Overcoming the Fear of Becoming a Hijabi
Doesn’t matter where you are in your journey of hijab, every girl is struggling with different issues: there is no one size fits all. You might be someone who has girls in her family wearing hijab, and you may want to somewhere down the line, but you haven’t given it much thought. Maybe you’re thinking of wearing hijab but feel it may stop you from being who you are and/or activities you may be interested in. Maybe you’ve been wearing hijab and feel a lack of self-esteem, and you need that extra push of motivation to keep on moving forward in your spiritual journey, etc. Whatever the scenario may be, I’ve been through it all in the past seven years of wearing hijab alhumdulillah. I hope sharing my experience will help you either ease into hijab or to be comfortable in it.
- Set a realistic expectation and intention:
Saying “Oh, I’ll do it when I’m old and my kids are married” may sound like a realistic expectation, but it’s based on wishful thinking void of decisiveness and certainty. Besides, tomorrow isn’t promised, how can anyone look so far ahead? Growing up, I told myself I’d start wearing hijab SOME day, but never identified when that would be until my senior year of high school. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In March of 2011, I remember coming back home one Sunday from the mosque I taught at, and the first person my eyes landed on as I entered was my dad. While heading upstairs, I turned to him and said “I’m going to start wearing hijab for sure before I start at UIC” and ran upstairs. That was it. I just declared my intention out loud and now I had to start figuring out how. I was nervous, scared even, but excited. There were four months left until high school graduation, which was an adequate time to prepare myself. Give yourself a realistic time frame, and it’ll help you stay focused and working towards your goal.
- Prepare, both mentally and physically:
Wearing a hijab is more of a mental thing than physical, so I started to put hijab on randomly in my room and look at myself in the mirror in this new attire of mine. I’d wear a hijab to the mosque all the time, but I had no idea how to wrap it properly. It was more thrown on then wrapped on really. By physically prepare, I mean physically prepare your wardrobe. I already dressed pretty modestly for a teenager, but whenever I went out shopping, I started thinking more like a hijabi. I’d look for something that was a little longer in the back and not form fitting, or if a blouse was see-through, I’d make sure I had a matching color undershirt to layer with (which by the way was ridiculous because you can make do with a white or black undershirt for EVERYTHING). I brought different colored cardigans to cover tops with short sleeves and blazers to throw on short sleeve dresses. My major addition, of course, were hijabs. I didn’t really own any hijabs beside the typical two-piece white hijab every little girl wore to Sunday school. One thing I learned in my search for hijabs was: they are literally EVERYWHERE. A hijab is just a plain scarf. You will find scarves at basically any clothing store you enter; you don’t need to shop at a specific Islamic store for them. I found super cute ones at Charlotte Russe and H&M. Albeit now, there are countless stores offering variety of hijabs online. My wardrobe obviously wasn’t built in a day so don’t think you have to throw out everything you own and start fresh. If there are four basic clothing items I’d start with, they’d be: a black + white long sleeve undershirt and a black + white long cardigan. It becomes so much easier to layer/pair outfits.
- One step at a time:
Start SLOW. You don’t need to wake up tomorrow and determine that is the day you wear hijab for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you have that kind of willpower- kudos to you girl! But as for me, I definitely had to start slow. For example, I’d wear my hijab to the mosque and if I had to run errand afterwards, I’d leave it on. The best thing I did for myself was to practice wearing it where no one knew me. I admit as teenagers, we worry more of what others will think of us than how we see ourselves. Wearing a hijab in places where no one knew me felt so freeing because I wasn’t concerned about what others were thinking of me. I remember one day my senior year in high school, it was a half-day so my best friend Taylor and I decided to go to the mall. Knowing we’d be going out, I brought my hijab with me stuffed in my backpack. Honestly, even though my best friend is non-Muslim, she has been so supportive of my hijab since day one. She made it SO easy for me to wear hijab with a familiar face around, which helped me tremendously in transitioning smoothly into wearing hijab in front of other people I knew. (I also can’t believe I’m posting these embarrassing pictures, but do you see the layering?! My top was sleeveless so I layered with a blue undershirt to make it more modest). I kept practicing my hijab outside where no one knew me that by the time I graduated high school, I was already wearing a hijab everywhere else.
