A bit of back story. I grew up in a very cultural community. You could walk out at any time of the day, and bump into a friendly face. It’s almost like a little village. As much as it sounds fun, heart warming and full of excitement, I can assure you, it is none of those things.

All there is outside, is a world full of pure judgement. If you’re familiar with the BBC soap EastEnders, where I grew up shares a resemblance to Albert Square. Yes, that bad.

I went to both a primary and secondary school in that area. During my primary school years, there was obviously a lack of pressure due to the age. It was the time of being care free and pure innocence. However, once you hit puberty as a girl, it all changes. You start your period, begin to see things grow in places you wouldn’t imagine, and you adapt into becoming a beautiful new woman.

For your extremely un-Westernised mother on the other hand, this is the sign of you now becoming ‘one of them’ and it must be acted upon. Imminently.

“You’re becoming a woman now Mashallah. You’d look so beautiful with a hijab sweetie, you should consider it!”

I got that a lot ever since I hit puberty, around my first year of secondary school. More from my relatives as opposed to my mum. During the time, my family was facing some tension with constant arguments and friction between one another. So I was constantly trying my hardest to please everyone.

But specifically my mum. She was like a best friend to me, so I wanted to make (and keep) her as happy as possible. As hints were constantly being dropped to wear a hijab, and it was evident my mum was keen on the idea of it being a reality, I started wearing it.

It was an odd experience to say the least. I felt welcomed by everyone. The community, the school, the family. I felt the belonging I’ve always desired. But I wasn’t happy receiving it all.

I was only 11 at the time, and to grasp the significance of that at such a young age isn’t possible. I just didn’t feel like me. I would look at myself in the mirror and just see a ‘somebody’. Not who I really was.

One day it was just so hot, I was fasting and I was walking around shopping from street to street all day, so I took it off. I was criticised and judged by almost everyone who knew me, whether that had been behind closed doors or to my face. The decision I had made was very controversial. I was now known at my secondary school as ‘that girl who took off her hijab’. But, I was at an early point in life where things like this didn’t necessarily phase me as such.

As a year passed, I felt a lot more free. I was me and proud of it without any doubts. But throughout my school years, I was consistently labelled with derogatory terms such as:


And to add the cherry on top, my mum and dad had separated, which led me to fall into the same spiral as around year ago. I was, again, doing everything possible to please my mum. So the thoughts of hijab had resurfaced. Again.

3 years later. November 5th, 2019. My 4th year of secondary school. I sat on the floor in front of my mirror, in my bedroom one Friday night. I was annoyed and fed up with certain men constantly looking at me a certain way (the male gaze) and feeling unprotected from it.

I was watching YouTube videos on people’s hijab stories, seeing more people ‘hijabis’ on my discover page on Instagram. It was almost like God was sending me signs. Then, the impulse to actually try to wear a hijab hit me. I wanted a sense of security and modesty, and I knew, wearing a hijab was what I wanted, and needed.

My connection to God had, at the time, recently become a lot closer. I was praying 5 times a day and had been putting full faith in Him. As I sat and pondered for a while, I had to ruminate that this was a big commitment to make.

I took a deep a breath, put it on and looked into the mirror. I just looked and smiled. I saw a new beginning for me where I could be on the right path.

With my heart set on good intentions, I strode into my mum’s room and saw her face light up with glee. I told my friends and was instantly praised. I felt happy. For the first time in 3 years, I felt that sense of belonging. But, this time, I wanted it.

“Mum is so proud of me, even [my friends are] proud of me! I just feel so amazing AHHHH!!” — Extract from my diary

For the time I wore it, I felt capable of anything. I felt I could walk down any street and feel in control. I felt beautiful. No one would look at me in an objectifying way as before. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my chest.

My connection with God felt as strong as it ever had, and my home, school and social circle were all at bay and calm. I had found one thing that I could stay committed to for life, and it was something approved by my mum. What more could I have wished for?

But then, life had other plans and kicked me down into one hell of a hole. As per usual.

Typically, when someone religious goes through a tough time, their connection with God ultimately grows a lot stronger, as they see whatever they’re going through as a test.

When I go through tough times, that connection decreases, as does my willpower to keep living. I had once again gone through a rough moment in life that set me back by a long shot.

As I slowly began losing my levels of belief, I began losing the will to wear my hijab. I began to wear it reluctantly and take it off at any given chance. I felt as if I had time-travelled back to 3 years ago. My self-esteem had stooped to an all-time low I thought it never could.

“I looked in the mirror and saw a nobody. Again. A quiet, discouraged and afraid young woman. Again. I. Don’t. Feel. Like. Me. AGAIN.”

I told myself that this was just a phase. A test even. I’ll be over it in a couple days and come out of this stronger, right? Days turned into weeks. Eventually, weeks into a month. I had enough. Inside, I had come to terms with taking it off and knew it was the right decision for me. But then, it was everyone else left to deal with. The scariest part of it all.

I’m going to use the term, ‘social suicide’ (committing an act which kills one’s social life). This is what was awaiting for me if, and when, I took my hijab off.

The people at school, who were mostly of my culture, would mock me greatly, the community would look down upon me. And, most importantly, my mum would be in great disappointment.

I was at an older, and more mature age, to know the severity of it all. I felt like I had to go back to square one, and accept my fate of having to wear it until the age where I can leave for university, and do whatever without anyone knowing.

I eventually reached out to my brothers and told them the situation. They told me wearing a hijab is a choice for you, and you only. Everyone else may judge, but it is your life. After some reassurance and words of wisdom from them both, I took it off. That very next day, I went to my brother’s graduation – as me.

I felt beautiful in my skin. I was again the bubbly, happy and confident young woman I was born to be and ever since I’ve kept it off.

Regardless of what anyone said about me, which I promise you they still do to this day, I learnt you’ll only ever feel beautiful in your own skin when you do your thing for yourself.

One thing I’ve took from this all, is that you are who you are. You may make mistakes, but in the words of Yeezus himself:

“No, you’re not perfect, but you’re not your mistakes.”

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