Are you having trouble lowering your gaze at work? You are certainly not alone.
Brother Hasan*, one of my coaching clients, had recently been having a strong need for validation from the opposite sex, and he often found his gaze wandering at his workplace and online. He shares how it had been impacting him:
Br. Hasan”Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting with a couple of my coworkers and my boss. They pulled up an email thread on the screen, and I noticed a thumbnail of a female coworker. I caught myself and I stopped. When they said her name, later in the meeting, that kind of stuck with me. I had thoughts, like should I go up to her to be noticed by her? If I step on the train, and I see a woman looking at me, I think to myself, was she checking me out or was she not? This is all really taking a toll on me.
“When I was in LinkedIn for a work assignment, my eyes were scrolling across the page, and I noticed an icon of a woman; I feel like I took in too much with my gaze. It’s OK if your eyes wander if you’re not out looking to find something inappropriate. I feel like I’m absorbing a lot more from my gaze. It’s almost automatic.”
Br. Hasan started working with me a year ago because he wanted to stop watching pornography, but he was struggling. He then achieved 10 months of successful abstinence where he did not fall back. However, when he noticed his gaze wandering at work, he became alarmed because he knew where that would lead him: back to watching pornography. He had also been feeling very insecure about other areas of his life:
Br. Hasan”I am a very sensitive person, period. A lot of the problem is I am looking for validation – I am very insecure. Once, I was in a reading circle and I made a really good point, and a brother really liked my points, but I felt like it was inflating my ego. I get very insecure. A lot of my insecurity stems from my wife as well. She’s going through a lot of physical turmoil because of hormonal imbalance that’s taking a toll on my attraction to her.”
I could sense that he was not satisfied with where he was, as he kept repeating the statement, “I’m supposed to know better by now” throughout our coaching call. Br. Hasan no longer used pornography – he was seemingly leading a normal life – but keeping his eyes from wandering at work was still bringing him down.
I helped Br. Hasan step back and really see what was influencing and driving his wandering gaze, where I told him,
“It’s not about your attraction or lack of attraction to your wife because of her hormonal issues, it’s not about the way your female coworkers are dressed or not dressed, and it’s not even about the stress you have at your job. Yes, these are factors, but they are not at the core.
“Rather, it’s all tied to your fragile need to feel significant. Every little thing, from the clothes you wear to your masjid involvement, right now it’s all tied to your desire to feel significant. It’s born from a place where you feel that you are not enough. That’s what it is at its core: the feeling ‘I am not enough’.”
What Br. Hasan needed the most was his own acceptance, his own affirmation, his own acknowledgement. To which Br Hasan asked, “How does my acceptance help me lower my gaze from a woman? How does my acceptance stop me from being so sensitive to the voice of a woman? Or my gaze wandering online?”
The reality was that it was not just about the women. Everything that Br. Hasan did was because he was looking to feel significant. Everything that was happening in his life, whether his work or reading circle participation, were infinite opportunities for him to feel significant or insignificant.
We all have a need to feel significant – it is a natural healthy need – but when we feel like we are not good enough, what we need is not more significance. What we instead need first is love and acceptance.
This was what Br. Hasan was empty of: his own love and acceptance. To compensate for that emptiness, he would find his gaze wandering in public or at work, because he was seeking cheap ways to feel better about himself.
I asked Br. Hasan, “Where is it that you feel enough? When is it that you feel enough?”
After some reflection, Br. Hasan said something profound:
Br. Hasan”I feel enough when I feel like I have completely given up to Allah, and I recognize that I’m a human being, I’m flawed, and I’m not here to carve out my life, to live my way. I’m just here to live according to His Plan because that’s why he put me on this earth. When I am OK with everything He throws my way, that’s when I feel like I am in that zone where I feel like I am enough. I only feel like I’m enough when I remember Allah is in control, and however He made me is enough because He knows me better.”
This was what Br. Hasan knew kept him centered and where he felt enough. He had found what he could do every time he felt insignificant – which was give to himself that love by finding his center and his core with the remembrance of Allah. So then when he felt enough, he would naturally not need to seek that significance from elsewhere, such as his wandering gaze at work or online.
Being unable to lower your gaze at work is not about the scantily dressed woman or temptations that are present, but rather it is tied to the natural feelings of wanting love and acceptance. There is a sense of emptiness that needs to be filled.
When you come to Allah exactly as you are, whether you’re feeling significant and strong, or whether you are feeling completely insignificant and completely weak, that’s when you will feel enough. You’re coming to Allah in the way He sees you, when you’re connected to your truth, your reality, and you’re not fighting it. From this place, you can turn to Him, submit to Him, and connect to Him – this will fill your void, and so help you lower your gaze.
Please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear your experiences of struggles with lowering your gaze at work or your reflections on the article.
Note: *All clients names have been changed to maintain anonymity.