31 Dec I am my own muse
I love this quote by Frida Kahlo: “I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.”
I don’t know a great deal about Frida Kahlo. I know she is an iconic artist and I watched the biopic of her life with Salma Hayek. Regardless, these words – “I am my own muse” – are my mantra for life. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be anyone else except me. I have pre-teen memories of copying others, purely because I wanted to be just like them. For example, in primary school, a friend asked if I liked strawberries, and I said “no, not really”. I asked her, and she said “yes I love them”. I looked at her for a few seconds and then changed my mind, “actually, I love strawberries too”, to which she laughed and I was left feeling a bit embarrassed. We had a supply teacher once. It was someone’s birthday and they brought in lollipops to share with the class. I carefully watched the supply teacher to see which one she picked, so I could pick the same one. When I couldn’t see which one she picked, I was disappointed and dissatisfied with my cola lollipop.
I just didn’t want to form opinions of my own for myself. I couldn’t. I didn’t feel I was able to. Of course I know now that that’s not true – but even as a child I felt unworthy of making decisions for myself, asking myself what I wanted, how I felt about something. I believe a part of me was afraid that my opinion would be ‘wrong’ – but wrong in what way and by who’s standards? My parents? My sister? My peers?
These are just two examples from childhood, but I can recall so many more. As I entered my teens and early adulthood, this mirroring the opinions of others continued… I copied people’s clothing, taste in music, tried to get into the interests of others even if I wasn’t entirely fond of it. I thought this was the way I am going to liked and accepted by people around me, by being like them, because being me apparently wasn’t good enough. I was somewhat aware of my behaviour but I brushed it off by telling myself that I am simply taking inspiration from the amazing people around me. However inn hindsight, it was much more insidious and very telling of my low self-esteem.
Every now and then, I see myself doing it now, at 27 years of age and it is terrifying! Terrifying might sound a tad dramatic but when you doubt your own opinions and perspectives, people negatively influence you or patronise you, leaving you unable to stand up for yourself. Once upon a time a friend and I would memorise short surahs together. I was taking tajweed classes at the time which completely changed the game in Qur’an recitation for me, in the most brilliant and positive way. My friend has the most beautiful voice and so her qira’at was incredibly harmonious, and she generously led many prayers. I advised that she needs to work a little on her tajweed and told her about my lovely tutor, in case she was interested in taking classes. Her response: “I don’t think Allah is not going to accept my prayers because my pronunciation isn’t perfect – He is the most Merciful.” I didn’t say another word. A few years later, that interaction randomly came to mind and I was stunned. How did I let someone think that I would say something like that, that I would say Allah will not accept your prayers because your tajweed isn’t perfect? How did I not defend myself? Why did I accept that? It is awkward to think my advice for ihsan was misconstrued like that, because as Muslims we are all constantly striving for excellence in everything we do for the sake of Allah, but for someone to think I would speak on the acceptance of one’s good deeds was extremely hurtful.
If there was one thing I could tell my younger self, I would tell her that it is completely, utterly, 100% okay to formulate and carry your own thoughts, opinions, likes and dislikes on anything and everything, even if they are unpopular or different to the norm. It is also okay to not have an opinion at all, too. It is acceptable to agree or disagree with something/someone – even if you are unable to articulate the reasoning behind those feelings. It is okay to be you because you are amazing and you have valid and wonderful thoughts. Sure, you can look to others for inspiration, but you are creative and intelligent enough, and YOU have the ability and the creativity to inspire others too.
I want my daughter (if God wills) and the younger generation to know that they do not need to behave, dress, look or think like every other person on instagram, tumblr or youtube. They can can step back and ask: do I really believe this? Do I really like/dislike this? Do I agree/disagree? Be your own muse – you deserve it and you are worthy of it. Learn about yourself, get to know yourself and be.