That one piece of cotton is thought to not only hold your hair back but also your confidence, your sense of identity, your self-perception…but does it? There are an infinite number of veiled girls with different personalities, backgrounds, and faiths. There are an infinite number of veiled girls and yet this one question remains roaming their minds unanswered: Is being veiled somehow related to a lack of self-confidence?
20-year old Maryam Taha first decided to get veiled after going through a dreadful experience. All sorts of ideas crowded her mind, does she want to die without being veiled? After thinking everything through, she felt ready to commit. “I wore it for three months. It made me quieter, wiser, and maybe even older. It had given me age and weight. I couldn’t help but link the Hijab to a lack of self-confidence. When I wasn’t veiled, I was more outgoing, open, and confident. People were shocked to see the double personality I could manage with it on and off. It kept getting worse until the veil became a burden that parted me from everything I wanted. Taking it off was difficult, especially because of the people that had looked up to me when I first wore it. To let them down, to not live up to the strength they saw in me, was the hardest thing I had to do. But I took it off anyway,” she tells.
“All along I had pinned my lacking self-confidence on the Hijab. But, when I took it off, I was still quiet, I was still boring, I was still unconfident!”
Maryam was judged, talked about and, even though this came as no surprise, she found it difficult to weather the storm. “The first few months of being unveiled felt free. But what I didn’t see coming is, months after taking it off, the same feeling came rushing back, the same heaviness, the same suffocation. All along I had pinned my lacking self-confidence on the Hijab. But, when I took it off, I was still quiet, I was still boring, I was still unconfident! I had done everything I had long wished for but couldn’t do whilst veiled, but nothing seemed enough. Even though I had lost the veil, I couldn’t find myself.”
Against all odds, a year later Maryam wore it again, when she realized that the inner conflict possessing her all along hadn’t been because of the Hijab. “Half the things I had wanted to do but felt that I couldn’t were casually done by veiled girls every day. A lot of girls are veiled and hyperactive, veiled and outgoing, veiled and confident! I realized that some girls, myself-included, take their veils off out of a misinterpretation of their own feelings, emotions, and conflicts. They take it off in an attempt to bandage a deep wound that needs severe treatment.”
One of the many things that helps you stick with something is to fully comprehend why you did it. “The main catastrophe lies in the way people approach you to wear the Hijab. They tell you how great a step it is, that you look prettier with it on! Which may be true but isn’t ultimately the reason why you would want to be veiled! Their arguments are based on contextual temporary reasoning that won’t help you stand your ground in the long run. They mention everything that would convince you but never any of the things the veil deprives you of.” she explains.
“You won’t look beautiful all the time, you won’t always know how to dress, and it won’t be easy but this is not why you are putting it on”
“Now, when people ask me about what it is like to be veiled, I don’t tell them how great it is. In fact, I mention the cons and not at all the pros. I wish someone had done that with me but they didn’t and so, when I first experienced negative feelings, I thought it was just me. So no, you won’t look beautiful all the time, you won’t always know how to dress, and it won’t be easy but this is not why you are putting it on, so it is okay.”
Basma, another girl who preferred a low profile, has been veiled and unveiled and eventually realized that she is better off without. “I didn’t take off the veil to do something in particular, I was just not feeling myself with it on. Every time I’d look in the mirror, I’d be looking at a stranger. It was something very psychological. I was part of a community that cared much about fashion, trends, and style and I was struggling to keep up. My friend would be talking about how someone just cut their hair, and I would be like “Oh, and I got a new scarf”. I felt like I’d aged a million years, and they even told me that; ‘You are such a grandma.’”
“I realized that my confidence problem was bigger and more deeply rooted than a piece of cotton covering up my hair.”
Whilst being veiled, Basma lacked confidence about her appearance, “When I was veiled, I used to see those who aren’t dressing so beautifully and freely and I’d envy them. But, when I took it off, I started looking at all those veiled girls who keep in style and match up great outfits. I felt like I could have sorted things out if I’d wanted to continue being veiled. Eventually I realized that my confidence problem was bigger and more deeply rooted than a piece of cotton covering up my hair. I couldn’t find my true self whilst having it on. Now that I understand myself more, I think I am better off. I may have taken my veil off for numerous reasons and, although taking it off solved a lot of my problems, it didn’t bring back my confidence,” she concludes.