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Jul 1, 2009

Question: What is the believers' version of the concept of self-confidence or self-esteem? Can we strike a balance between being an ordinary person and cherishing high goals?

Answer: Self-confidence, or self-esteem, is usually defined as a person's believing and trusting in himself, relying on his personal abilities and opportunities, living in peace with his own person and environment, and being content with himself in general. Even though it has a positive aspect in terms of urging us to look at life positively, this term is an expression of a notion whose underlying meaning and connotations do not comply with universal humane values. The term "self confidence" expresses a perspective which originates from an egotistic worldview.

Naturally, a person's character needs to be revealed in order to be able to improve his or her talents and capabilities. However, while seeking their development we should not flatter individuals excessively and throw them into whirlpools of egotism. We should not make a person become a know-it-all and act insolently; we should not let issues rely on a single individual's restricted personal capabilities, limited power, and feeble will.

First of all, it is inevitable for a person who approaches every issue with respect to his or her personal talents, power, and capacity and keeps saying "I" to become totally egocentric; it is inevitable for them to grow more and more arrogant by feeding their ego with every achievement and everything they do. On the other hand, it is also obvious that a self-centered person who has too much trust in himself will become completely desperate at the slightest slip or fall; he will not find anything to hold on to and will not be able to rise again.

People have the sense of and need for confidence engrained in their nature. However, a person who does not know whom he should trust and who cannot correctly identify the true source of reliance will finally turn into a complete egotist and he or she will ascribe every matter to himself or herself. Such a person will even nurture some perspectives leading to unbelief; she or he will go too far and-God forbid-say, "I have created...", or "such and such has created...." In time, these people will become narcissists, self-admirers who are fond of themselves, their behavior, their manners, and their appearance. They will be ready to reject and criticize any thought, measure, and solutions other than their own.

In this respect, a principle of "fulfilling what befalls on the free will and then relying on God" should replace the notion of self-confidence in the eyes of a true believer of God. Humans are blessed with the "free will," which is a very special gift. We are responsible for using all the senses and feelings granted by God Almighty as capital, but expect the result and reward from Him again. Likewise, the feeling of confidence is always ascribed to God in the Qur'an and the practical example of the Prophet, since God Almighty is the one who creates everything and who directs every affair. If we use the potentials placed in our nature as seeds and then put them to practice as an intention and wish to be realized, God Almighty grants us the power and possibility to accomplish that act. Regarding it as mental power, as directing one's own thoughts and actions with that power, or as God's direct favor on the human free will within the sphere of causes, no matter how we define fulfilling what befalls the free will, when we wish to do something and incline towards it, the Creator of the Universe renders it possible for us to realize that intended act. Therefore, we should always put our faith in God and rely on His execution. Accordingly, true believers firstly have faith in God in every matter and make use of the abilities He has bestowed on them. In addition, they ascribe achievements not to themselves but to Divine Providence. They know that all of these come from God and they have complete faith that future achievements also lie in the power of God. Such people, while fully acknowledging their impotence and weakness, are very powerful at the same time, for they are well aware of the true source of power. Such people are very rich, since they are conscious that they are fed from the treasures of Divine Mercy. They become heroes of the fact that "belief is both light and power. Those who attain true belief can challenge the universe." (Nursi, Twenty-Third Word). Therefore, they have the courage to defy worlds. The fortress they take refuge in and the sword they make use of is the truth, "There is no power except with God."

Yes, true believers make use of the free will granted by God in the best way possible. On the other hand, they pray as "O God, please do not leave me with my carnal self even for a span as short as the blink of an eye," putting their trust not in their own selves, but in God Almighty. They take their carnal self and carnal desires as their archenemy and take only God as their best supporter, sole friend, and helper. In the face of every event, they croon, God is sufficient for us; how excellent a Guardian He is! (Qur'an, 3:173), and they voice the truth, O Our Lord! It is in You that We have put our trust, and it is to You that we turn in utmost sincerity and devotion, and to You is the homecoming (Qur'an, 60:4). They always keep loyal to the divine decrees:

"And put your trust in God. God suffices as One on Whom to rely (and to Whom to refer all affairs)." (Qur'an, 33:3)

"God is sufficient for me; there is no deity but He. In Him have I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne (as the absolute Ruler and Sustainer of the universe and all creation, Who maintains and protects it)." (Qur'an, 9:129)

Nevertheless, nowadays saying "I" in everything one does and overflowing with arrogant considerations is more common than ever. Egotism is so widespread today that most people use even what has been granted by Divine Providence in the name of their arrogance and use it as elements to feed their ego. For example, most of those who put emphasis on self-confidence contract the plague of vanity in time; they are seized by a feeling of superiority and catch the egotist disease of talking about themselves at every opportunity. Therefore, the term "self-confidence" or "self-esteem" is impossible to reconcile with the perspective of a believer in the true sense of the word. It is a very unnatural term from the standpoint of faith, for it misguides minds and hearts like other spurious expressions do. With an understanding based on the essential values of belief, we all need to pray, "Hold me, O God. Hold me, please. I cannot do without you!"