiety), there is lots of misunderstanding surrounding depression. I hope to clear that up from my own experience.

1. There is often no direct cause. Whilst someone can have many triggers, for example, with anxiety it can often be triggered by loud noises or being around too many people, there isn’t one thing that causes it all. It’s often not one thing that can be the reason for depression, but a series of things that build up over time. For me, symptoms of depression and anxiety have been building up over a few years, and it was only 6 months ago (when I went through a week of not being able to eat or sleep) that I chose to get help.
2. Depression and Sadness are not the same thing. “That’s so depressing”, “That’s made me so depressed”. We’re all guilty of using these expressions wrongly – I know I am, but depression is so much more than one thing making you sad. Depression is not a mood that you can simply “snap out of”, it comprises of good days and bad days, some days you might feel totally fine, other days you might not want to leave the house, but these last over long periods of time.

3. Depression can be easy to hide, so just because someone looks fine, doesn’t mean their depression isn’t bad. When I tell people I have depression they are often surprised. This is because I am usually walking around with a big smile on my face, not looking like anything is wrong. Just because someone is smiling doesn’t make their depression any less valid; you’d be surprised at how well people can hide these things.

4. Depression isn’t a weakness of imaan. Depression can stop someone from fulfilling basic Islamic duties, but this isn’t because a person doesn’t have faith or because there is something wrong with their imaan, it’s because maybe they are finding it hard enough to wake up in the morning, or just keep themselves alive. Maybe they don’t want to pray because they feel so guilty that they’ve let their illness get the better of them, even though it is not their own fault. Depression is an illness like any other, and it needs to be seen as such from the Muslim community.

The best description of depression I have seen comes from a Reddit post which said: “Depression, when it is present, is more like the force of gravity. It is there, pulling down on you under all circumstances. Though I’m depressed I am often very happy – but still there is the unfeeling wet blanket of muddled confusion and writhing frustration seething under it all. Waiting.
A creeping numbness that insidiously degrades and diminishes every aspect of conscious life. A storm of screaming and hatred in dreams. A dull apathy in waking. A sinking stomach in the face of joy and a faithless lassitude in the face of hope.
Depression isn’t an emotion. Depression is a contradiction to every worthy aspect of life.”

I hope this post helps give people a better understanding of what depression is and what it isn’t.

About the author: Jamilla recently graduated with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and is VP of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. Follow her on Twitter @JamillaTweets.

Image credit: Photo by Amen Clinics.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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The words no girl wants to hear

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By Robina Saeed

@ROBtotheINA

“You are not beautiful enough for me”

I am not going to say who exactly these words were uttered by, when, or even why. But what I will tell you is that they were not uttered by a lover, admirer or even good friend. We were neither to each other. So it might seem strange why they were said. To be honest it’s still strange to me even till this day. I was not interested in him and until he spoke those words I didn’t for a second imagine that the thought of us being together ever crossed his mind. My very first after thought was “huh, well you’re no Leonardo Di Capiro yourself mate”. Let’s stop. This right here, his ruthless verbal expression for his distaste in my appearance, and my mental distaste of his is in my opinion, the number one problem facing young men and women when finding a partner. This idea of beauty being the first benchmark one has to meet before they stand a chance. And only once someone has rated at least a 7/10 in our books, will we attempt to open the book and take a look at the first page.

These are the words that also confirmed what I already knew. I was not ready for any kind of relationship. They confirmed this because they stung. The words stung.

Whenever I’m given the tedious task of describing myself using ‘X’ amount of words, confident more often than not always makes the list. But in that moment confidence didn’t matter. What he said hurt. Not only in that second but afterwards too. In the days following I found myself retreating more and more into the self-conscious teenager I thought I’d forgotten how to be a long time ago. Beneath the peaks of arrogance, scoffing and denial of what he said I was losing a war. I was becoming critical of something I did not choose, couldn’t fundamentally change and something that even the most stunning of people will one day loose- their looks.

Yet I am not for a second denying that levels of attraction in any partner we have are important. And even my religion of Islam does not disregard that. But it emphases above physical attraction a type of attraction that rather than withering over the years will blossom and flower year after year. An attraction that we can only determine exists between us after getting to know someone. After closing the eyes and allowing the third inner eye to see someone. The problem was not in his opinion in me. It’s OK not to find someone attractive. But the problem lay in the fact that he verbalised it. The second you verbalise a thought like that it has the potential to harm. Funnily enough not long after very firmly stating his random disinterest in me, the same boy ended up asking me to marry him. Apologising for his stupidity claiming he’d now seen how beautiful I was on the inside. I was now precious and rare, one of a kind. My intelligence, my humour, my love for others, even my voice attracted him and now my looks were becoming less important….. Safe to say I declined his offer.

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A year and a half on from when those words escaped from his mouth, and the soundwaves reached my ears and into my body those words left a hole, in that hole now grows a flower. A flower that survives only when I water it. The flower although small, has deep roots which grow deeper every day. They keep me together and whole. The wholeness isn’t dependant on value, praise or compliments from anyone but myself. A self-respecting women isn’t in need of that.

“You are not beautiful enough for me”

I said those are the words no girl wants to hear. But now as a women hearing them I shrug. Oh well. I’m beautiful enough for me.

