There’s a scene in American Beauty where the weird new neighbor boy across the street who walks around with his camera filming stuff, claims that the floating of a plastic bag in the wind – basically, trash – is beautiful. He also films a dead bird for the same reason. He is an oddball I guess, doing whatever he wants, finding beauty in the mundane and going for the a-typical goth-girl and ignoring the cheerleader. The point, you might ask? Well, while the cheerleader looks at him in disdain, goth-girl makes the observation that “he’s just so confident.” She thinks it isn’t real, but he does whatever he wants, even though it may seem completely odd or random or weird, and he doesn’t care what other people think. He really was that confident.
Some of my friends are the perfect example of being completely themselves, even when it goes against the grain.
Mishka would campaign for any cause that touches her heart, be it battery farmed chickens, striking cleaners at university, or the rights of cockroaches (to be relocated, not exterminated). She is never afraid to show her love and appreciation and wonder. I once lamented the fact that some girls wore high heels to campus – how in the world did they do it, why were they being slaves to fashion, blah blah. But Mishka was having none of it…her view? She admired them for their dedication and commitment in being able to accomplish such a difficult feat. She often makes me see another point of view. And she’s clever, so her points aren’t arbitrary, but well thought-out, well argued and empathetic. So while I may never have warmed to the idea of wearing heels, I stopped being so judgmental to those girls who brave the cobblestones with their favorite high fashion. Mishka is not afraid to take the differing view, with good justification, and stick to it passionately, even when others may not see the point. She is just that confident.
Fatima is confident in a different way. She’d seek out alternative artists, cultivate her own very unique (and bad-ass) style (she’s the one with the rocker boots:) and would not suffer arrogant fools. She is so secure in her knowledge of who she is and what she wants, that she just goes for it, and often gets what she’s after. Both Fatima and I would rather spend the afternoon before a big exam reading a book, only to cram into the night, learning last bits of information right before the exam. She knows her abilities, so she would use her reason to work out complex accounting questions (since she hadn’t studied that section) and often ended up getting the answers right (or at least partially right). She has confidence in the ability of her brain to work out a problem instead of relying on rote learning. She’s set up at least 2 business (and we’re just in our 20s). If she sends me a recommendation for a book, I know I’ll read it, because her taste is impeccable. She does not have to pose or bring others down in anything that she does – she does what she loves for herself, and that is enough. What other people think is irrelevant.
I’m not there yet – I’m not that confident. But I want to be.
It’s crappy that so many of us are dragged down by our conception (or misconception) of what other people think. The fact is, we’re deluding ourselves if we think people really think or care about what we do – they’re much too busy with their own lives to bother with us. And if they have the time to criticize and judge, then they obviously have way too much free time on their hands.
I have heard that the Prophet (S.A.W) said that Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers. The explanation that I have been given for this hadith is that Islam began with a few people who accepted it and stuck to its teachings and practices. This means to me that Islam went against the grain of the society into which it was born.
Nowadays, Islam is beginning to be seen as strange again – a lot of the world are misunderstanding the religion and think of Muslims as strange. Sometimes if you wear a Hijab in a very conservative western community, you need to embrace the fact that people will think of you as a weirdo or a stranger and use your strength to stick true to your principles. If we are confident enough to stick to our religion and practice it properly, we might be seen as strange or strangers. What awaits those who have the confidence and ability to be steadfast in their religion when it starts being seen as strange? Glad tidings to the strangers.