No one else can define your reality

Natural stone bridge

By Wael Abdelgawad for

“Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”

– Les Brown, author and motivational speaker.

Don’t blindly accept other people’s negative judgments of you. Reject their pessimism. Be strong, know yourself, and know that no one else can define you. Other people’s insults may hurt, but they don’t define you. Some people love to say “no”, to tell you what you cannot do, to tell you why your dreams are impossible or impractical, to tell you what a fool you are, to tell you not to bother trying. Such people claim to be pragmatists and realists.

In reality, such people are poison. It is their opinions that are not based in reality. It’s their opinions that are founded in cowardice and cynicism. Their opinions are inherently self-limiting. They have locked themselves into prisons of the mind. They have taken the ships of their dreams and smashed holes in the hulls before ever setting sail. Because they have given up on their dreams, they want you to do the same.

Either that, or they look at you and they see a bundle of preconceptions. They see a stereotyped image created in their own minds, someone who to them is the “wrong” race, or the “wrong” religion, or has the “wrong” qualifications, and based on that they will try to tell you what’s “wrong” with you, and to set roadblocks in your path.

Don’t let them define you. Don’t let them tell you who you are, or what you can or cannot do.

Mistakes and Appearances Do Not Define You

You are much more than just the sum of the mistakes you’ve made. Your past mistakes are not brands of shame, but teachers, stimuli to change and do better.

You also cannot be judged by the superficial circumstances of your life: your nationality, race, age, the language you speak, your favorite foods or colors, your birth date, your height or weight, whether your lips are narrow or full, whether your hair is lustrous or thin, whether you have six-pack abs or love handles. These things do not define you.

For you pop culture fans out there, there’s a scene in The Matrix where Neo is riding in a car, gazing out at the city, at all the places he used to know. He says, “I used to eat there. Really good noodles. I have these memories from my life. None of them happened. What does that mean?” And Trinity replies, “That the matrix cannot tell you who you are.”

Free Your Soul

So what truly defines you? Two things: your beliefs, and your character. What you believe, and how those beliefs manifest in the way you act in the world, the way you respect yourself, the way you maintain your integrity no matter what, the compassion and love that you show to those less fortunate, your courage, your talents, your beautiful dreams. Your faith and modesty, sincerity, friendliness, work ethic, hospitality, willingness to forgive.

These are the things that truly define a human being. No one can dictate them to you, no one can give them or take them away. Only Allah can guide you, and only you can choose what to do with that guidance.

Abu Malik Al-Harith bin Asim Al-Ashari said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“Purity is half of faith. Alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scales, and Subhana-Allah [How far is Allah from every imperfection] and Alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fill that which is between heaven and earth. Prayer is light; charity is a proof; patience is illumination; and the Quran is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.”

You are the vendor of your own soul. You set your soul free, so that your spirit rises like the sun; or you ruin it, debasing yourself. You shape your own character. You define yourself. No one else can tell you who you are. No one else has the right.

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Article by Wael

Wael Abdelgawad is an Egyptian-American living in Fresno, California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including and, and also of various technology and travel websites. He is a writer and poet, and has been a web developer since 1997. This project,, is very dear to his heart, as it has allowed him to express ideas that have growing inside him for many years. Wael is divorced and has one lovely young daughter. He practices and teaches martial arts (somewhat obsessively), and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and vanilla fudge ice cream. Wael is an advocate for human rights and blogs about these issues at He is also a volunteer with the MyDeen Muslim youth organization in Fresno. Wael tagged this post with: , , , , , , , , Read 266 articles by
4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Sam says:

    Thank you brother Wael. Your articles really motivate and move me. Lately I have been feeling down because of various reasons. Just today I was fed up of sulking and I wanted to find a way to help myself get my head right, what better way to do this than seek answers from those who know Allah’s book and the words of those who he has sent down before us. I searched and I came across your articles. Allah is very kind my brother, maybe it was his will or just coincidence. I believe its his will. No matter what we do everyone has to go through these kind of situations in life. Inshallah, we all do our best and perform to our best at times like these. May Allah bless you for your excellent efforts and for sharing. Forgive me if I have said anything wrong, but please do correct me if anything. Thank you.

    • wael says:

      Thanks so much brother for your comments. I’m sorry to hear that you have been feeling down, but so I’m glad to know that my writing helped you. If I have helped even one person then my work is worthwhile, Alhamdulillah. Life can be hard sometimes, I know. Things will get better Insha’Allah. Allah promises us in the Quran, “Inna ma-al-usri yusraa.” “Surely with every difficulty comes ease.” So even as you are going through hard times, Allah is preparing for you a time of relief and ease.


  2. Ab Shakoor says:

    May the blessing of Allah be upon you.
    My quest to search THE TRUTH led me to this site.Reality is what you have potrayed par excellence through your words. I am doing Ph.D in Soil Science (Final Year), i seek Him and i do find Him in every thing i see,i analyse and i interpret.But i am sinfull, not a single day goes with out sinning.I have never prayed for any thing but for the guidance of Allah.I do weep at times and at times collect islamic material. But i want to become a true muslim, a practising one.Please suggest me, what can really mould my life.
    Thanking you

    • Anonymous says:

      Assalamualaikum. You could start of with fulfilling the obligatory worships such as the 5 daily prayers and from there try to get to know Allah. It’s only when you know Him, you’ll be able to love Him, and when you love Him, worship becomes easy. You might want to check out videos by Majed Mahmoud, particularly the ones titled Al-Wakeel, Al-Wadud. May Allah guide you closer to Him.

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