I tried to tell my story before, but it was left unfinished. I feel ready to complete it now. My story might be more straightforward comparing to others,’ but it’s a tough challenge for me.
My struggle was within me. I’m 16 years old. I wasn’t challenged with family pressure to cover my body and hair. They weren’t forcing me to cover, but they forced me to attend Quran courses every summer. I started covering my hair at the age of 11 by my own will when I was visiting one of these Quran courses. I was too young to question why, but I was convinced that I had to cover my whole body. People seemed surprised by my decision. My elder sister wasn’t in the hijab even though she spent her entire summers in Quran courses, which I also attend. One day, one of her friends whispered to my sister, saying that she shouldn’t cover, at the same time directly looking at me in the eye, and then they laughed at this together.
I guess I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing back then since I didn’t really comprehend the must responsibilities of covering. I was a bit shy person, and I finished secondary school without any problem. That summer, I gained too much knowledge about my religion, thanks to attending the same course. That knowledge and responsibility lead me to carry such a weight on my shoulders.
In high school, I began to realize covering my hair wasn’t reflecting my real persona. On the other hand, throwing off the hijab was a disgrace for me because I lacked courage. I couldn’t even confess it to myself. Sometimes, my sister was putting psychological pressure on me about my veil, and I got agitated because I couldn’t defend myself properly.
In my first summer break of high school, I wanted to think about the pros and cons of the hijab with the need to fill the void in my mind. Covering my body and hair was negatively affecting me; it didn’t match my thoughts and made me feel bad. I was self-distancing myself from my classmates because I was setting limits on my behavior. After that, I made my decision but still didn’t have the nerve to make it happen. What was I afraid of? I didn’t even have a conservative family. I forgot to mention that with having social anxiety, I was terrified with the idea that people were going to judge me. I always created drama in my head for nothing. I fear my friends reacting and criticizing me about throwing off the hijab. I was afraid of being defined by different labels.
I sometimes feel embarrassed when I read other people’s stories. Some people are struggling with such parents that my problems seem pretty minor. I had covered until 10th grade, but until that day, not having a tolerance for ambiguity, everything was a challenge for me. I was having severe low self-esteem issues. Whenever I thought about that problem, throwing off the hijab became more impossible day by day. I had hard times, and I also started to go to therapy for my social anxiety. I tried to build my confidence, so it seemed quite logical for me to wait for the end of the semester. I could even hardly believe it, but I made it. You can’t imagine how hard it is for me.
My mom and dad didn’t stand against my decision; they only got a bit of sad. I quite hesitated from my friends, and I was praying to God, hoping that they couldn’t recognize me without the headscarf. Although it was my own decision, I bowed my head while walking in the streets as if I were guilty, but there was nothing to be afraid of in the end. I think I’ve been processing that.
It’s been only a month since I had no longer wearing the hijab. I avoid seeing my relatives because I can’t handle their wrong opinions about my decisions. I hope the day is soon enough when I finally get myself together and face my biggest fear. I can’t finish my story without mentioning the long for the feeling the hair in the wind. It’s an unavoidable feeling to miss. I don’t see my four years’ experience with the hijab as a misfortune. I just needed a little bit of time to think about my religion. It was also nice to finally realize that all of these fears were pointless.
(Image: Nastya Rauba)