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Posts tagged ‘Expectations’

“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

Peace be upon you!

With the holy month of Ramadan fast approaching, I thought what better way to come back to my happy place, my blog, than to write the special post I share annually around the same time? Sadly, I wasn’t able to do so last year, and the fact that I couldn’t, took its toll on me for quite a while back then. The previous year, my post was about forgiveness. It is the most highly viewed and shared post on my blog thus far! It came from the bottom of my heart and helped me realize how important forgiveness is in our lives! Whether it be forgiving ourselves, those who wronged us in the past, those who wrong us now, those who will wrong us in the future or those who, indirectly, led others to wrong us. I also reflected on the fact that we all must seek forgiveness ourselves, whether from those we wronged or from God, the Almighty! There is no greater peace of mind than laying your head on your pillow at night knowing that you did your best to make amends with others and that you don’t carry as much as a grain of salt of bitterness towards anyone! It’s something I remind myself of every day and strive to attain even on the toughest of days. May God grant us all peace of mind, pureness of heart and the capacity to forgive others so that He may forgive us when we most need it! Ameen.

This year I would like to reflect on Prophet Muhammad’s authentic hadith:

Anas (RA) relates that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (peace be upon him) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

By no means am I a scholar, and so I am not referring to the above mentioned hadith from a scholarly perspective. But rather, how someone like me, a regular person who continues to strive to better herself and attain further knowledge of her own religion, can benefit from it!

This hadith is so concise yet exceptionally profound! It is not saying that a person is deemed a non-believer for failing to hold in his heart the aforementioned love for others. It rather states that their belief is somewhat deficient. It guides us as to how people are supposed to relate to each other in this life. It also negates ugly emotions such as envy, wishing ill upon others and hatred while establishing the vision of a society based on mutual love, care and respect! It incorporates so many deep meanings in one sentence! Sobhan Allah (Glory be to God).

Over the past few years, as well as this year in particular, I have come to notice that many people do not take this precious advice to heart! Although growing up I would hear my parents’ generation speaking about how different people are “now”, how inconsiderate those around us have become, how the ties that used to bind people back in the day no longer do so, I don’t think I have truly witnessed all that in essence till fairly recently! See, back then they’d be referring to someone who didn’t call for a few days after knowing that someone is ill. Or someone who, although they knew that X’s children had finals, they still so inconsiderately chose to host a dinner party the preceding weekend. Or someone who couldn’t even bother to fake a smile at Y’s wedding just because they had wished that their own daughter got married first! Not to minimize how detrimental such actions can be on a relationship, particularly one of kinship, but all those ghastly things fade in comparison to what I have witnessed in, say, the past decade!

It’s almost like people have seeds of bitterness, envy and hatred slowly but surely growing in their hearts with each passing generation! The saddest part? The recipients of all this negativity are more often than not really good people, arguably the best amongst the bunch, often times! We’re talking people wishing that someone would fall ill with a more severe illness than theirs just because they couldn’t bother to call and check on them. Someone feeling so bitter about someone’s promotion or raise that they’d try to sabotage their image at work to make themselves feel and look better amongst their peers. Someone knowing that they can help a friend in need of assistance by making a simple phone call or helping them research a solution to their problem but cannot find it in their hearts to do so. Someone being able to lend a shoulder to someone in turmoil but feeling like they are not obliged to do so, therefore why go “the extra mile”? Someone breaking marriages and friendships just to prove a point, which may or may not be substantial. Someone being outright mean to a child just because they are jealous of their parent. It has become ridiculous! I witness such actions first hand at least several times a week (sometimes several times a day) and it breaks my heart for our ummah! Why? Why put yourself and others through so much? For what? So what if someone has a higher salary than you? I’m sure they deserve it! So what if X is more healthy than you? Maybe you’re happier! So what if Y’s child got married before yours? Maybe your child’s marriage will be a better one! So what if Z shines at work? Let that motivate you to work harder! You see, we do not have to bring each other down, wish ill upon each other nor ruin each other to attain what we want in this life. If anything, the only thing we should be trying to strive for and accumulate in this life is good deeds! That’s it. None of us are taking anything else with us to our grave! Focus on the ultimate goal, raise your children to be pious and humble, make a difference in this life by helping others and your message will be complete. It’s really as simple as that!

So, what are some things we can do to remind ourselves to act in accordance with our Prophet’s cherished words? Well, first and foremost, we need to void our hearts of any ill feelings towards others. This may prove to be challenging at times, but even if you feel like the person you are baring ill feelings towards doesn’t deserve it, think about yourself! Would you rather follow God’s and the Prophet’s teachings or hold on to a grudge or envy that could poison your life from the inside out? It’s OK to be upset about something or from someone, but we all need to figure out a way to deal with and disperse those feelings and channel them in a positive manner. One thing that I discovered, perhaps a year or two ago, works beautifully for me is that when I am feeling upset or angry and I decide to fast, I usually feel remarkably calmer and better afterwards! No matter how enraged, hurt or betrayed I feel waking up, all those feelings melt away from my heart as well as my mind as the day passes by. It’s like a full-body cleanse, sobhan Allah (Glory be to God)!

Another important point is that in loving for our brother what we love for ourselves, the one thing that should be at the very top of our priority list is to wish for everyone to be guided to the righteous path! It’s a simple yet fundamental thought. You see, we all have the same ultimate goal, yet we often lose sight of that in the middle of all what life puts us through on a daily basis! Making du’a (supplication) for others is an action that would take no more than a few seconds of your time, yet can completely change both your life and theirs! How so?

The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم  (peace be upon him) said, “The supplication of a Muslim for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: `Ameen! May it be for you, too’.” [Sahîh Muslim].

So, that person that gives you a hard time at work? Make du’a for them rather than thinking of ways to get back at them. That person who didn’t help you when they were the only ones you thought could? Make du’a for them and sit back and watch how God will extend you the best of helping hands! That person who forgets everything you’ve done for them when no one else did? Make du’a for them and watch as God plants seeds of love for you in huge masses of people’s hearts! And if you can’t bring yourself to do any of that? Say no more than “hasby Allah wa ne’ma al wakeel” (Allah is Sufficient for Me, and He is the Best Trustee) … that’s it! By saying that, you declare that you are leaving the matter in God’s hands and are entrusting Him to solve it with his infinite wisdom. Is there anything better than that? Don’t bring yourself down to the level of making du’a against someone, targeting their children, health, wealth, relationship with his/her spouse, etc. It’s not worth it! Wallahi, it’s not worth it!

What else can you do to put the first hadith in practice? How about treating others the way you wish to be treated? Does that show love for them? I’m pretty sure that no one wants others to treat them badly, so, yes!

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever wishes to be kept away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise should have death overtake him while he believes in Allah and the Last Day and should treat people the way he wants them to treat him.” [Sahîh Muslim]

You see, Islam is a just and peaceful religion. You want justice for yourself? Grant it to others first. You want forgiveness? Forgive before you seek it for yourself. You want good health? Do not wish illness upon anyone. You want authentic friends? Be authentic and sincere towards them first. Give before you take. Sow before you reap. You cannot have the fruits of a tree before first planting it, can you? Well, the same goes for everything in this life. If we all follow the precious teaching of our phenomenal Prophet, wallahi there will be no ummah out there better than ours! Sobhan Allah (Glory be to Allah).

