For some people, Hijab is a matter of faith. For some, it’s a sign of their devotion to God and for some people like myself, it’s an extension of their identity.
I started doing Hijab because of the amount of pressure that I faced from my peers and my family. But during my growth process, I had an identity crisis and stopped doing it, eventually. The remarks of hostility, bashing, criticism, and taunts that I got to hear as a result of this “disgraceful” act, they are still carved in my mind.
Being a teenager, you always look for the validation and approval of what you choose to wear. I did the same with the hijab that I had started wearing.
The lack of validation from people around me for me starting to observe the hijab made my relationship with it very confusing. I couldn’t understand if my choices were problematic and how I could reconcile what I wanted to do with what was “comfortable” for people around me.
Why did I start observing Hijab in the first place?
I used to go to school with a few of my friends from the neighborhood. They used to wear burkas. Every day I had to face aunties and my friends with questions like, “Don’t you feel awkward when three girls are walking with you all covered, and you have not even covered your head?” I had no answer to this. I felt awkward indeed.
All the men, on our way, would stare at me just like a scanning machine is fixed in their eyes. I secretly wished to have worn a burka too at that moment – not that it would have made a difference. I just couldn’t bear it anymore and started observing Hijab soon after.
“Nau sau choohay kha k billi Hajj ko chali.” That is how people greeted me the first day I wore it.
After my school, I entered college. Another period of seeking validation began. I saw girls who were comfortable with who they were. They didn’t need an extension of their identity. I started feeling anxious because I was trying hard to belong there. That Hijab was not my own identity, I MADE it my identity so that I could feel safe and validated.
I felt conflicted after two years of not questioning the simple fact that I was somehow pressurized to decide to cover a part of my body – a decision that defined my sense of self and built a significant symbol and representation of myself to others. I was going through the same identity crisis again.
Finally, I stopped doing Hijab.
No, it was not easy. My mother was the first person to criticize. She tried to give me a reality check by uttering remarks like “College ki hawaa lagg gai hai”. My childhood friends did my character assassination when I uploaded my first picture on Facebook without it.
People said I looked prettier with my head covered. I went through proper interrogation. People had the audacity to ask me in person, “Why did you take it off?” “Are you trying to seek attention?”. I even got to hear “Koi Deen Imaan hai ya nahi?”
The message was clear that my personal decision was not welcome.
My peers were questioning and judging me. It threw me deep into a pit of anxiety. I feared more judgments and insults. I started being very selective in going out with people and reconsidered my friends’ circle. But my family wouldn’t stop scrutinizing me. It took me a while to become strong and firm about my decision.
An inner conflict is necessary to develop your individuality.
My struggle of finding my perplexed identity taught me so many things. Psychology says that it’s necessary to go through a specific amount of anxiety and depression in order to develop individuality and grow out of it, as a new person.
I have seen so many people facing an inner conflict about different issues that later helped them become a better and more authentic version of themselves. So, if you have an inner conflict going on, don’t snub it. It can be your chance to develop as a mature person.
An identity crisis – for whatever reason – can be a rough patch in your life, but it’s fruitful in the longer run. It is not a linear or static phase. You can go through it more than once until you find peace within yourself. Please help your peers if you see them struggling with themselves. Or at least give them the liberty to experiment whatever they want with their body.
Cover image via affinitymagazine.us