I was taught to keep striving to become a "better woman". Being religious is one of those ways, so I did as told. I was led to let people shamed me for being confident about my curves and for wanting to show them off through my taste in revealing clothes. I allowed myself to believe that what I was doing was unbecoming and that it's far better to look "decent", so should a guy approach me, I'd know it's because my thoughts and personality, instead of my looks or, God forbid, my body. I was coaxed and pressured by people around me and – most importantly – by myself to conform to heteronormativity and patriarchal mindset.
And it was good. I felt like I'm making the right choice, balancing the scales between being what people say I should be and what I want to be. I believed I was making a difference by showing people that they should not judge me from my cover. I was happy and content.
Now I just feel like a fraud.
Because I'm not that girl from three years ago anymore. I grew up and I changed in more ways than one.
I've learned a lot ever since, broadening my horizon and expanding my universe through books, discussions and experiences. So I can learn about myself.
I've learned to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people with different perspectives. I've learned to try and understand them, instead of dismiss them, and to admit I might be wrong. I've learned about patriarchy and heteronormativity, and how it had shaped my way of thinking, affecting my decisions and life choices. I've learned about the impossible and outdated ideals they have on women and how I don't have to conform to it.
I've learned that to protect myself from being sexualized or objectified, I don't necessarily need to cover myself up from head to toe: I just have to take charge of my body. So I've learned to get acquainted and be comfortable with my body, to love and appreciate it the way it is. I've learned that I'm not as heterosexual as I think I was, and that it's all right to be a Panromantic Demisexual.
I've learned to take charge of my body and my sexuality. I've learned and experimented with my partner(s), because I understand that it's okay to have physical relationship as long as we both consented to it and respected each other's boundaries. I've learned about equality, about treating other people with respect and expecting as much. I've learned that gender, belief, sexual orientations, race, and wealth doesn't matter, as long as you're not an asshole or bigot.
I've learned that the empty feeling every time I pray means I no longer find peace in the rituals of my own religion. And I've learned that a lot of people of my own religion unsettle me, and that I'm no longer comfortable with religion itself.
My hijab was no longer a testament of my desire to be a better person – it had become a limitation, an obstacle to showing my true self and voicing my opinions.
I'm still learning about what I really want to do and who I really want to be, but one thing is sure: I've learned I'm no longer that naive and misguided girl from three years ago. And I can't be her anymore.
That's why whenever I put my hijab on, I had trouble reconciling my identity then with my identity now. My hijab was no longer a testament of my desire to be a better person – it had become a limitation, an obstacle to showing my true self and voicing my opinions.
But even then, I still didn't feel like it's a good enough reason to take my hijab off. After all, I still wanted to believe – I wanted to have some semblance of faith. And maybe I didn't really want to let go of my old self, or I was just scared of the backlash I might receive.
So I recalled why I wore hijab in the first place, and then I asked myself one simple question: do I still believe in those reasons?
The answer is no.
It was a well-intended decision, but it was made with patriarchal and religious standards in mind. And those are two standards I'm no longer comfortable conforming to. I still want to be a better person, but I don't think I should do that by wearing hijab and obediently following the good religious girl standard. Not anymore.
So I've started taking my hijab off. In chosen situations and companions, at first, as I strengthen my resolve by trading thoughts. And I've found peace.
I fear people's reaction still, and negative comments discourage, or at least upset me. But I finally feel comfortable in my own skin again. I feel like myself, confident in every stride and bold enough to shake those poisonous shards off.
It was refreshing, emancipating, and peaceful.
And I like myself better when I'm not wearing hijab. Because I feel like I can be true to myself instead of play pretend. I've stopped lying both to myself and to people around me. And I am on my way to growing and rediscovering myself all over again.
So those are why I decided to stop wearing hijab for now. Because I believe that it is better to find peace and relearn my faith, rather than forcing myself to follow a certain rules that I actually abhor and wound up being further away from tranquility. Who knew, maybe in the future I'll wear hijab again, but for reasons that truly come from my faith and me.
But for now, this is me: a 21-turning-22 year-old Panromantic Demisexual with purple hair and unhealthy emotional investment to fandom stuff.
I just hope that when the time comes and I come clean to my family, they will understand.
Ri is an emotionally invested enthusiast of popular culture. An apathetic wombat who aims to be a bitter realist, but is a hopeless romantic at heart.