One important point, is the fact that sometimes we put our brothers and sisters last preceded by so many things that shouldn’t really take precedence. Part of our duty towards God, our beloved Prophet and our ummah at large is to ALWAYS help a brother or sister in need, always. If you run a business and you are placed in a position of having to choose between doing the right thing for an employee of yours while incurring miniscule loss or making a “business decision” and lose a good employee’s faith in your establishment, go for the first choice. If you have the chance to either help out a neighbor and perhaps have to cancel a trip that you planned for quite some time or go on the trip but leave your neighbor in distress with no one to help them, go for the first choice. If you have to make a choice between siding with a colleague who is only asking for their rights or siding with your boss who is being unreasonable, go for the first choice. If you have the choice between turning your cheek to someone who wronged you or retaliating, go for the first choice. And always remember, whatever you do, you are doing for Allah. And whatever you do, you’re doing according to who you really are on the inside and not what the person in front of you actually deserves. And whatever you do, you do out of love … love for God, love for goodness, love for the ummah, love for yourself and love for our lovely religion!

white-flower

My final thought involves seeing one’s faults and imperfections and focusing on them rather than those of others! More often than not I wonder whether people are truly oblivious to their faults or are they faking that? If you do not extend a helping hand to someone, why be mesmerized when others behave the same way towards you? You comment about other people backbiting you yet you spy on others or cheat them. You love to criticize how X raises her children while your own children have clearly not been raised well. You love to put others down yet wonder why others may want to call you out on such behavior. Your friends love you and always want to help you but you only befriend them when you need something, otherwise they are useless to you. You criticize someone else’s hijab (veil) while you wear yours well but lie all the time. You criticize how someone doesn’t pray sunnah while you pray, fast and memorize the Qur’an yet you are full of bitterness towards those around you and you constantly hurt them. You are in a position of responsibility yet don’t do the right thing because it’s often the harder choice, however, when you have an issue you want others to immediately come to your aide! It’s truly baffling! Al hamdulillah, I am blessed to know my flaws well and am thankful that Allah gives me the chance day after day to work on them. I am humbled by the experience gained from the never-ending journey of self-improvement.

May Allah aide and guide us all. May He expel all envy, bitterness and hatred from our hearts and replace them with love, compassion, positivity and humility. May He help us see our own faults before we see those of others and give us the courage, means and opportunity to work on them so that we may attain the ultimate goal, in sha’ Allah (God willing). May He help us help others always, even when we’re at our lowest point. And may our ummah wake up and go back to basics of religion before sweating the small stuff.

To everyone out there who did not wish me or my loved ones what they wish for themselves over the years, I forgive you! To everyone who did not come through for me or my loved ones, particularly this year, I forgive you! To everyone who could’ve made the right decision but chose the wrong one because it was easier, I forgive you! To everyone who could’ve made a true difference but chose not to, I forgive you! To everyone who envied, backbit, carried bitterness in their hearts or hurt me or my loved ones, I forgive you! I forgive you for my own sake more than anything. Those who acknowledged their mistakes, whether or not they made up for them, I forgive and respect you. Most importantly of all, I am making du’a for each and every one of you, myself included. May Allah help us to uphold and truly live by His teachings as well as those of Prophet Muhammad. May He guide us all to the straight path and ease our journey to the hereafter. May He surround us with brothers and sisters who help us to become the best version possible of ourselves and take our hands and guide us to Jannah (paradise). May He help us learn from our negative experiences in life, including the ones we put ourselves in, and enjoy the positive ones. May He help us remain silent when others wrong us, not out of weakness or fear, but out of respect for oneself and in following the true teachings of our religion. May Allah always be there for us and may we be deserving of His protection and love. Ameen.

Ramadan mubarak, may Allah accept all our fasts, prayers, recitations and good deeds, ameen 🙂

30 Days Till 30 … Day 28: If You Are In Your Twenties …

In 72 hours, I will finally be 30 years old. As I leave my twenties behind, I am excited to begin a new phase of my life. However, I take it upon myself to always let others learn from my own experience in life, no matter how small it is. Everything that happens in one’s life happens for a reason and I don’t believe that the reason is always private, on the contrary, I believe that most of the time whatever happens is meant to help you help someone else as well! So, if you are in your twenties, here is what I would have to say to you:

  • Don’t be afraid to live life! All too often we are worried about what others would think, what others would do, what others would say … don’t! Live your life to the fullest and don’t be scared to try new things. You don’t want to just exist, you want to live and there is no better age to do so. I wish I wasn’t so shy for the most part of my twenties, but I intend to fully rectify that in my 30s, it’s never too late 😉

  • Better late than never but never late is better! Always be punctual. Always be there for others when they need you not when it best suits you. Always apologize when you are supposed to. Always be supportive when your shoulder is needed. Always be at the front lines, no matter where you are going or what you are doing, get there on time and be there till the end.
  • Be kind. Always, always be kind. Even if the person on the receiving end doesn’t deserve it in your opinion, be kind.
  • Forgive. I am one who is unable to forget, I find it important to learn from all the experiences where I was hurt or wronged, but I do forgive even if I find it close to impossible. The trick is to do it for yourself, not for the person in question. One day, you will need God to forgive you for all your sins so it is a good idea to pay it forward and forgive others first.

  • Be charitable. Yes, you are young and you have your life ahead of you. But only God knows how long that life will be! Make a difference in someone’s life, alleviate someone’s pain, help educate or feed someone. You will not only feel great, but your act of kindness may change someone’s life completely.
  • Spend time with your family, not just your friends. Our parents do so much for us, throughout their lives. Spending time with them when they know you have other alternatives close to your heart will make a world of a difference to them. Be kind to them, respect them and don’t make fun of them. No matter how hard they are to deal with, no matter how “uncool” you feel they are, you wouldn’t be here if it were not for them and, most likely, the life you have and the friends you have and the income you have wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for them … whether directly or indirectly.
  • Be frugal. Don’t be cheap, but plan your spending. Even if you have a wonderful job that pays you well. Markets fall and rise, jobs are lost every day, a medical emergency can happen any time … there are a multitude of reasons to encourage you to be smart with regards to your spending. The smarter you are with your money when you are younger, the more likely you’ll live comfortably and have money to spare when you get older.
  • Have fun whenever you can! It doesn’t have to be by going on a cruise (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you can afford it) but make sure you have fun every chance you get. It can be by watching a fun movie, spending time with new and exciting people, visiting exotic lands or just doodling something. I don’t care what it is, try to make fun an integral part of your life, not only is it uplifting, it’s also necessary for surviving the ups and downs of this life.
  • Fall in love. Like head over heals, crazy, blind love! I truly believe that it is better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all. Sure, in that case it will hurt like hell, every single time you think about it … but if you have never loved, truly, deeply, madly loved then you have not lived. Life is completely different when you are in love and we all deserve to feel that way once in a lifetime. If you end up with the love of your life, hold on dearly to them and never ever let them go, that kind of love only happens once in a lifetime so don’t blow it.
  • Graduate from university or college. If you can help it, DO NOT, under any circumstance, drop out of school. Even if you are not big on studying, think about the future rewards of taking such a step. A good education is your weapon in this life! If you want to become a better person, have a great career, have prospects in life, have doors open for you, have the confidence to walk through life, have the strength not to let life break you, have the power to hold your head up high … it’s all attainable through education. If you have to drop out of school for any reason, read, read, read.
  • Read! Reading broadens your horizons, increases your knowledge, strengthens your language, enriches your imagination, fortifies your self-development and changes your world. Reading is the one and only activity I would encourage you to make happen even if you are the laziest person to walk this Earth.
  • Take care of your health. No, I don’t mean go on a fad diet once you gain two pounds, I mean be healthy in general. Eat healthy, breathe healthy, sleep healthy, think healthy and talk healthy! Your figure isn’t all that matters about you, your overall health is mega important and it influences your emotional and psychological well-being so be as healthy as you can. And remember, being too thin is just as bad as being obese.
  • Love yourself. Forget about what society tells you you should look, behave, smell and dress like. You are bigger than that and you aren’t a copy of every other boy or girl walking on the street. You are a unique being and you should love yourself as such. Do not let society and the media make you a copy when you were born an original.
  • Work on your self-confidence. The teens and twenties are a ship wreck when it comes to self-esteem and self-confidence. However, if you do your best to accept yourself the way you are and stop trying to change everything about you to please others or conform to society, you will be the happiest person in the world. Not only will you be content, you will learn to love yourself and that will project on everything you do and say. Thus, drawing back positive energy and leading others to see you as the awesome being  you really are.
  • Do not regret your mistakes! I know this is a tough one but it’s one of the greatest services you can do for yourself. As badly as many mistakes hurt and as deep and painful as some scars they leave behind are, you wouldn’t be the wonderful person you are if it weren’t for your mistakes. You may have fallen in love with that heartless person but you came out of the relationship stronger and more alive because you have awoken those beautiful, beautiful feelings in the process. You may have turned down that fantastic job but you gained your self-respect in the process. Your friends may have turned their backs on you but you now know who your true friends are. No matter what the mistake was, no matter how serious, no matter how big, no matter how deep the cut is, you learned something, something that you could not have learned as clearly or directly from another experience. So never regret your mistakes, learn from them and be thankful you made them.
  • Don’t trust to easily. Your trust is a gift that needs to be earned, no one is entitled to it! Whether it’s a family member, a friend or a loved one. Just because you feel a certain way about someone doesn’t mean they automatically deserve your trust. In fact, the more important someone is to you, the harder they should work to earn your trust because the more likely it is that if they betray your trust you will be deeply cut.
  • Quality not quantity. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, it’s how supportive and true the ones you do have are. It doesn’t matter how much you make at that job, it’s how much self-development and use it is to others that matters. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket, it’s how you use it to make yourself and those less fortunate happy. It doesn’t matter what gadgets you have, it’s how you use them to be able to spend more quality time with the people you love that matters.
  • Use the right criteria to select a partner for life. His good looks and muscles don’t make him a great husband nor exceptional father. Hell, they aren’t even there to stay!

