In the past couple of years, I am seeing a trend among my generation and the younger generation with regards to the level of importance that they give their looks. Makeup and cosmetics for the ladies, gym and protein shakes for the guys. I am seeing an unbelievable obsession with selfies, showing yourself online, a thirst for comments, a hunger for attention and appreciation from strangers. Even practising sisters aren't escaping from this and tabarruj is becoming a norm. It's even encouraged in some circles, I see it being praised, being shared, commented, supported, applauded. I see sisters in the masjid with faces beautified. I'm not sure what has happened in the 3 years I was abroad but really, I am seeing a huge transformation. I see an addiction from the younger girls to makeup. I say 'addiction' while I am conscious of the weight this word carries but how else do you explain young ladies wearing full makeup day in, day out? I see girls who look way older than their ages because of the heavy makeup they adorn. I see everyone looking the same: same eyebrows, same face shapes, same lips, same nose shapes. I see everyone having the same style: same tube skirts, tight clothing, camel-humps, same trainers, same coats, same tracksuits, same brands, same haircuts, same bags. Where has our individuality gone? Where has our personal style gone? Why do we want to copy and clone ourselves to look like other people? Why do we not accept hijab with all its conditions?
I don't have the answers to all these questions.
This over-weighed importance given to one's outward appearance has several pitfalls. Firstly, it is detrimental to the person. A person whose main concern merely resolves around 'how do I look?', 'how's my makeup?' 'how are my muscles?' is someone who has busied him/herself with futility. This kind of activity instils pride and arrogance in the heart. It plants seeds of unawareness. Ironically, it also encourages low self-confidence. Most of the people who enjoy posting themselves online tend to have a deficit in their confidence. I'm not making this up, I've read/heard this statement coming directly from these people. Maybe it's because they know that these images they're posting of themselves are not the real thing. Funny how it's those people we look up as being 'good-looking' by whatever standard.. are those who lack confidence the most.
Secondly, seeking attention is something natural in humans (and especially women). We like the feeling of being complimented, the power of attracting someone to us and being noticed. But, what a disaster when this is sought outside of our Islamic legislation. I am so grateful for my father who has always showered me with compliments and still up to today calls me 'gorgoss' (gorgeous) whenever the opportunity arises. Actually, my father doesn't even look for an opportunity to compliment me and that's how it should be. It's very important for a girl to feel important, loved and complimented by the first man in her life i.e: her father. Many girls don't have this and so, they seek that recognition outside. I doubt any fathers are reading my blog but if there are (and for all future fathers), your daughters need to hear you say how wonderful and beautiful they are. Don't be stingy with compliments. Same applies to husbands, brothers ect.
I also understand that times have changed. We are being bashed left, right and centre about the ideal look, shape, curves a woman (or man) should have. Our yardstick for beauty is distorted due to social media and the deterioration of society in general. Thank God I was in teenager in the mid 2000's where there was no IG or snapchat filters! But even though we didn't have any of these apps, it didn't mean that we escaped the generic body confidence issues when puberty hit. It's just that it wasn't as harsh as teens have it today. I remember being 16-ish and wishing 'i wish i had that more, and less of that, and this here bla bla' but that was all it was: a mere fleeting wish that evaporated as I left the bathroom. I remember being body-aware though and a lot of my spare time was spent in front of the mirror (like many other girls right?). I became intrigued by the world of beauty and I saw that I wasn't being looked as a kid anymore. But that's where my parents stepped in (mom particularly) where she guided me and advised me with all the motherly care that she has. She never said 'no' and she never shouted but she used such wisdom in talking to me. Again, mothers if you are reading this.. your teenage daughters need you to tell them what's right and wrong. They need your guidance! You need to be their role-model, don't be that over-the-top strict mother whose kids do all sorts behind her back because they can't approach her.
As a teen like many others, I just liked checking myself out (lol!) and because I didn't have someone to compare myself to, it was easy to spend hours in the bathroom and positively looking at all my angles. It's really funny how self-obsessed we are as teens. Anyway, I quite liked what I saw in the mirror (except the fleeting thoughts I mentioned above). But sadly, I have to admit that if I was a teenager today and I did the same thing.. maybe I would be looking for all the wrong things.
Wrong to who? Nothing on your body is wrong. It's exactly been designed for you. This is something you realise as an adult. Your body is just good as it is. Stop looking at it with such negative eyes. If you are your biggest critic then how do you expect to exult confidence? Not gonna happen. There are things I used to feel negative about when I was younger but with maturity, growth and self affirmation, I don't mind any longer. I don't mind my body as much. I'll take care of it, I'll preserve it to the best of my ability but I refuse to give it more attention than it deserves. Let's be honest, my body is hardly going to do me favours in the grave. This body will turn into dust with nothing remaining. And even before death, it will weaken and become fragile.
What I want to give all my dedication and importance is my heart. I want to strengthen my heart. I want to beautify it. I want to purify it. I want to elevate it. I want to glow from inside. I have been reading quite a bit about the heart (not the physical organ), character-building ect in the past couple of months. It has re-emphasised everything I want for myself. I believe it was Ibn Qayyim who stated that we all have 4 eyes, 2 physical eyes to see the world and 2 in the heart to navigate our spirituality. These are the eyes I want to see the rest of my life with. I want my heart to lead the way, provided it is righteous of course.
Unfortunately, this aspect of beauty (inner beauty) is neglected like crazy. Our physical eyes have become blinded by a false impression of beauty. I want to be a beautiful person through my actions, through my interactions with people, through the love and care I show to others, through the reassuring voice I give.. not because of something so mundane as 'my body or features'. My teacher once told us 'never be proud of something you had no choice in, instead be proud in things you have had a choice in'. This has struck with me. As far as I know, none of has chosen how our bodies look or the colour of our eyes or our hair type. So why do we display pride in these things and our appearances in general? Be proud of being a genuine person, be proud if you display beautiful character, if you know how to self-discipline yourself, if you show restraint ect.
Perhaps people prefer working on their external beauty (through makeup, muscle building ect) because that is easier to do than inner building. It has a superficial impact (shows on the outside) whereas the other is deep inside. Something like character-building will take a lifetime to be perfected.. I also think that when you focus on being a good person with a good heart and a beautiful character.. confidence will follow because you're not giving it a choice. You know what you're doing right so confidence has no alternative but to follow you.
Now I am not saying that looking good doesn't matter. It does. Looking cute is cool even with the help of cosmetics but not the way people are doing it nowadays. And especially not if you only want to look cute to fish for compliments from strangers. That's not cute. It's like those people who are into fitness and are into counting every calorie, macro counting. How do you live? Imagine if you put all this dedication, discipline into something that will actually benefit you in the hereafter? Imagine putting this amount of hard work and sacrifice for your eeman (faith)? Man, you would be an amazing scholar!
In any case, the middle path is always the best. Remember your looks, your body, your features.. will all go soon. Sooner than you imagine. They are a trust (amaanah), they are subservient to you (not the other way around). Use them wisely, take care of them but also remember your heart. Take care of your heart. Clean it often with repentance, with beautiful thoughts, with pure intentions. Affirm yourself, compliment yourself, love yourself.. thank God for your health and your beauty. Understand that there isn't one standardised beauty, find beauty in everything and everyone and be happy! Happiness is attractive, gratitude is gorgeous, kindness is beautiful, intelligence is hot!