Struggles with Wearing the Hijab

There will be times when women will face doubts and insecurities in wearing their hijab, says Dina Toki-o. Photography by Alessia Gammarota.

While it’s been a fairly easy ride, it would silly of me to deny that, even recently, I’ve been experiencing my own struggles over whether to keep the hijab on. I could go on forever, in so many words, attempting to explain even half the reasons why I sometimes feel like getting a suitcase and packing it all in.

From hating the way I look, to not feeling confident, to being worried about not fitting in – the list could go on for miles. And it’s not just me. A few family members and friends have also found themselves considering whether to remove their hijab. As a result, I have found myself involved in late night discussions and debates on why we should keep it on.

For almost all of my hijabi life, I have felt restricted. I would have loved to do one of my GCSEs in Sports, but felt that I would look foolish, and that I simply couldn’t because ‘hijabis don’t do that.’

I then gained a love for fashion, but it ground to a halt after my A levels because there was ‘no way a hijabi could study fashion.’ I felt that I wouldn’t fit in, or be able to have a career in it – until two years ago, when I decided I no longer cared what anyone thought about me. I decided that, as long as I still follow my beliefs as a Muslim, I would do what I wanted while wearing the hijab. It’s been a fairly easy ride, but I’ve truly enjoyed it more than I would any other!

From my personal experience, I don’t think it makes a difference when or how long you’ve been wearing the hijab. At some point in your ‘hijabi life’ you’re bound to feel down or ‘depressed’ about wearing it. Where are these feelings rooted? I find it’s usually to do with how I’m feeling about the way I look.

Being a hijabi can prove to be difficult, especially when it comes to fashion – you want to feel like you fit in, that you’re stylish and confident. But even if you usually consider yourself all of the above, there’ll always be that one day, every couple of weeks, when you feel pretty naff about yourself and what you wear.

My solution? Change it up a little. And by ‘it’, I mean your hijab style. You might think I’m crazy, but I have recently hated my usual hijab style. So for the past few months, I’ve been trying out new styles and am really enjoying them. By doing that, I’ve come around and started to love my old, usual hijab style again.

Truthfully, living in London has made me lazier when it comes to what I’m wearing. That’s down to the crazy transport and chaotic rush I’m constantly in. I find myself throwing anything on without actually being happy with it. I end up telling myself, ‘I’ll leave the nice outfits for when I have an event or something.’

I think it’s important – and I am slowly applying this to myself – to take a little more time with your appearance. This will ensure that you don’t get used to looking like a bum, sacrificing style for comfort. That is, of course, if you find yourself in the same boat as me.

When I’m out and about in London, I’m always spotting trendy tourists, street styles and high flyers, and am constantly refreshed with new ideas and inspiration for my own outfits. Having said that, sometimes finding the time to apply your ideas to your own style can be daunting, especially if you’ve got used to the comfortable, tired and always-in-a-rush look as I have.

But if you find yourself feeling fed-up with your hijab because ‘you’ll never look decent’ in it, then I’d say go for it – change your style up a little, even if it’s a tad outrageous. Don’t be scared of what people might say, because if you truly love your ‘new’ look, then you’ll find that confidence again. And hopefully, with your confidence back, you will overcome your doubts and feel better about yourself. You know what they say: ‘feel good, look good.’

Taking that little quote into consideration, I truly believe that half the time I’m feeling like rubbish is because of my diet. Eating junk always leaves me on a downer for the night and the following morning.

As women, we naturally have a desire to look good. Wearing a hijab doesn’t automatically come with a decline in our appearance. Just because a woman in hijab happens to be attractive, or has made the effort to look good, it doesn’t mean that her hijab is ‘invalid’. There’s just a difference in the kind of appearance we’re portraying. The hijab is beautiful, as are women. By wearing it, there’ll always be that barrier to how much beauty is revealed, how we handle ourselves, how we mind our manners in public, and so on.

Certain questions always crop up, sometimes on a daily basis. What’s the point of wearing the hijab if you’re not wearing it properly? Why are you wearing makeup with a hijab? Isn’t that a contradiction? These questions never, ever help a hijabi who may already be in doubt or in the midst of a struggle. I have heard people very close to me ask themselves those questions about their own hijab.

The answer, I say, is to remember the core reason why you one day decided to adopt the hijab. Do you find yourself saying, ‘I may as well take off my hijab. I wear skinny jeans, so what’s the point?’ The answer is ‘No’. Trust me, I’ve said the same to myself so many times, but isn’t that just an excuse? To remove the hijab: ‘There we go, problem solved. I’m no longer a hijabi, so I will no longer have to deal with these questions and problems!’ No, I don’t think the solution will ever be to remove your hijab. That will only push your issues away, and not bring you closer to ‘getting better’. It’s almost like running away from the problem. Of course, I’m speaking in terms of being a hijabi for so many years; this doesn’t apply if wearing the hijab jeopardizes your life.

The thing is, it’s usually not the hijab that’s the problem – it’s us and our insecurities. Will removing the hijab really help? Probably, in the short run. But then you’ll most likely find yourself in the same situation sooner or later, hating the way you look or being fed-up with it. Then what? Put the hijab back on? I’ve come across this story so many times, and have come close to being in it myself. Even if people tell you to remove your hijab because your clothes aren’t suitable, don’t listen to them – just try your best at being a hijabi.

Because even if your hijab is not what’s considered ‘perfect’ by social networking ‘sheikhs’ nowadays, there is still a good reason for keeping it on. From there, the only way is forward.

And if one day you are questioning whether your outfits are suitable, make sure you renew your intentions as to why you’re wearing it. Remember: However hard it may be to keep your hijab on, it’s on for one reason, and you’re being rewarded for all of your struggles. Now that’s got to be worth it!