  • Don’t have children if you are not ready. Most people love children and it is one of their dreams to have their own. But unless you yourself are mature and responsible enough and willing to start sacrificing a lot for your child’s sake, don’t have children just yet. Children aren’t a doll that you’ll just throw in a nanny’s or daycare’s arms once you are bored with them … they are real, live human beings who love and need you more than anything else in the world. If you are going to let them down, don’t have them just yet.
  • Be alone! Another weird one, but if you are like myself then you need emotion to live. Such a character can lead to you being involved with someone for the sake of love, you want to love and be loved and simply and truly cannot live without such passion. You need to learn to be happy as an individual before you commit to a relationship! That’s the only way your relationship will work and will help you both grow as a couple and as individuals, otherwise, your partner will override you and that’s surely not what you want to end up happening.
  • If you can, travel. It doesn’t have to be on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be planned. It doesn’t have to have a purpose. Just travel, have fun, experience new things and live! Traveling is fabulous, it’s an experience like no other especially if you plan it your own way.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. It doesn’t matter how young you are, as long as you have something useful to say, say it. A 20-year-old can be more mature, experienced or even knowledgeable than a 50-year-old! You have the right, just like everyone else around you, to speak your mind.
  • Take risks. Whether it be by bungee-jumping or taking that semester abroad. When you take risks, the most beautiful things happen. You also break through your fears, which is something I highly encourage.
  • Start up your own little project or business. I don’t care whether it’s a lemonade stand or a full-blown consulting company. Try being your own boss, doing something you love and putting your dreams into action. I ran my own business for four years and they were very exciting, instructive and highly self-developmental. Planting your feet in the ground and standing firm even when others try to take you down yields a fantastic feeling of inner-strength. Helping others and making a difference in their lives yields a terrific feeling of contentment.
  • Don’t be prejudiced. You don’t know much about the world, really. And if you are prejudiced against others I guarantee you that others will be prejudiced against you as well even if you never know it. We are all so different yet so similar at the same time. Treat others the way you would like to be treated and you will see the same happen to you.
  • Be silly! Don’t be too shy to be silly sometimes. Be sure you are being silly rather than stupid though! Being stupid is something that should never, ever happen. But being silly and care-free is sometimes what one needs to feel free and alive.
  • Try and try again. You are at the age where anything is possible. You can achieve anything you want … just be diligent and don’t give up just yet.
  • Work hard, really hard. The harder you work when you are young, the faster you will learn and grow. That will help your future old self more than you can ever imagine.
  • Know what you want in life. Don’t let others tell you what you should want, have your own dreams and goals and make them happen.
  • Don’t let others bring you down. Whether it’s that fake friend, that bitter woman whose husband you once rejected, that poisonous partner or that hateful relative … don’t let anyone have so much control over you and your feelings as to dictate your well-being and self-worth.
  • Don’t relinquish control of your life. No matter who it is you are in love with, how important that person is, how strong the tie between you is … your life is yours and yours alone and you are in full control when it comes to it. Never, ever give anyone the keys to your well-being.
  • Make yourself happy. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a relationship or not, you are your number one supporter. Even if you have the most wonderful partner in the world, it’s unhealthy to have your happiness depend on him/her. People who let that happen almost always end up with a broken heart and/or a broken spirit.
  • Fight your own battles, don’t ever let anyone else do so for you.
  • Always have hope, the best is yet to come.
  • If it happened, it happened for a reason. Whether or not you know the wisdom behind it, have faith in God and know that it was best for you to happen.

  • Stand strong and keep your head held up high. You matter, you are doing your best and you will prevail.
  • Care about the things and people that matter … the rest is just trash that should not have any impact on you.
  • What people do and say reflects upon their own character, it says nothing about you.
  • If someone insults you on purpose, it’s either because they are jealous, haven’t been raised well or have failed to be like you.
  • Don’t badmouth anyone, no matter what they did to you. Sometimes people grow apart for one reason or another but it doesn’t give us license to forget what we once had.
  • Do things that matter. Don’t spend your twenties having fun and playing. Do things that count and matter from time to time, you’ll thank  yourself later.
  • Play sports … or just move!
  • The TV, video games and other gadgets are only your friends if you use them right. Otherwise, they are bad as weed, crack and cocaine!
  • Pleasing everyone is impossible, so stop trying!
  • Showing others the exit door to your life is OK, in fact, it’s encouraged. Don’t be obsessed about keeping relationships and don’t feel guilty for changing the dynamics of a once strong relationship. Sometimes, people are meant to be a lesson that you move on from … it’s OK.

  • If you have a significant other and/or children, treat them right. You never know if you will wake up tomorrow or not to show them how much you love and appreciate them.
  • Be spiritual. It’s not uncool, it’s not silly, it’s anything but! Having a connection with God will always help you in more ways than one. If you do not connect with the higher being that is God, you will always feel lost.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 27: What Should Growing Up Really Mean?

All too often, the two are used interchangeably while there is a huge difference between growing up and maturing! Growing up, simply put, means aging. The process of growing in age from day to day, month to month or year to year. Growing up, in itself, does not necessarily mean than an individual has added to their knowledge, aspirations, goals, perceptions, character, personality or anything else! Maturing, on the other hand, signifies personal growth and development in body and mind.

Courtesy: Quotes For You

Courtesy: Quotes For You

Yes, growing up should, in theory, imply maturity as well but I have found the case to be different on numerous occasions. And they weren’t just random occasions here and there, there’s a substantial number out there, which is actually very sad to see. I have seen 20-year-olds who are more mature than 50-year-olds. I have seen uneducated people who are more mature than highly-educated ones. I have seen single people who never traveled more mature than mothers who have traveled and live abroad. I have even seen the same individual become less mature with time! If you think about it, it’s really fascinating that such a phenomenon exists, defying all logic.

So, what should growing up really mean? Well, it should be synonymous with maturing. But what does being mature entail? In my opinion, it’s the little things that show how mature you are. Like how you deal with certain situations, how you perceive certain things, how you interpret certain events in life, etc. Here are a few points that I use to ascertain maturity, whether in myself or others. It is by no means comprehensive, and I do tweak it when applying it to one individual versus another but, as a framework, it works beautifully every time!

1- Know where you stand in life. Have defined dreams and goals that you can work towards attaining.

2- Know your worth and know that it is not defined by what others think.

3- How do you treat those who have done something unforgivable? An immature person will tell them off. A mature person will show them the exit door from his life.

