Self-Esteem Versus Arrogance


“God does not love the arrogant and boasting ones” [Quran 31:18]

In western psychology ‘self-esteem’ refers to the esteem you give to yourself. It is a measure of how much you like and value yourself. In other words, it is a measure of the extent to which you live by your own personal values. When you do not act in accordance to your values, you like yourself less, and your self-esteem goes down. When you ‘beat yourself up’ for not acting in accordance to your values, rather than learning from your mistakes and moving on (the Islamic approach to forgiveness), your self – esteem goes down even further and you continue to violate your values and sin.

Low self esteem results in not living according to your values, usually as a result of what you think other people will think of you. For example, not giving your honest opinion when it’s required, because you’re afraid of what others may think. Not having the courage to make a sales call due to fear of rejection rooted in valuing their opinion of you over your opinion of yourself. Wearing, or not wearing hijab, not because of what feels right inside, but because of what other people will think of you.

The truth is nobody knows you better than you do – not even your loved ones. Nobody cares about you more than you do, either. If you die, they’ll morn your loss, but you’ll live eternally with the consequences of your actions.

The hypnosis of Muslim culture encourages us to think that having a high opinion of yourself is a ‘bad thing’ because it could lead to arrogance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having a low opinion of yourself leads to arrogance.

If your opinion of yourself is lower, your inner confidence is diminished and you always need to prove a point to others (and yourself) by unconsciously competing.  This leads to you ‘looking down on people and denying people their rights’ – the Prophet’s definition of arrogance (pbuh).

If you have a high opinion of yourself in areas where you are good, and a low opinion in areas where you struggle, you are closer to the truth of your situation.  This honesty and self-acceptance is the starting point of personal growth.

The problem in your personal development comes when you use patterns of language that put yourself down, and then actually convince yourself that this is a good thing because you are ‘being humble’.  These negative language patterns like “I’m such a loser; I’m so lazy” etc, are not humility they are self-humiliation. They are lies, which become limiting beliefs, which ultimately prevent your success. And they are forbidden. This is why the Prophet (pbuh) said “A believer never humiliates himself”.

Muslim spiritual writings on arrogance as a root disease of the heart, always balance not being boastful and arrogant with not looking down on yourself either. We tend to overlook the second part.  In reality, if you look down on yourself (have low self esteem), you lose your personal dignity (‘izza) which may result in you lashing out in a boastful manner when you get the chance.

To make matters worse, if your self esteem is low the chances are you could even be indulging in a sly form of shirk – valuing others opinions of you affects your behaviour drastically. The only real opinion we should care about is Allah’s opinion. If you let others dictate what you think about yourself, and therefore what you do, this may be a form of ‘riyah’.

This dua will help: Allahuma inna na’uthu bika min an nushrika bika shayan na’alamu wa nastaghfiruka li ma la na’alamu.

Allah, we seek refuge in you from associating partners with you knowingly, and seek your forgiveness from what we don’t know (doing it unknowingly).

The best of examples, our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said quite frankly “I am the best among you, and this is not arrogance’. It’s not arrogance because it’s a fact. He told us, because it’s important for us to know his status, and we can learn from his statement that when you have deep inner confidence and self esteem like he did, there is no arrogance.

Visit for more personal development insights that come from the Quran and Sunnah, and to discover the quickest, easiest, most effective way to understand the entire Quran in Arabic in a just a few minutes per day. You’ll get loads more great articles, free webinars, videos and much, much more.

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  • Nasreen  On October 13, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Self-Esteem Versus Arrogance.

    Jazaak Allah For the Explanations.
    Makes me think deeply and accept the facts.
    Allah is Great.!

  • Nasreen  On October 13, 2010 at 6:51 am


    Jazak Allah.
    Your Explanations on self Esteem is so Interesting.
    It makes me think, accept the fact and change.
    Allah Hu Akbar

  • theseekerspath  On October 14, 2010 at 5:22 am

    MashaAllah this could be a life-saving article for many people because usually the soft hearted people become easy targets for the arrogant people who contantly put them down… with the result that they lose all interest in life because they start believing that they are good for nothing. They unconsciously start repeating the humiliating sentences in their mind and all their real talents and abilities are wasted.
    JazakAllah khairan for spreading this awareness. I think that we can do a lot of khair by just being good and kind to people and making them believe in the trmendous goodness which Allah has bestowed on all the people that He has created.
    Helping others to regain their lost self esteem will generate a hope in our hearts as well… inshaAllah

  • Muhammad  On October 14, 2010 at 9:12 am


    Interesting article, akhi your aproach confused me a little it initially semmed like you were saying self-esteem is not a part of islam but a western thing but you cleared it up in the end. As a side note you gave the example of the sisters not wearing hijab because they fear what other people will think as an example of a self-esteem issue, it was certainly khair in that but you should have honestly mentioned brothers not growing beards as another example most muslims seem to side step this issue but it is an important one. I know because i use to be a brother who use to trim and everytime i did i felt like a moonafiq (hipocrite), allhamdulilah allah has allowed me to accept the beauty of the beard and leave that issue aside, and not trim and none of this shaping it up stuff that brothers always do. Its not all ways fair to put the spot light on the sisters and never give the brothers some heat from time to time. Another good example is not praying around non-muslims i.e prayer time has arrived and you with some non-muslims colleagues/classmates and instead of leaving to pray you stay not because you don’t think the prayer is not important but all because you care what they might think and say of you.

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