ONCE you leave full-time education, it’s easy to feel burdened by the weight of expectations – whether those expectations are placed upon you by others, or self-imposed.
Time and time again, young people who are smart, kind, well-rounded and hugely talented in so many different ways seem to be saddled with self-doubt and anxieties.
There is a sense that unless you fulfil the conventional norms that society has set for everyone, or do something to ‘change the world’, your efforts don’t count for much. Society seems to call for immediate impact, and if you’re not having that obvious, public impact, then you’re ‘wasting your education’ or squandering your potential.
Beware of this mentality – a short-termist big-bang approach can rapidly kill off the smaller, long-term efforts that are just as important, if not more. Take stock of what you are currently engaged in, no matter how insignificant you or others think it is, and recognise the good that stems from it.
Hold on to those grand ambitions, but don’t lose that connection with the grassroots level – especially those who might be marginalised and forgotten by the state, corporations and big organisations. To serve and support them is a noble deed. It’s often amongst those people that you will find the most wisdom and authenticity.
Don’t fret if your efforts don’t receive recognition or publicity, realise that Allah is protecting your sincerity and protecting your work from corruption.
Most importantly, remember, Allah loves those deeds that are small and consistent. Often it is those types of deeds and habits that have deeper roots and produce the most benefit in the long run. Allah tells us:
“And whatever good you do, Allah knows it.” (Al-Baqarah: 197)
So don’t undermine yourself, and don’t underestimate the value of even the smallest efforts. As the great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah said:
“It may happen that you are asleep and the rewards of good deeds are accumulating for you. Whether it be from a poor man you aided, a hungry person you fed, a sad person you made happy, or a distressed person whom you helped. Never belittle the amount of benefit any good deed can have even if it seems small.”