4- How do you react to unpleasant situations? An immature person will either lash out or whine. A mature person will either let it pass or respond accordingly without blowing things out of proportion or overreacting.

5- How do you treat those who wronged you? An immature person will either throw false blame or lash out. A mature person will be patient and try to understand why what happened did happen and either explain things to make them clear or let the whole thing go.

6- Know yourself. What you want or don’t want. What you care about or don’t care about. What is important to you and what isn’t.

7- Know when to let go. Whether it’s of the past, a current situation or relationship, an unattainable dream or a friend. Knowing when to let go is a sign that you are mature, know what you want and are in control of your life. Knowing who to keep in your life and who not to keep is a sign that you are aware of your surroundings and have enough self-confidence to not fear loss.

8- Do you make up your mind on issues that matter or do you let the media and other outlets make up your mind for you? Do you hate a certain group because you believe they are terrorists although you have never done any research on the subject? Do you believe that all women of a certain race are gold diggers although you  have never met one yourself? Do you believe that all members of a political party are idiots although you’ve never had a political discussion with one of them?

9- Know the worth of others in your life. Are your friends important enough to keep or can you lose them over disagreements such as those concerning politics or religious issues? Is your partner important enough to you or can you lose him/her over a dumb argument? If others have chosen to have you in their lives and you don’t appreciate that then it tells a great deal about you.

10- How do you spend your money? Do you save a certain sum? Do you blow it all off on stuff you want rather than need? Do you pay off debt first and then indulge or does it not matter? Dealing wisely with finances is one of the strongest signs of maturity.

11- How do you spend your free time? Do you read books or play video games? Do you go running or do drugs? Do you travel or do you lay on a couch and watch mindless TV? Not everything you do with your free time has to be intellectual. But it should be useful and add to your personal growth one way or another, no matter how small.

12- How much control do you relinquish to others? An immature person is easily swayed by what others tell them or even impost on them. A mature person knows that they are in control of their own lives and only those important to them have an advisory role in their lives, no less and no more. They are in full control and never relinquish any of it to another soul.

13- Do you express your feelings or do you bottle them in out of embarrassment. It’s some people’s nature to bottle in feelings, and that is fine, but if you do so out of embarrassment then it’s a sign of incomplete maturity. You should be secure enough to know that you are entitled to your feelings and that there is nothing wrong with expressing them openly.

14- How do you treat the weak and less fortunate? Do you lend a helping hand or make fun of them? Do you understand that their struggle is much more profound than yours or do you ridicule what they have to face on a daily basis in life? Do you understand how substantial your kindness towards them is, if even by smiling at them, or do you treat them as if they were invisible?

15- How do you use your knowledge? Do you try to pass it on to someone else if you could or do you just keep it for yourself? Do you use it for good or evil? Do you help others using your knowledge or not use it at all?

16- How do you treat those who you will not benefit from financially, socially or professionally? The bus driver, janitor, cab driver, waitress, doorman, nurse, etc. If you treat them the way you wish to be treated then you are mature. If you treat them as if they would not make a difference in this world if they just happened to disappear than you are immature and, sorry to add, a selfish child who needs a lesson in respect!

17- How do you treat your parents? I don’t care if you are 17 or 67, your parents are your parents. They sacrificed a lot, dedicated their lives to raising you, tried to give you what they never were able to have. They deserve your respect, gratitude and support.

18- Are you charitable or not? It doesn’t have to be through giving money. In Islam, even a smile is charity. You can help others by being there for them, listening to them, lending a helping hand, removing harm from the road, counseling, advising, giving food, giving shelter, helping someone find a job, etc. There are a multitude of ways to give back. Only a mature person realizes the importance of such an act and knows that we are not on this Earth forever so doing good is a must.

19- How do you deal with loss? Whether it be someone who died, someone who shut you out or someone that you let go of. The way you deal with loss could be through regret, guilt or anger if you are immature. If you are mature it could be with patience, understanding and forgiveness.

20- How do you perceive calamities? Are they another way the world is against you or are they a wake up call? Are they one more unlucky event in your highly unlucky life or are they an opportunity to repent or get closer to God? Are they something bad that always happens to you in particular of all people or are they a way for you to become a better person?

21- Be able to make yourself happy! Don’t always depend on others regarding your happiness. I know it’s easier said than done but I used to depend on the people I love for happiness, throughout the years I have trained myself to have my happiness depend on me rather than others. Of course, I am not 100% in control yet, and may never be, but at least no one has the whole set of keys to my heart’s happiness anymore.

Courtesy: FacebookQuotes4U.com

Courtesy: FacebookQuotes4U.com

22- Do you give credit where credit is due no matter how you feel about the individual in question? Giving credit to or showing gratitude for someone that you actually dislike or even detest takes a lot of courage, strength and maturity.

Finally, I’d like to add that if you believe that you are immature, don’t pretend to be otherwise because others will very easily see through you. It’s better to admit it to yourself and work on it. And if you happen to be married or are in a relationship where having children is a possibility, please do not bring children into this world until you yourself have grown up and matured! That’s not for your sake or that of society even, it’s for that child’s sake. The more mature you are, the more you will be able to guide your child and be there for them and protect them. So please, put that in mind before  you do the closest person to your heart the gravest injustice.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 21: The Past

We all have a past. Some of us have one that is dark while other may have a more colorful one. Some have had to deal with traumatic events, tragedies or the loss of loved ones while others were cheer leaders, team captains and prima donnas. No two pasts are identical, similar maybe but not identical. Yet we all have this universal understanding that the past needs to be put behind us and forgotten! I never managed to figure out why until recently. I finally had to accept the answer I was trying so hard not to accept … because we were taught to!

If we had a rough past, we were advised to put it behind us because it will spoil our present and prevent us from looking forward to the much better days that lay ahead. If we had a happy past, we were advised to put it behind us because no matter what happened back then there is no guarantee that life will continue down the same path, so we should not raise our expectations and hopes too high. It’s like there is no way we and our past can coexist in peace. Either it will destroy any prospect of happiness for us or we need to bury it deep. I cannot disagree more!

Your past is an integral part of who you are. It doesn’t define you but it did help shape you. Everything that you are is, directly or indirectly, an outcome of your past. Your past experiences shape your personality and character. Even the choices you make today are based on the lessons you learned in the past. So how can we detach ourselves from it and behave as if it never happened? There’s a proverb which is well-known back home that I wholeheartedly believe in; “whoever leaves their past behind gets lost”. That means that we cannot find our way in life without coming to terms with our past. Furthermore, no matter how hard you try, your past will shine through, one way or another, there’s no running away from it really. What we should do, in my humble opinion, is learn to make peace with it and realize that it has already gone. We moved past that point in time and there is no going back. If it was painful then it can’t hurt us any more and if it was happy then we have those wonderful memories to forever cherish.

Making peace with your past is extremely important. Your past is a reality, not a figment of your imagination, and so you cannot truly behave like it never happened because deep down inside you will always know that it did. If you do not make peace with your past it can haunt you, possible for as long as you live! If you are blessed with a strong memory like mine, you will remember everything from your past including how you felt at the exact moment something happened, what was going through your mind and every other detail that has to do with it no matter how small. Why would you want to agonize yourself every time you remember something unpleasant or feel hopeless every time you remember something amazing and think to yourself that it can never happen again? Making peace with your past is the only way you will be free of it! When you take that step, you will essentially relinquish its hold on you and set yourself free.

Many can argue that it’s easier said than done, and I agree completely! Coming to terms with your past, especially if it was dark or traumatic, can prove to be extremely challenging. More often than not we do not have all the answers. Why did that happen? Why me? Could I have prevented it? Was it something I did? Was being punished for doing something bad? Was I being rewarded for something good? How could God let this happen? And many, many more unanswered questions that race through our minds giving us an overwhelming sense of overburden. The trick is to be OK with not having the answers! How many things around us do we not have an explanation for yet we manage to function normally on a daily basis? It’s the same thing, whatever happened, good or bad, know that it was God’s will and He did it for a reason that either you will come to comprehend and appreciate or will remain unknown but He knows it was the best thing for you at the time. From my own experience, when you stop looking for answers they come running right to you!

