Salam dear consultant. I have been Muslim for almost 5 years now, so I don't know if I still count as a "new" Muslim or not. I guess it's all relative. In any event, I still feel like a new Muslim. No, it's worse than that: I feel like I haven't made any progress, and actually I've regressed. I don't do all my prayers on time, and I've missed far too many. I've done many bad things since become Muslim that I just can't forgive myself for, even though I try hard not to despair of Allah's mercy. In the past I have made so many of the same mistakes over and over again. I am at the point where I think I'm past that, but honestly I'm afraid I'm not. I want to repent, but how can I trust that I'm sincere in my repentance when I've tried to change but failed so many times before? I’ve met other women who have converted to Islam, and to be quite honest, I'm jealous of them. They make it seem so easy. If they're struggling, they don't show it. They put on hijab right away and don't have any problems, whereas I am still not even convinced it's the right thing to do. I think about it sometimes, but I'm afraid if I wear hijab it will be just because I want to convince myself I'm a better Muslim than I am and not because I believe in it. I feel like a hypocrite. I think some of my problem comes from the fact that I've found it so hard to try to integrate myself into the Muslim community. I live in a big metropolitan area, and there's no shortage of other Muslims around. But I feel so out of place and… inadequate. Not to mention that I suffer from what has been in the past crippling social anxiety (at one point several years ago I remember I went days without eating because I was literally too afraid to leave my home), though alhamdulillah I have done a lot of work on that and it's a lot better now. You might find it hard to believe after all that, but my faith in Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and the Qur'an and everything is strong, and it doesn't waver. When I am praying and I say the shahada, I feel so strong in my faith. But there is just such a gap between my faith, which I think is strong, and my expression of it, which is severely lacking. I want to change, I am desperate to change, I don't want to be like this. I just feel more lonely. Thanks in advance for any advice you may give.
Salam Dear sister Hafiza,
Thank you for trusting us with your problem.
While reading the first few sentences of your message, I started wondering if you’re suffering from a form of anxiety, so thank you for including that info, which means you’re aware of the problem and working on addressing it.
I think this is a major factor in your feelings of isolation and inadequacy, please focus on working with a professional therapist. You need to get over this hurdle completely, as it is preventing you from enjoying the warmth and support that come from rich social interactions.
Being Muslim is actually part of the solution: If you believe in God, then you already know that it’s He who sends us tests and trials, consequently it’s He who has the power to support us to go through those trials and emerge stronger. It’s also He who has the compassion to relieve us of the test anytime He wants, so start establishing an ongoing, open channel of communication with God. Your social anxiety does not include Him, so make the most use of that fact. If you feel lonely, then reach out to Allah to be your companion and your protector, talk to Him from your heart, with the strong faith you say is so alive when you pray.
It would also help you greatly to work with a good life coach, someone who would help you with getting over your inhibitions and unleashing your maximum capabilities, one small step at a time. If you cannot afford a personal coach or joining a public seminar with a reputable one, then at least try watching videos and reading books on self-coaching regularly and applying some of the simple techniques.
When you get over your social anxiety completely, you will be able to link with other Muslims who would support you to improve as a Muslim. Friendship is an integral part of practicing Islam, as love and support are fuels for the demanding but gratifying journey of self-discovery and sincere worship.
Wishing you a happy and fulfilling life.Salam.