- Follow hijabi bloggers to help you find YOUR style:
When I started wearing hijab, there were scarcely any modest fashion bloggers out there but the handful I found, I got super excited. I’d watch YouTube videos for hours on different hijab styles and create outfits inspired by them. I was so amazed with their ability to style their hijab while keeping their fashion modest yet stylish, and I thought to myself, “if they can be so confident in their hijab, so can I” iA. The one mistake I regret making, however, is trying to copy their hijab and outfit styles to a point where I couldn’t relate to it all. Watching a YouTube video labeled “Simple Hijab Tutorial” but ending with over 11 pins in my hijab was anything but simple to me. I came to the realization that while these hijab styles looked great on these girls, it wasn’t practical for me at all. So I experimented and made tweaks throughout my hijab journey to what made me comfortable, and I created my own style. If I take a glimpse through my old pictures, I know what year it was based on what my hijab style was at the time. By no means is my hijab style perfect up until this day. It still changes on a daily basis within my realm of style. But at the end of it, I am covered and comfortable in what I’m wearing- that’s all that matters.
- Continue to perfect your modesty:
There are days I’ll look back at my outfits in old pictures and cringe at how I ever thought it was modest enough to wear at the time. Maybe years down the line, I’ll look at pictures from today and wonder the same thing. My point is, as you continue in your journey, you naturally become conscious of what is okay and what isn’t. However, take that voice inside of you to remind yourself where you started. Don’t look down at other girls based on where they are in their hijab journey. Everybody is striving for perfection in their own way; their intentions and actions are between them and God. Humble yourself, and be thankful for how far you’ve come in your own journey.
- Make an effort for yourself:
As hijabis, we don’t get to doll up in the same way as other non-hijabis, which time to time can leave us resenting hijab or feeling excluded. Before I wore hijab, I’d straighten my hair everyday or style it with mousse to keep those “beach waves”. My hair was always done nicely even if I was doing nothing more than chilling in the house with sweatpants on. Hijab does NOT mean you have to stop styling your hair. I was guilty of leaving my hair in a bun and forgetting about it, but I started to take more notice and care of my hair. I put effort into styling it, so when I took my hijab off after I got home, my hair is styled properly underneath. If you ever come unannounced at my house, chances are I’m prancing around the house in my new blowout. Lol. Another concern I get a lot from Muslim women is that they won’t be able to workout anymore or do sports if they wear hijab, which obviously isn’t true. I made an effort to keep working out wearing a hijab (no matter how uncomfortable I felt as the only hijabi at the gym) because fitness was and is important to me- not to mention a great stress release. Make time and effort to do things that make you feel beautiful; it significantly helps your self-confidence in hijab.
- Hijab does NOT limit you:
One of the greatest misconception women, including myself, hesitate with before becoming a hijabi is assuming the hijab will stop you from living your life. This is could not be more far from the truth. For example, working out was a big concern for me, but I experimented with different textures of hijabs and outfits to find what works in the gym for me without compromising my modesty or workout. Whatever the occasion may be, you may have to work harder to find modest clothing, but it shouldn’t stop you from succeeding. As a student, I presumed I would be denied opportunities in the workplace as a Muslim woman wearing hijab. Looking back as a current Systems Analyst at a prestigious university, I shattered my own glass ceiling. Hijab will never limit you.
In today’s world, hijab is seen as oppression; I think of it as liberation. Refer to my blog post: Life of a Hijabi: Oppression or Liberation? My point is, it will feel like you against the world at times. In times like these, it’s crucial to remind yourself the reason why you started doing it to begin with. For me, knowing that this garment symbolizes my relationship with God and the rewards that lie within it strengthens my belief.