My past was full of ups and downs. As a child I was generally happy, especially that I knew that the privileged life that my parents had given us was something that not many enjoyed. However, changing schools every 3-4 years was tough. I had to leave behind people who I grew to love from the bottom of my heart and it was never easy. Facebook and other social media didn’t exist so I knew that once I left that was it. I was a very shy child and didn’t adjust easily so starting a new school was a complete nightmare for me. I also felt detached from my extended family back home. We Arabs maintain really close relationships with our families, even the extended family, so being away all the time made me feel like a stranger amongst them when I would go back home on vacation. There were a few bullying incidents, a couple of times that I was accused of doing things that I didn’t do but was punished anyway and I was going to drown twice during swimming at school. Those were the main highlights of my childhood.

My teen years were calmer, I was focused on my studies so they were not that eventful. I was adamant on not taking any private lessons and on making my Arabic (written in particular) stronger. I also wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career so when it was time for my I.G.C.S.Es I went ahead and took 13 subjects instead of the recommended 8 just to keep my options open! I had a lot on my plate but it all had to do with academics. Then came the day I made the decision to wear my Hijab (the veil) and that was when my life turned up side down. I found an influx of support from strangers or friends that I had just made at university but it was met with an equally strong sentiment of rejection and disdain from those closer to me. I found myself facing an emotional and psychological battle waged at me from those closest to my heart. I persevered until I rode out the waves of their negative emotions and temperaments but to say that it was easy on me would be the biggest lie of my life! I still maintain my position regarding my decision and the only regret I have is not taking that step much sooner than I actually did.

Then came the most recent phase of my life, my twenties. To say that my twentieth birthday was disappointing would be an understatement. I was so excited about turning twenty that I blew it up in my head but it seemed that others didn’t see that coming except for my wonderful university friends. My academic studies went extremely well and I made the best of friends, the lifelong kind, at my beloved university. I could not have had better education, met more wonderful people or developed myself any further than I did at The American University in Cairo. I love that place with all my heart and am so grateful that my father was able to send me there and I am so proud of myself for keeping my scholarship going all 4 years.

I believe that I learned the most in my twenties. I met all sorts of people and had all sorts of experiences, good and bad. I made friends with lovely people who are always there for me and made friends with people who stabbed me in the back later on; which taught me how to differentiate between both early on in the relationship. I made a commitment to my wonderful husband and made prior commitments to a person who had no personality whatsoever and was completely different on the inside than how people perceived him and to another who had an unfounded ego the size of the galaxy and didn’t know what it takes to be in a committed relationship and how to respect others outside of himself; which taught me how to tell what people’s characters are like early on in a relationship. I grew closer to many of my family members and was trampled upon by others when my life didn’t go as they had planned; which taught me who really cares about me and who doesn’t. I had managers who cheered me on in my career and others who were biased and tried to stop my career from advancing; which taught me who has work ethic and who doesn’t. I lost all my grandparents and a beloved cousin and uncle; which taught me a lot about pain, loss and the fact that this life is not worth a mosquito’s wing, just like the Quran states! I had to make major life decisions on my own; which taught me my own strength. I survived a lot of things that no one my age is supposed to go through; which taught me about myself and my capabilities. I survived a fatal Pulmonary Embolism when I was 25; which taught me to be humble, thankful and not take anything in life for granted. I gave birth to my beautiful children who taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Overall, I’d say that my twenties were heartbreaking since the true colors of so many people who I trusted blindly showed and most of them were horrible, horrible beings on the inside. However, I would not have it any other way! I learned a lot, was spared a lot and grew a lot. If I had had a smooth-sailing decade I would have probably not advanced much in my life. I would have not been as wise, mature or knowledgeable. I now go into my thirties with a lot more confidence and optimism. I know myself much better now, including my capabilities and strength. I know others much better now, how to identify those worth my trust, time and devotion and those who are not. I know what I want in life and am not scared to let people in if I want to and show them the exit if I need to. I am not as naive as I used to be nor am I as caring about what others think.

So, due to my past … the good, the bad and the ugly … I am stronger, wiser, independent, more self-confident, self-sufficient and happier! I do not need any outside validation, do not care what others think of my beliefs or actions and know that as long as I am not doing anything to displease God, hurt others or cause any kind of harm then I can do as I please. I know that my family is the only entity that I would willingly give up my life for and that surrounding myself with those who love me and support me is key to my well-being. I know that anything material is a plus, but is not important in itself, inner peace and the well-being of my family are the only things that matter. I know that my past does not define me, it empowers me!

 

30 Days Till 30 … Day 20: Woman To Woman, Post-Marriage Advice

Since the foundation of today’s post has been laid in yesterday’s, let’s jump right to it.

Needless to say, married life is completely different than single life. It’s also completely different than life while dating, even if you’ve been with the same person for decades. It has nothing to do with that piece of paper we all sign. It does, however, have everything to do with the dynamics of the new relationship. People tend to be more comfortable in a stable relationship, which is what marriage essentially is. The sense of security that marriage gives them leads to more relaxation, transparency and spontaneity. To me, that’s a step in the right direction but only if we do not abuse it! Life should be more relaxed but we should not let it become monotonous. Transparency is a quality that should always be an integral part of any committed relationship but there should still be limits (don’t leave the bathroom door open in the morning while you are in there in the name of transparency, for example). Spontaneity is an essential ingredient for interesting and unexpected adventures but not if it leads to complete and utter chaos. Balance is something that we all should always strive to achieve, whether in our marriage, our personal lives or at work.

Based on my own young marriage, I’d like to share the most prominent points that I believe are most important when it comes to  creating a stable married life. As the years go by, I am sure that there will be more to learn and I promise to write another post, maybe in a couple more years or so, to amend this one. It’s not a topic that can be covered all at once, marriage is an ongoing process and so is anything that has to do with it.

1- Honesty, honesty, honesty! Yes, again. Honesty and transparency are the most important aspects of any marriage. A marriage can survive many things, dishonesty not being one of them. Once trust is lost, there is no real marriage, just an institution carrying the name.

2- Communication is vital. Every single minute of every single day. Whether it’s something on your mind, an issue that needs to be tackled, planning to be done for the future or just a reiteration of what happened all day. An open channel of communication has to be maintained between husband and wife.

3- You need to trust each other without limits. Not just that, each one of you has to make sure that s/he is trustworthy themselves. If you do not trust your significant other then the marriage simply won’t work. Even if you manage to stay together, it will be like having a house built on weak foundation. With the first sight of a measurable problem, especially if it has to do with violating your partner’s trust, the whole relationship will come crashing down.

4- You are married, always keep that in mind! It seems so obvious but many people behave like they are married only in the presence of their significant others. It’s not like they intend to, it’s just that sometimes when their partner isn’t around they let themselves go. Don’t do anything that would hurt your significant other’s feelings or violate his/her trust behind their backs. Nothing remains hidden and even if they never find out, you will know what you did!

5- When things are rough, don’t let it be a chance for someone else to step in. There are a lot of people out there who would not care whether you are engaged, married or even have children. If they want you, they want you! Needless to say, those people know nothing about ethics and family values. Even when things are rough at home, even if you feel unappreciated, even if you feel unloved, don’t let that be a chance for someone to interfere and try to make things worse. A person who doesn’t respect your sacred relationship with your spouse doesn’t respect you either.

6- Don’t let the past come back and haunt you. Many of us don’t want to hurt someone who meant the world to us someday. But if they are not decent enough to step back once you are in another relationship then they do not respect you and they are not real men! If you do reciprocate their correspondences then let your spouse know and let them know where you are coming from. Better still, let your ex know that you appreciate the correspondence, if it were an apology or has to do with righting a wrong or making peace, but make it crystal clear that you do not wish to receive any others. What’s best though is to leave the past in the past!

