Hard Self-Criticism: It Kills and Moulds

I am never good for myself.

I’ve held this in for too long, I fear that sleeping with it every night for days on end might cause sleep to lose its appeal to me, so here it is.. for my own sanity.

There are just so many things I’ve explored once, but only to decide that it would also be my last.

One clear example of this was when I was part of the Arabic debating team back in school.  Although we won 2nd place, the whole experience was cringe-worthy for me. My Arabic vocabulary at that time did not extend more than a whole 20-line essay on “Madrasatee/My School”. I remember not sleeping the nights before out debates, and I had spent them trying to decode my Arabic Ustadh’s handwriting and memorizing lines. I had to endure the painful stares of teachers and students alike, wave my own shaking hands in the air and spit out words I understood not.

Yet still everyone at school were in awe. Sigh.

I’m going to attempt to draw a parallel between that and a recent incident.

Yes, I did get full marks in my Arabic paper when I was in school. Yes, I knew more vocabulary than most of my classmates. But no, I cannot speak it fluently, nor understand it when a native speaks, let alone debate a point in that language.

Yes, I write and I love to write, but it doesn’t mean I speak and articulate my thoughts as well as I write. I don’t come up with a topic to write, that is my reason for not accepting any writing jobs. Writing, for me, can only work when I am inspired, when Life jabs its elbows in my ribs. And writing takes hours. They take place at night, a time when my household is quiet, when all the children are asleep. That’s a time of serenity, the perfect, unperturbed framework to work in, especially when the subject of my writing is sensitive or personal to me, which is true in most cases. With the darkness of the night enveloping me, it becomes my companion; it conceals my tears and stifles my sobs. The night lets me be me.

Speaking to an audience, on the other hand, is not something that comes naturally to me. Those questions take me by surprise, they demand an answer that is perhaps socially-acceptable and they give no time for my thoughts to find and organise themselves into sensible English words. What is it about spontaneity that it’s so often linked to sincerity? A person who is spontaneous, does that mean he really does speak his mind? And who determines this? I, for one, speak my mind when I write. Not so much in speech when I have an audience that knows me for something I offered to the community, that’s how they’d put it at least.

Not too long ago, I was asked for an interview on radio, to which I said yes. Naturally, I am one who readily accepts opportunities when they knock on my door- (flashback: Arabic debator..). I just couldn’t let the opportunity slip, and of course I made duaa. It was about the last blogpost I’d written. Apparently, it crossed the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean and Alhamdulillah, I was pleased with how many people benefitted from it. Of course I was pretty nervous about it. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it did not go as well as I wanted it to be. If I could reverse time, I’d delve more into the topic, turned an octave lower and most importantly, listened and paid attention more closely. After they sent me the podcast, I listened to it and noticed that I had misheard one of the questions and hence the awkward answer. The connection was not very bad, however, it was still quite a challenge to decipher what the interviewer’s words were. I wish I had been braver so as to ask her again what the question was, on air. Oh well, it’s passed. And I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Voice of the Cape team for having me, and the interviewer, Gouwah Soloman for being kind with the questions and patient in her responses :)

You know that feeling that you could have done better? Damn those nerves! I ask Allah to help me overcome nervousness and instill in me a great amount of humility and belief in myself. I ask Allah to lend me eloquence, for no one on Earth truly possesses eloquence except that it was Him who lent it to them. Aameen.

I must say the same about my spoken word performance a couple of months ago. The stage killed my confidence, took my words away from my mouth and stripped my soul bare! Imagine having to ask Allah on stage, that’s a big test of Yaqeen, is it not? You ask Allah and you’re certain that if it’s good for you, that He will definitely grant it to you, without condition or delay. So I had to make duaa on the spot and just go with it, finish what I’d started, I couldn’t bail out!

Although after the performance I felt that I had let myself down that I was too embarrassed to speak or even move, the number of people who approached me with a hug and an encouraging, heart-warming remark was more than any amount of self-confidence I could muster even on my best of days! The amount of people who sought after the “lyrics” and quoted them, and they tell me it’s changed their perspective on life for the better, I have no one to thank but Allah. I realize that it was never about me.

And so I feel that nothing I do should be about me. If it were about me, it would be the dullest thing ever..

Back to the radio interview, it was split into half, one half about knowing me and the other was about my blog. I’d like to take the interview as a learning experience. I realize that I don’t really fancy talking about myself too much. I did leave out a lot of information that could have filled in the gaps and pauses, but it was by accident. They asked me about my background, and can you believe it, I could hardly answer properly! I failed to mention what I do on a daily basis; my volunteering and my teaching etc. The latter could have prodded some more questions, but I’m thankful that didn’t happen. I think it was enough that I had awkwardly misunderstood a question which prompted me to answer “youth leader”. Anyway, I shouldn’t be explaining myself everytime something goes wrong or not according to my liking.

I did not particularly feel good about it, just like how I didn’t after we won 2nd place in the Arabic debate competition and just like how I didn’t after my spoken word performance in a hall filled with thousands of people. But those who heard the interview podcast liked it anyway.

It’s time to learn that in this world, only the sinner knows his sins. Only the person who made a mistake knows what exactly it is. And the world can be easily deceived. They believe what they see.

It’s time for me to accept that I am nowhere near perfect. We are all blessed in different areas, and sometimes we cannot be perfect in everything, as much as we’d like to. In the spirit of positive thinking, I’d like to think that all I need is practice. I need to drop ‘fillers’ from my speech, to be clearer in articulating my thoughts and to project my voice in a way that does not sound like I’m debating.

I may be good to others, but I’m never good for myself. I can never get rid off this this thinking, and I know this after so many attempts. It’s a two-edged sword, and I hope I’ve been gravitating towards the end where it motivates me to become better and not be a sore loser or a bad sport.

I feel relieved now that this is all out of me. Oh how writing is a remedy..

As always, after every ranting post, I end with this feeling that “that (this post) was useless/unnecessary/serves no purpose/gives no benefit”. But I guess that applies to the reader, not me. This kinda stuff heals me.


2 thoughts on “Hard Self-Criticism: It Kills and Moulds

  1. Salaam Sis,
    you have always inspired me through your writings!
    would love to hear about the interview if you don’t mind sharing the link

    your loyal reader :B

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