At ProductiveMuslim, we believe the ultimate secret to a successful Muslimah is that she strives with sincere intentions and uses all the resources around her to achieve the highest stations in Paradise.
We are always looking for the ‘secrets to productivity’ and wanted to explore how some of the Muslim women today manage time effectively and perform the best in all the roles they hold, including a mother, wife, daughter, professional, activist and more! So we decided to get some of the ‘Productive Muslimahs’ of our time in the hot seat to find out their top tips and secrets to becoming a productive Muslimah!
We are very excited to be joined by Haleh Banani, a cognitive behavioral therapist, who holds therapy sessions and webinars with people from all around the world to help save their marriages, build self-esteem and overcome challenges in all their relationships. She is in our hot seat today so we asked her to tell us her secrets on how she manages to stay productive while juggling her work and family life, and got her expert advice on how to deal with low self-esteem.
1) We are very excited to have you share your secrets as a productive Muslimah! We have many sisters who suffer from low self-esteem, which is sabotaging their productivity. What do you think are the main reasons for low self-esteem in Muslim women particularly?
Self-esteem is developed in childhood in the way parents treat their children, and there are many examples of this. If children have had disapproving parental figures that excessively criticized them no matter what they did, they will feel worthless. If their parents were either uninvolved or preoccupied, they will feel unworthy of getting attention. Constant fighting between parents shatters the sense of security of children and makes them feel blameworthy. Children who experience bullying with unsupportive parents will feel that they deserve being taunted. Any form of trauma including physical, emotional or sexual abuse will leave children feeling vulnerable and humiliated. Some parents rely on fear tactics to scare their children into submission using Islam, which makes them feel that they are constantly sinning, which in turn leads to shame, guilt and self-loathing. Additionally, the media’s negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims causes many young Muslim girls not to feel proud or confident to be a Muslim, because they feel they will either be ridiculed or will experience bigotry. Comparing themselves to airbrushed super models also leaves many young girls feeling inadequate and hopeless. In my opinion, low self-esteem in women begins at home.
2) Subhan Allah, the role of parents is so important in building confidence from a young age! What practical tips would you suggest for Muslim women to overcome these self-sabotaging thoughts?
As a cognitive behavioral therapist, the first thing I address when a client suffers from low self-esteem, is to make them aware of their self-talk, which is an internal dialogue that is about 500 words a minute, 85% of which is negative. I teach them how their thoughts lead to their emotions and actions. Once they learn to control their thoughts, they can take control of their mood, achievements, and relationships.
I help people recognize that their negative self-talk is actually the voice of their disapproving parental figure which is holding them back from reaching their full potential. Once they realize that this self-talk is damaging their life, they start to take control of it by stopping the negative self-talk and replacing it with more empowering self-talk.
3) Many women are also battling the constant fear of not ‘being good enough’, which is a barrier to their productivity and sense of self-worth. How can they accept the efforts they are putting towards their goals?
It is very common for women to feel they are not good enough because for example, their parents may have constantly criticized every effort and berated them for any imperfections, or they may have experienced bullying in school or within their marriage. They need to first address their belief system about themselves and their abilities. It is critical to replace the negative self-limiting thoughts with empowering ones that will propel them in the direction of their goals. In therapy, I have my clients list their accomplishments on paper in order to gain a feeling of accomplishment. They also need supportive, optimistic friends who will be a source of encouragement and comfort in their pursuit of their goals.
4) What tips can you give our readers on sustaining their positivity to reach their goals?
Always focus on your end result in order to remain motivated and energized. Surround yourself with positive individuals who will believe in you and keep you motivated. Shield yourself from the negativity by saying, “I will only be impacted by the positive words people say and do.” Make sure you take care of yourself as you strive to reach your goals because you will not have the health or the stamina to enjoy your success if you neglect your health.
5) Who is the most positive role model for you and who would you encourage young sisters to turn to for advice?
The role model for every Muslim is the Prophet Muhammad and his beloved wife Khadijah who was the wisest, most compassionate and supportive wife in history.
I am currently reading “100 Women Who Changed The World” and I am truly inspired by the vision and the courage of these women to break through barriers and overcome societal norms in order to dream the impossible. Women like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart did not allow their spirit to be broken; they dared to dream and make the world a better place against all odds. I draw upon their tenacity, their perseverance and strength.
When it comes to seeking advice, I would recommend for sisters to utilize and ask experts in their field when they have questions, as Allah says:
“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know.” [Quran: Chapter 16, Verse 43]
Ask the faqih (expert in fiqh/jurisprudence) if you have fiqh questions. If you have spiritual and religious questions, ask your local imam or the sheikh of the masjid. Ask psychologists when you have emotional or marital problems, not just your local imam because most of them are not trained in psychology. This way, you ensure that you will get the correct guidance in each area, In sha Allah.
6) How do you manage your family and wider community commitments time-wise without feeling guilty of neglecting your home duties?
It’s essential to prioritize your family in order to avoid the pangs of guilt when engaging in community activity if your obligations have not been fulfilled. There will be times when you will have to make compromises. The only way to compensate your family is to constantly make emotional deposits with each person. Do your best to create a balance and give every aspect of your life their due rights.
7) Lastly, can you tell our readers what your favorite book is and why?
I was very impressed by the psychologist David Richo who wrote “How To Be An Adult”. I believe it should be required reading for anyone before entering marriage. There is a tremendous amount of depth which leads to self-reflection in each paragraph. The key to being emotionally healthy, psychologically balanced and intellectually aware requires being an adult in every area of our lives.
Well, thanks to Dr. Haleh for the wonderful advice and practical tips. There you have it, sisters! Let us know your thoughts and comments below, and don’t forget to look out for our next installment of ‘Secrets of a Productive Muslimah’!
About the Interviewee:
Haleh Banani has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from University of Houston, with over 10 years experience in diagnosing mental and emotional disorders and administrating programs of treatment. She has given lectures on marriage in several countries and her focus is couples’ and individuals’ therapy where she helps people suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-esteem issues. Haleh received her ijaza for recitation of the Qur’an with tajweed in Egypt and has studied Islam by attending intensive programs with many renowned scholars in North America. Her passions include skiing, kick boxing, tennis, traveling and all humanitarian causes.