7- Remember that you are a team, just the two of you. No matter what goes on between you,  you stand as a united front when it comes to others.

8- If you are having serious problems let your significant other know. Don’t cheat and don’t distract yourself with anything destructive. Self-destruction is never the answer. Communication is much easier to do and much more rewarding.

9- Let your spouse know that they are appreciated, even when it comes to small things. Sure, throwing out the trash is no big deal but just watch their face as it lights up when you thank them with a tone of gratitude afterwards! Priceless.

10- Be there for your spouse. Whether they want to talk, want to be left alone, want you to create a diversion to distract them from a tough day at work, be understanding and do it. It doesn’t matter whether you comprehend what’s going on. Give them what they need and then they’ll give you what you need. Give them space and they’ll give you an explanation.

11- Yes, you are married but that doesn’t mean letting go completely. Whether you are a man or woman, maintaining a decent appearance, creating a serene atmosphere at home and introducing a little adventure from time to time into your relationship is essential.

12- Your spouse is more important than your friends. Does that mean that you should spend every waking hour with them? Absolutely not, not unless you enjoy their company that much! Even if you spend more time with your friends for whatever reason, it’s vital that you make your spouse feel that they are at the very top of your priority list. It’s not the quantity of time spent together that matters, it’s the quality.

13- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Sure, you may regret it when you have an argument and absolutely detest them for a short time afterwards but letting your spouse in is extremely important. Especially if they are the mature, understanding type who would learn a thing or two from what you tell them.

14- If one of you hits a slump with regards to working on your relationship, the other should pick up the slack, not slack off 😉

15- Do fun things together. It doesn’t matter if you are 20, 30, 40 or 70! It doesn’t have to be something big, just something fun for the two of you.

16- Maintain date nights from time to time. Have kids and don’t like to leave them with strangers, just like us? Have a movie night after the kids go to bed by renting a DVD or two and getting snacks ready beforehand. Have dessert, again after the kids go to  bed, but light up some candles and sit at the table while eating.

17- Encourage and support each other’s good habits and interests.

18- Say it as it is. If you feel like he’s slacking off at work or you feel like she’s gaining too much weight all of a sudden, let them know. Be nice about it and try to say it in the most sensitive way possible to avoid hurting their feelings but don’t leave them to the wind.

19- If they care, you care. If they love a place, person or thing that you cannot stand then train yourself to love it to. If you can’t, at least pretend … fake it till you make it, as they say! If it’s important to them, it has to be important to you. You will see the results such behavior will yield.

20- Be respectful of their family. We all know how our families are like, we may not always show it but we really do. When he sees his mother going all mother-in-law on you or his sister throwing a jealous fit or his brother acting all juvenile, he knows exactly what’s going on and you don’t need to point it out bluntly. If it’s something that’s getting out of hand, pick the right time and talk to him about it. He’ll try to fix it and if he can’t then at least he’ll let you know that you were heard and that he doesn’t like what happened either. That’s what really matters, isn’t it? That he knows you are trying your best even if they don’t.

21- Remember that you are carrying his name, even if not literally. Honor it, do right by it and keep it clean. Even if he can’t see you, you and God do!

22- Finances should never be “the” issue around which your marriage revolves. It’s simple, if he’s got the money then use it, if not then don’t. You are obliged to live on whatever he brings in and if you are not happy with that then go work and spend your money whatever way you wish. My honest advice would be, even if he does have oodles of money and you don’t need to work, don’t go spending it all. Remember that he worked hard to earn it and it’s not fair for you to blow it off on stuff that isn’t a necessity.

23- Time as a family (including children) should be as great as time spent as a couple. Children bring us joy and so you should not associate them with a setback in your marriage.

24- Forgive them for their mistakes. Yes, they can be annoying at times, especially when the same “mistake” is repeated over and over again but when did you become so perfect yourself?

25- Stressed? Worried? Can’t bear to speak to a living soul? Let them know. Hopefully, you are married to someone who is considerate and will give you whatever space you need. If not, communicate what you need and make it happen instead of waiting for them to let it happen! Sometimes, believe it or not, they don’t mean to bug you till you blow up in their faces … it just happens!

26- Be spiritual together. Pray together. Get involved in charity together. Help others together. Whatever it is, do it together.

27- Watch out for each other. Defend them when they aren’t there and someone is talking badly behind their backs or makes fun of them. You will regret it if you don’t.

28- No real man lays a finger on a woman. If he ever does that, teach him a lesson by walking out. You will be the best judge as to whether to go back or not. Usually, it’s not a good idea.

29- Don’t listen to outside influence. What matters is what you think of your spouse. What others think is insignificant even if they are your parents, best friend or otherwise.

30- Respect each other’s individuality and have confidence enough to know that time spent apart doesn’t mean that something is wrong with your relationship. Let him have his days with his friends, let her go to that monthly meet-up. Don’t be so insecure as to suffocate them.

31- Your significant other is your best friend. They are the ones that will always be there for you. And even if, for any reason, that doesn’t happen, it’s your obligation to be there for them.

32- Never ever bash your spouse in front of your children. I don’t care if you hate each other to the core, not in front of your children.

33- Whatever family drama is going on, the children have nothing to do with it. They should have a normal relationship with all their aunts, uncles and grandparents. Adult issues are just that, children have got nothing to do with it. The moment you start to pull your child away from family, you should realize how horrible that is and what it makes you.

34- Help him realize his goals and dreams. Don’t stand in his way, at least move over!

30 Days Till 30 … Day 19: Woman To Woman, Pre-Marriage Advice

Our sixth wedding anniversary is going to take place, God willing, in four months’ time. Just like any marriage, our relationship has had its ups and downs, its smooth sailing days and its rocky days, its consistencies and its challenges. But the one thing we are sure to have is each other’s support. We are both consciously invested in our marriage. We do not allow outsiders to have their way when it comes to our relationship. No third party, no matter how close, has enough power to make or break our relationship. No matter how hard and repeatedly they try. We’ve had people tamper with our wedding, attempt to bring back exes into our lives, try to stir trouble, try to throw false blame, always whine and moan, etc … you name it! Almost every sort of inappropriate intervention that could happen, did happen. Aside from God protecting our union, we were sure not to let anything permanently affect us, even on the inside. Why should we let something like that bring us down when such behavior only speaks of the person committing it? We work hard on our relationship, on a daily basis, and can only hope that we have the strength, patience and resilience to continue to do so for as long as we live. We do not intend on parting, ever, but if we ever do, God forbid, it will be a mutual decision and something that we both contend to for whatever reasons, third parties not being one of them for sure.

But placing our wedding bands on each others’ fingers didn’t magically cause us to unite in heart and soul. It took hard work even before we got married. My husband and I come from very different families, very different backgrounds and we have completely different history. We share a lot of preferences and hobbies but those that aren’t mutual are even more! We aren’t an exact carbon copy of each other, but we do complement each other and that’s what makes our union great. Our engagement period was challenging, to say the least. We barely saw each other because my parents had strict rules about meeting only once a week. Then he traveled only 2 months after we got engaged and remained abroad until our wedding, coming home as a surprise for only one week in the middle of the period to celebrate my birthday with me. I was left to represent us both when it came to our families and to take care of everything that had to do with our future life. We made it a point to speak on the phone every night though, catching up and discussing important matter regarding our future together. Like I said, we worked hard and from day one! We were honest with each other and communicated openly. When I had fears I spoke up, when he had fears he spoke up. We worked as a team and faced every challenge that was thrown our way, never letting go of each other no matter how hard things got.

