None of us are perfect. Far from it. We commit little sins out of habit, we disrespect our parents, we mistreat people. We aren’t perfect basketball players, or perfect muslims, or perfect students, but as muslims our aim is perfection. “Verily Allah has perscribed ihsan (perfection) in all things.” [Muslim] We are bound by Allah to strive for excellency. If that seems impossible, don’t worry. No one can acheive perfection in an instant. We have to consistently work towards it. Remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare: if you try to rush towards perfection, you’ll burn out, but if you move slowly and surely, you’ll get there eventually. A good rule to follow is to make every day better than the last. If you read 1 page of Quran yesterday, aim for 2 today. If you studied for 30 minutes yesterday, aim for 1 hour today. Even if it’s the littlest bit more, you have to keep growing.
Another helpful tip is to start small. That way, the task is a lot easier to get into. For example, if you’re trying to perfect your character, begin with smiling to 10 people you see. The next day, try a little more. But whatever you do, do something. If you fall back, if you make a mistake and lose all your progress, don’t worry. “Everybody makes mistakes. Forgive yourself, you are only human.” So learn from your mistakes, and keep going.
Most of us youth were born and raised in the United States, where self-acceptance is heavily emphasized. We’ve always been told to “be yourself”. I do think self-acceptance is a good thing, but it needs to be paired with a desire to imrove yourself, to be better than you were.