The Mindset is designed to help Muslim women nurture beliefs grounded in agency, dignity and self-worth – helping us to live our best lives. In this instalment, Wardah Abbas explains how the pressure to perform is wearing us down and why we need to unlearn the culture of martyrdom.
In the world of breaking stereotypes and proving that Muslim women are not what the world makes us out to be, It can feel like we need to do double or triple the work to prove our worth as women. Muslim women are making waves in diverse industries, smashing goals and inspiring us all to contribute to making our world a better place. As commendable and motivating as this is, being ambitious, busy, and under pressure to perform often come along with multiple stressors in our lives. Success comes at a price but the stress of success need not drag into a rabbit hole of burnout, ultimately inhibiting our chances of forging ahead
It’s time to unlearn the pattern that says we must always overwork ourselves to consider ourselves even showing up appropriately. Muslim women are especially expected to do more with less; to handle multiple demands, to run lean. We see this all the time in the way we have to multitask at work and at home. We know who we are. We are brilliant and we can do anything we put our minds to. But how do we start to make a movement culture in which the workload is truly shared? One of the deepest wounds of toxic patriarchy and capitalism is the sense that there’s constant work that we need to be doing to earn our right to exist in any way. So that feels like to earn the right to rest, we must have overworked ourselves. It feels like we ordinarily do not deserve anything good until we “earn” it. But the truth is, we do not need permission to feel good. We have a right to feel good!
What does it mean to unlearn the culture of martyrdom? Asking the critical question, ‘Who’s pushing me to do this?’ is the first step to identifying why you think you need to put up a performance to prove your worth as a woman. And when you do this, you’ll realize you have more control than you thought. This will also make you identify what you need to cut down on and when you need to go into your self-care bag to refuel your energy. Unlearning the culture of martyrdom looks like a ton of laughter and being able to trust one another enough to ask for help when needed. We need to listen to our bodies, minds and brains, enough to recognise when we need to take that needed break. We need to understand that resources are there in abundance, even within ourselves, and we don’t have to compete fiercely to have them. Our work and level of productivity do not define us. What defines us is who we really are at our core.
Having each other’s backs in good and bad times and trusting that we can all collectively recover from our trauma is a key step towards reclaiming ourselves from the harmful grip of martyrdom. So take frequent breaks because you deserve it. Put each situation in perspective by stopping the alerted, frantic worries, and instead, reminding yourself that every other thing can wait, that it is not the end of the world if you don’t put in the usual extra hours; that you do not have to drag your tired self to tackling a load of laundry or putting away the clutter; that you need your best self to achieve your goals, and your best self can only come out of taking all the rest you need in the world; that you do this constantly until the feeling of empowerment becomes the default in your life.
So do whatever makes you feel good and put every other thing on hold, Make out time to reflect, to relax and to destress. The world needs us at our best and this means we need to tune out a lot of times.
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Wardah Abbas is the Founding Editor of The Muslim Women Times. She is a Lawyer, Writer and Social Justice activist.