Many people get into relationships hoping for the best. They take things day by day and see where the relationship will go. I used to be that way as well, using only God’s guidance (through a special prayer we Muslims have, called “Istikhara” – where you ask God to do what’s best for you since He has all knowledge and you don’t) as my light, which has never ever failed me. But with the only two prior relationships that I had, I always made the mistake of praying it after I had made a commitment and so the guidance would come in the form of circumstances leading to a break-up! However, when I met my husband I decided that I needed to make sure that how I feel and what I see match what I had always hoped for. No more compromising, no more hoping for the best, no more taking blind chances just because X seems like a decent person … not with the things that matter at least. Not everything is important and not everything can be discovered early on but the things that count are always clear and that’s what I had failed to realize when I got engaged before. Going into a relationship with good intentions and high hopes is a great thing, but one must be sure that she wants the relationship to begin with, not is just OK with it. She should also be 100% sure that she will be able to give it all what she’s got and so will her partner. Just like everything new, there has to be potential, enthusiasm and excitement. Potential for the relationship to solidify, enthusiasm for starting a new life together and excitement about the prospect of succeeding at what many others have failed to achieve – a truly happy, stable marriage!

The first step, of course, is to pick the right person to spend your life with. Traditionally, men pick women, not the other way around and then we get a say in whether we accept being picked or not. So what can a woman do in this case? The first thing she should know is that it’s OK not to reciprocate someone’s feelings. It doesn’t mean he’s bad or that anything is wrong with him, it just means that you do not make a good match and, although he did not realize that, you did! Sure, some resentment and bitterness can result from such behavior but, on the long run, when he finds his true soulmate he’ll thank you for not accepting what he had to offer. There are other situations that, in my opinion, deem it necessary not to even consider getting into a relationship with someone. Personally, I never would have accepted someone that I knew a friend of mine was in love with, someone who wants to start a relationship with me as the rebound (even if he doesn’t realize it), someone who is egotistical or full of himself and someone who I do not respect. The case maybe different with other women, it’s a matter of knowing yourself, knowing what you want and setting standards.

You can never be sure that your marriage will succeed. Millions of people fall head over heels in love and then that love subsides after they get married. Millions live together for decades before getting married yet the marriage starts becoming monotonous with every day that passes after taking those vows. Millions are carbon copies of their partners, or at least try to be, yet as the years go by they grow further and further apart. You can never be sure but you can always give it all you’ve got! That way, if the relationship succeeds then you’ll know you had something to do with it and if it doesn’t then you won’t have any regrets.

Based on my own life, I’d like to share the pieces of the puzzle that I was able to put together regarding how to choose a partner to begin with. I’m not saying I know all the answers, just my fair share. Consider me giving you the pieces that make up the outer frame (including the edges) of the puzzle that usually do not include much detail but are vital in putting the whole thing together. It’s then up to you to put together all the other pieces and come up with a beautiful, colorful, radiant puzzle full of the best details and memories that could make your heart smile. Naturally, I cannot speak for men since I do not know for sure how their minds work (although I do believe that I have got a pretty good idea ;)). So, allow me to talk to the women amongst you … this is a heart to heart, from one woman to another:

1- Honesty, honesty, honesty! I cannot stress that enough. He has to be an honest person. If he’s honest with you it means he respects you too much to lie to you. He also has to be honest with himself, he can’t be dishonest with you a hundred times and then give you a hell of a time if he finds our you were dishonest with him (which you shouldn’t be). And if he’s honest about stuff that he’s not proud of or things that aren’t necessarily positive, then you should respect him 100 times more than you already do. It means he’s a real man, he owes up to his mistakes and is strong enough to admit them to you.

2- Choose a decent person! Sure, bad boys can be interesting but they are like a storm, they are interesting from afar yet if you get too close they can pull you in and destroy you.

3- Choose a well-mannered person. Manners are important, even if you don’t normally care about how well-mannered your friends and acquaintances are. This is the man you’ll be sharing your entire life with and will be the father of your children … think about that for a minute.

4- Your basic values and principals have to match, that’s not optional! You want to be with a person who, basically, shares your most intimate and strongest beliefs. You can agree to disagree on whether chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream is more yummy, but not on whether or not you want to have children in the future, for example.

5- Choose a selfless person. No, not so that he’d end up doing everything you want. But because men with big fat egos actually love themselves more than anyone else in their lives, including you and your children! Their ego also yields false pride and that is almost impossible to live with. A selfless person is used to giving, and both of you will need to give your relationship all you’ve got.

6- Choose a hard-worker. He doesn’t have to be a genius nor earn a ton of money, just not a quitter. That way, he’ll always be willing to work with you on your relationship and never quit on you.

7- He has to be confident and assertive. It’s very cute when a guy is shy or doesn’t throw himself out there all the time, but you want him to be confident and assertive enough to be able to communicate openly with you. That guy that has been in love with you for 3 years and everybody knows it but he can’t work up the nerve to let you know? Not going to work. Why? He can’t talk to you about his feels, not even hint strongly, how do you expect him to perform when he has to face and stand up to other people outside of the two of you or if he has needs in your relationship that he can’t communicate? He will just clam up and you’ll have to do all the figuring out on your own.

8- Ladies’ man? Nuh-uh! That’s the number one sign that he’s got zero self-confidence, and self-respect for that matter. No truly confident man would ever need constant validation from oodles of women. It’s like he’s an unwrapped piece of candy, all eyes are on him but no one would really touch him, so why would you?

9- Choose someone who treats his mother well! Yes, I know she’s the dreaded mother-in-law, although I have to say that many of them don’t fit the stereotype. But the way he treats his mother shows you whether he respects women in general or not. If he doesn’t respect the woman who has carried him for 9 months, stayed up with him countless nights, supported him every step of the way for the past 3 decades or so and spent her life to make him happy then how do you think he’ll treat you?

10- He should have a spiritual connection with God. Whatever faith you follow, it doesn’t matter, spirituality is important in married life. The concept being that he has to understand that there is a higher being. He’s not the most important thing to ever exist out there, he needs to understand that and be humble. Him being so will make him value everything he has and work hard for everything he wants. Having that relationship with God will also make him help you establish that same level of depth of spirituality. In my opinion, that’s very important.

11- He has a past before meeting you, deal with it! His past took part in shaping him to become the person he is now. You need to understand what happened early on in the relationship and not after committing so that if it’s something you can’t live with then you can take the appropriate action. If he refuses to talk about it or things don’t seem to add up, walk away. A relationship based on lies (and yes, concealing information has the same effect) is one built on a weak foundation. One day, it’ll fall apart or you yourself will, from living with something that hurts you so bad.

12- Don’t confuse experience with a shamefully eventful life/past. They are two completely different things and a man with experience is always a plus. I’m talking experience in life, dealing with others, knowing himself, etc. Such a man can teach you so much about the world around you without even trying. His experience makes him wise and interesting.

13- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or discuss topics that may seem to be a little out there. If it has to do with something critical, a deal breaker or something absolutely necessary for the relationship to succeed then the sooner you find out the answer the better.

14- Choose someone with a healthy work/life balance. If he’s someone who is always working, he won’t have time for you and your future family. If he’s someone always playing, he won’t  be responsible enough to become the head of a household. If you are with someone who is either case, you can give him a chance to see how he’ll evolve during your relationship. If he finds that balance then it means he’s making an effort, give him credit for that.

15- You should know that you want to be with him for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part … literally! Don’t take a relationship to the next step thinking, “I can get out whenever I want”. Go into it whole-heartedly, if you are half-hearted about it then take a step back and evaluate the situation.

16- Remember that he’s a person too. Don’t scrutinize his every move, look and word. We all make mistakes but you should be able to know which mistakes are just that and which are habits or characteristics that are there to stay. Don’t expect him to be perfect, remember that you are not either.

17- He has to respect your individuality. It goes without saying that the two of you will, essentially, become one. But you are also an individual on your own. You exist even if the relationship was never there. He has to know that your independence is part of who you are and not try to rob you of it.

18- Related to the point above, he should not tell you how to do things. We all make small changes to please our significant other, but nothing in our core really. If he nicely makes suggestions or discusses an issue with you then evaluate what he has to say and make the decision yourself, whether to make changes or not. But the moment that a man dictates to you how you should dress, talk, eat and behave you should turn around and run as  fast as you can. You know that guy who gives you “the look” when you have white bread? Or physically removes that soggy garlic bread from your plate? He’s not your guy.