 

 

Images courtesy of  Lewis and Kev- Shine

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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The Darker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice

by Hafsa Guled

@QUESADILLABABY

Image Courtesy of Hafsa Guled

Image Courtesy of Hafsa Guled

The first time I hated my skin color was in the ninth grade and it was just after biology class. We were in the brightly lit hallway, goofing off when we saw two of the upperclassmen leaving the bathroom while adjusting their make-up. The louder one, Mariam, whom I both admired and hated at the same time walked up to me, brandishing her lighter skin on her neck. Since she came back from summer break, her dark skin had mysteriously gotten five shades lighter.

Loudly, she gushed about how pretty her light skin was to anyone who would listen. It was interesting because I grew up with Mariam and just last year her skin was darker than mine. But thanks to the new girl, Z, who pressured the entire senior class to bleach themselves, things took a different turn. The same girls who didn’t think twice of their skin tone were now spending hours in front of the bathroom mirror glancing at their reflections, unsatisfied with what they saw.

Z, who herself had bleached her skin senseless, began comparing skin tones before gym class. The lighter you were, the nicer she treated you, but because I had a darker complexion, she did not like me much. “White hijabs would not look nice on you since you are too dark”, a direct quotation said by her that still sticks with me today.

She really put all her energy towards making me feel inferior because of my skin color.

I clearly remember standing in front of my locker pretending to reach for notebooks I did not need just to avoid Z. Her presence behind my back when she walked past every morning sent me on complete edge. My friends did not understand why I was so quiet and uneasy whenever I saw her. To me, she conjured up so many negative emotions and made me feel so small that it was hard to articulate. The amount of time I spent beside my locker attempting to look busy so as not to have to talk her was countless. Just the sound of her slithery snake like hiss of a voice was enough to make me shiver. She really put all her energy towards making me feel inferior because of my skin color. This was my firsthand experience with colorism in my life.

Soon, before my bus picked up in the morning for school I would stand in front of the mirror adjusting my hijab left and right trying to cover my face. I tossed all the white scares bought for me in the back of my closet. I didn’t feel like I was pretty or worth looking at. Another thing that confirmed that was none of the boys I liked liked me back. It was a never ending cycle. The effects of colorism were deeply rooted in me for many years to come but it first started in my own home.

For me, that was when I first started associating being dark with something gross and nasty.

My aunt and my mother both had lighting bleach creamers in their nightstands and would apply them religiously every night. My mom would say she was using it to ‘correct her uneven dark spots’ but I knew the truth. My aunt would say she needed to ‘return to her original skin tone’. For me, that was when I first started associating being dark with something gross and nasty.

Growing up as a kid I would overhear adults at the dinner table talking about certain divorces and family gossip. Occasionally I would hear things like, “[H]e can’t marry her skin is too dark, all the kids will be ugly” or “[M]y God you’ve gotten darker here’s a recipe for an all-natural lightening cream’. As an eleven year old, I never understood that way of thinking since my dad was dark as coal and my little sister was as well. But that was just the tip of iceberg unfortunately.

My own mother would tease my younger sister for her darker complexion by calling her “Sudani” or “darkie”. (Sudani meaning someone of Sudanese descent and darkie a shortened term for a darker skinned person). I remember one day when I walked in on my little sister crying, heeled over the toilet in the bathroom. With tears streaming down her face, she begged God that she just wanted to be light. Those were just the first few instances I had brushed with colorism but my journey with self- hatred did not start until late high school.

Self- loathing of my dark skin was all I knew for years. I spent countless hours of my life wishing I was as light as Sofia Vergara or Raven Symone. All around me light skinned women seemed to be making it far in life and had many doors opening for them. It got so bad that during my senior year of high school, I stopped showing my face to people. I desperately began covering my face with hoodies and beanies, pretty much anything to hide my self.

My self- esteem was at an all-time low all because I despised what my skin look like. Every night I would scrub my body until my fingertips would turn raw just at a shot of being one shade lighter. For me, being lighter represented things like youth, beauty, and likeability. All the light girls I knew were liked by everyone. I just wanted a piece of that. But over the years, my way of thinking slowly began to change for the better.

Accepting my skin tone has been a long, painful journey for me. Some days I wake up and feel a twinge of the hurt and self- hatred I carried for so long bubble up. But I am happy to say I no longer hesitate in wearing lighter colored hijabs. I mean of course it hasn’t been easy nor did it happen over-night. It was long nights of crying myself to self and sitting on the cold toilet seat not wanting to get up because it would mean catching my reflection in the mirror. Then slowly day by day not allowing my self to beat myself up over things I had no control over.

My one act of rebellion has been to wear bright, statement lip colors no matter how my skin looks. I have actually reached the point of self-acceptance where when I look into the mirror, I feel proud of my glistening melanin. I no longer see an ugly, blackened shell of a person but more of a darkskinned bombshell girl with an A+ personality.

I am able to say I love my blackness.

It hasn’t always been this way but thanks to several years spent on social media, internet friends, black pride, black self-love hashtags, and real life support groups, I am able to say I love my blackness. Spefically hashtags like #FlexinMyComplexion and #BlackOutDay taught my blackness is what makes me beautiful. Now, I love how my skin looks when the sun hits it, like shimmering bronze. I love how my eyelids twinkle and gleam when I blink. I love how my skin doesn’t age. I love how any lipstick color immediately pops because of my beautiful melanin. I love how white people gush and obsess about how clear my skin is considering their the ones that the media deems as most beautiful. I love how soft and sun-kissed my skin looks at all times, even in the winter. And best of all, I love every part of my blackness. Even the darker parts of it.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.