As much as I hope to be an influential individual that could positively motivate and inspire those around me, I do not like to feel like I have to cater to those that are around me, actively changing my demeanor, dialogue, and activity for the sake of others.
Yet, much too often, I feel that the spotlight is on me, highlighting my every movement and word much more intensely than others in my vicinity. I witness extra vigilant eyes on me, extra judgment itching in the back of people’s throats, widened eyes followed by an innumerable amount of questions, all trying to understand why I am a considerable “walking contradiction”.
I committed myself to the hijab for the very first time on September 8th 2011, frightened yet excited, exhilarated yet nervous, but somehow in the midst of all of my overwhelming emotions, it was a decision I was certain about. Five years later, I feel the exact same way about it, viewing it as a part of my religion that sits well with me, an infinite number of reasons why it was of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. But despite my love and satisfaction with this aspect of my identity, I still fight the same battles I have been fighting since the first day I tied up my hair in a bun and covered it in soft cloth.
Throughout much of high school, I allowed myself to experience much of what my very small world offered. I indulged in a variety of activities; many risky events, dangerous adventures, and loads of fun. With the amount of freedom I had given myself, I had received twice the amount of unwarranted judgment, hatred, and condemnation. On many occasions, I was both outwardly and subtly told that my actions did not match the type of person I appeared to be.
I was expected to be this ultra conservative, strictly religious girl because of the hijab I had chosen to wear. I was expected to turn my eyes away from all things liberal, precisely follow everything to the letter, and keep myself sheltered and restricted from everything. Everywhere I went, I was constantly questioned about my intentions and actions, blatantly told that what I am doing is haram. I have heard from much too many people that my actions did not match my appearance. I have been told over and over again that if I wear a hijab, I should not be living life the way that I want to. Muslims and non-Muslims alike always had a comment to make if I was spending time with my guy friends or getting acquainted with people who identified with the LGBTQ community.
For far too long, I have felt like I lived life on an extra standard because I made the decision to wear hijab. It is a commitment I made for the sake of Allah (SWT), yet it feels that everyone around me makes it their job to decide the validity and righteousness of my actions.
I was expected to be this ultra conservative, strictly religious girl because of the hijab I had chosen to wear
At this point, I have internalized that people will continue to look at me as some contradictory, verging on a hypocritical, individual because my actions are scrutinized due to the presence of my hijab. I have come to terms with the fact that I will be viewed with disapproving eyes every time I am seen with my boyfriend, or in a considerably fun environment.
I know that the only opinion and validation I truly care about in terms of the lifestyle I live is that of God, and I am completely done with feeling self-conscious every time I am in any type of public eye.
If I want to live my life as a proud, committed, and religious hijabi while doing the things my heart tells me to do, I will do so without any concern for what others have to say about me.
I have already had to deal with unreachable standards set by traditional and cultural mindsets in my life and unnecessary expectations simply for being a woman. But I will not allow my hijab to signal to others that they can create more standards and expectations for me.
If I am to be seen as a walking contradiction due to the personal choices I make for my life, so be it. I will be a role model in my actions, ambitions, and dreams, but never will I reorganize the decision of my personal life to cater to the judgmental, hateful, and opinionated minds of those that have a preconceived notion as to what a hijabi should or should not do.
I will not allow my hijab to signal to others that they can create more standards and expectations for me.