19- He has to be your one and only teammate. You are both in this together. If you face problems, you need to tackle them together. If you have issues, you need to resolve them together. If you have decisions to make, you need to make them together. If he walks out on you, even once, be prepared for him to walk away forever at some point.

20- He has to respect you on all levels. If he goes to your parents or friends and tells you off when you two have a fight, then he simply doesn’t respect you. If he tells his friends and everyone at work what a demanding person you are, then he simply doesn’t respect you. If you are one of the subjects that he and his friends have a good time making fun of, then he simply doesn’t respect you. You do not need to and should not be with a man who doesn’t respect you. If he doesn’t respect you it means he doesn’t know your worth, and if he doesn’t know your worth it means he won’t “keep” you.

21- Be all of the above and more yourself! You’re not doing him a favor by choosing him, you need to be worth being chosen yourself. Unrealistic and unmatched demands from your partner are one of the top reasons why relationships fail. If you can’t do it, don’t expect him to do it. And if he does, show your appreciation.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about the person’s looks, wealth or any other superficial characteristics. That’s because those things don’t really matter. As long as there is chemistry between you, his looks don’t really matter and you’ll see him as the most handsome person in the world. Wealth comes and goes, he can be very wealthy but not spend wisely or maybe face a financial crisis and lose everything. Always, always pay attention to his core qualities, virtues, principals, character and how he treats, respects and cares for you. If all those things add up, then nothing else is important. All superficial characteristics will change with time. They should not be the reason behind accepting someone, nor the reason behind rejecting them.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 16: Instilling Self-confidence & Independence in Children

After publishing my post on parenthood on March 31st, 2013, I received a request from one of my friends to dedicate a post to how we, as mothers and/or parents in general, can help build and instill self-confidence and independence in our children. I cannot claim to be a professional in this regard but I am a mother with 5 years of experience and so I can speak based on that.

Needless to say, every child is different. Children have different personalities, characters, temperaments, preferences and interests, amongst other things, even if they are identical twins. Consequently, what works on one child may not work on another. However, there are certain guidelines that apply, in principal, to all children. It is up to you, the parent, to tweak and mold them to make them fit your own child. Ample consideration dedicated to the planning of the application of these guidelines will save you a great deal of time, effort and possible frustration when it’s time to actually do so. Personally, dealing with my children is like dealing with children from two completely different galaxies!

Let’s jump right to it, here are the top 20 doable and practical ways you, as a parent, can help instill self-confidence and independence in your children:

1- Listen to your child. Let them know that they are important and what they have to say is interesting to you, even if it’s something “silly” that you are hearing for the umpteenth time! Realizing their own self-worth helps build their self-confidence.

2- Talk to them as if they were adults. Don’t dumb down your speech. In our house, we never ask our children if they want to go “wee wee”, for example, we ask them if they need to use the bathroom. Children can see how you talk to each other as adults and can recognize you changing tones with them. Don’t do it, they’ll appreciate it and will want to behave like adults too.

3- Give them small, age-appropriate chores around the house. If you want them to be independent then you have to trust them to do certain things on their own. Our 4 year-old makes her own bed and helps clear the table. Our 2 year-old is in charge of cleaning up his toys and putting them back in the right place after he’s done. Don’t set them up for failure though by giving them daunting tasks.

4- Don’t let them quit. When they attempt to do something and fail, encourage them to try and try again until they get it right. Don’t jump in immediately and rescue them. If you see their repeated failed attempts heading towards anger and frustration then offer a hint or a helping hand but don’t finish the task yourself.

5- Praise them when they do well. Most of the time we only pay attention to what our children do wrong and we reprimand them. It’s part of raising our children, correct, but often times we tend to take whatever good they do for granted! That’s one of the worst mistakes a parent can make. Let them know that they did well, praise them and show them how much you appreciate their efforts. If anything, make a bigger deal of their successes than their mistakes.

6- Don’t talk about them with anyone in a way that would hurt their feelings, even your partner. Do you think a laugh is worth breaking your child’s spirit? Be respectful of them and think about what your child will feel and think if (or when) they hear you. If there is something that you just must reiterate, then do so when you are confident that your child will not hear you and make sure the person on the receiving end knows that you telling them is the end of the story, no fun should be made about it ever again. Again, it’s preferable that you just keep your child’s mishaps to yourself.

7- Have realistic expectations. A child is just that, a child! Don’t expect them to be perfect or understand right from wrong the way you do. Having realistic expectations will prevent you from scrutinizing every little move your children make and will give them some room for freedom.

8- Give them choices whenever you can. Freedom of choice helps develop self-worth, self-confidence, character and independence in children. The choices you give them should be controlled though. Instead of just asking them what they want to wear, pick two outfits that you approve of and ask them which one they’d like to wear. That way, you know that whatever choice they make won’t end up hurting them one way or another.

9- When it comes to little things, have them make the decision. If they’re painting a picture don’t insist that the tree’s leaves have to be green and the bark brown. If they want a tree with purple leaves and blue bark let them go ahead and paint it that way. It’s just a picture, not the end of the world. Besides, you never know, maybe you’ll discover new things about your child when you see what choices they make when given the opportunity.

10 – Whenever you can, play with your child. When you play with them you are letting them know that they are important and they are worth your time. You already keep telling them that you are “busy”, so they know that you prioritize and do the important things first. When you tell them it’s time for you to play with them, they’ll realize that they are at the top of your priority list. That will give them a strong boost and will make them happier than anything else in the world.

11- Set your child up for success. Other than teaching your child the skills they need to succeed in life, which should be one of your primary goals when raising your child anyway, make sure that they realize their own strengths as well. You can do so, very simply, by putting their accomplishments up for display! Since our children our very young, we put up their art work and any distinguished notes from their teachers up on a designated wall. Hopefully, when they grow up a bit we can kick things up a notch. Think along the lines of “The Wall of Gaylord” in “Meet the Fockers”, seriously 😀

12- Be their safety net. Let them know that you trust them enough to venture out in the world but that home and your embrace, are always going to be the safe haven that they can always come back to. Knowing that they have that will make them feel secure enough to try new things and not worry about possibly failing.

13- Help them find their identity. Your child will be in search for his/her autonomous identity from day one of their existence. Help them find it and make it a good one! Their “identity” usually ends up being a label they carry and truly believe in, make sure it’s something like “smart”, “kind” or “talented” rather than “prejudiced”, “loud” or “bully”.

14- Try to sit down with your child and discuss their feelings. Bottling up feelings isn’t healthy, not even for adults, so encouraging them to talk about them and validating those feelings can make them feel more secure and self-confident. Not to mention you having the opportunity to spot potential problems and issues that can be dealt with early on.

15- Hold them accountable! This isn’t an obvious one, but the only way your child will be able to take responsibility for the good things they do and any other successes they have is by being able to take responsibility for their mistakes and failures! If they keep blaming other factors or people for their mishaps, they will never gain the self-confidence necessary to stand on their feet and try again after failing.

16- Get involved and screen your child’s friends! No, I’m not asking you to be a control freak, just make sure that their friends are not destructive, bring them down or bully them.

17- Encourage your child to explore and try new things. Make sure they are safe of course, but let them off the leash. This will encourage independence and once they discover something “new”, that will boost their self-confidence.

18- Be a role model. Practice self-confidence and independence yourself. Children learn by watching more than anything else. They’ll repeat what they see rather than what they are told. So use that to help them, let them see you be the kind of person you want them to grow up to be.

19- Work hard and let your child see that. Hard work pays off and you can demonstrate that early on. Enforcing work-ethic is very important for the development of your child’s future self.

20- Your children believe everything you say, especially during the early years of their lives. The way you see them will eventually become the way they see themselves! If you tell your child he’s naughty, he will project that kind of behavior. If you tell your child she’s smart, she will project that kind of behavior. Be careful what you say to your children and be careful what you call them!

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