Yet – From Understanding Islam

The following is an audio file from my weekly class, Understanding Islam. We asked the question,

“How many of us feel that when we sin, it’s as if we’re at the Day of Judgment?”

[Direct download]

Being a perfectionist may seem like it can help us reach our full potential, but it can also prevent us from proper growth and experience in other areas. Perfectionism is a mindset (and perhaps, illusion) based on the fear of failure but in Islam, fear is meant to divert one from the path of Ultimate Failure to the path of Ultimate Success.

This fear of failure is what Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset.” She refers to “the power of ‘yet’ in her Ted Talk:

When we are perfectionistic, there is only success and failure, nothing in between. Therefore, there is no room to learn and grow because doing so brings the possibility of failure. Consequently, we function purely within our comfort zone and develop no new skills. On the other hand, if we are not driven by fear of failure, we do not limit ourselves to what we know we can do well, and are more likely to take risks that promote learning and growth.

This problem of perfectionism may actually limit us in our Islam in that we may become discouraged when we “fail”. To this topic, the Prophet ﷺ addressed one of his Companions, Hudhayfah:

لاَ يَنْبَغِي لِلْمُؤْمِنِ أَنْ يُذِلَّ نَفْسَهُ
‏ قَالُوا وَكَيْفَ يُذِلُّ نَفْسَهُ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏ يَتَعَرَّضُ مِنَ الْبَلاَءِ لِمَا لاَ يُطِيقُ

“It is not for the believer to humiliate himself.” They said, “How does he humiliate himself?” He said, “By taking on a trial which he can not bear.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 2254]