Self Love Sunday, Series, Uncategorized

Self Love Sunday

Assalaamu alaikum, everyone and welcome back to another Honest Hijabi moment! Today I want to talk about self-improvement/self-love and how to begin. I put improvement and love together because I don’t think we can have one without the other. I don’t believe that self-love is solely accepting ourselves as we are and not pushing ourselves to be and do better. Showing love to our minds, bodies, and souls takes work and sometimes that work is not easy. So to begin, the steps below talk about the mental work we need to do. For a long time I didn’t realise how powerful having control over my mind would be. Oh how I wish I could go back to 14 year old me and drill that into my big stubborn head. But I’m learning it now and let me tell you that it comes with so much freedom that you never realised you could have. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Step 1: Set up a solid base to work from.

We all know the saying that goes “Without a solid foundation, a structure cannot last.” Or something like that. Same thing goes for us. If we try to glow up only through shallow methods while ignoring the deeper changes that need to take place, our transformation will be temporary. A shallow glow up would be buying new makeup, changing up your hairstyle, and buying new clothes. Fun? Yes. Trans-formative? Absolutely. Impactful and long lasting? Not so much. So for a glow up that never stops glowing, we start with mental and physical health. This involves strengthening our deen, meditation, practising mental self-discipline, therapy, getting your levels checked, getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, getting physical, etc. This can also go deeper into letting go of relationships, things, and habits that bring you down. From this we can create a much smoother canvas to start painting ourselves onto.

Step 2: Build your character.

This one should be simple but some of us, like myself, didn’t have the best role models in this area growing up so we have to learn on our own. Character basically encompasses your moral values and personality. Having good character can look like being kind, keeping promises, acting with compassion and empathy, being generous, following through, being honest, being loyal, etc etc. These are really good traits to build up in ourselves but come with a lot of practice. These will carry you forward in life and bring you across all kinds of people and situations that will allow you to grow your personality as well. When we have these traits in place, we can build our personality around it to be whoever we want to be. We will also make friends easily and gather up beautiful life experiences that add more to us.

Step 3: Get to know yourself and stop over adapting.

One thing with growing up shy is that you tend to form a habit of adapting to those around you in order to blend in and survive in social situations. Couple this with my parents’ lack of social skills and a smooth social life and I entered my 20’s so bored of myself. Of course I had a personality but I was always so concerned with stepping on people’s toes or messing up that I suppressed a lot of it. I only gave answers that I thought people wanted to hear and therefore, no one ever really got too close to the real me. It’s hard to make friends that way and only makes you feel bad about yourself. So, stop it. Stop adapting so much to the people around you that you disappear completely. You are beautiful as you and you have every right to be yourself and have opinions as they do. You’ve worked on your character so if you act and speak through that, you have nothing to apologise for if someone chooses not to like you anyway.

Also, start journaling so that you can become familiar with your inner thoughts and feelings. This is also a great way to ramble and get all of the word vomit out of your system (just in case you struggle with that like I do). You can also conduct mini interviews with yourself where you write down lists of simple, easy to answer questions about you and answer them as truthfully as you can. This really helped me figure out what I liked and what I’m like so that I can stop being a doormat who just says “I like everything” whenever someone asks my opinion.

Step 4: Detach from other’s expectations and criticisms of you.

Something I wish I had known a long time ago is that you cannot become attached to what other people think of you. You shouldn’t become attached to the people themselves either. Just think of this: if you didn’t care what other people thought of you, what would you go out and do with your life right now? Go write that question down and then answer it in writing and reflect on it. What would you do without all of the unnecessary attachments to unnecessary people and their opinions? If that person is not close to you and they’re not someone that supports and encourages you, then what their brain comes up with about you doesn’t matter.

I used to want everyone to like me so bad so I would end up so attached to how they perceived me. I wouldn’t even really care for these people myself but for some reason I still wanted to be a certain way so they would like me. I would still sacrifice my precious time to go bore myself hanging out with them just to get some kind of invisible reward. This isn’t to be mean or dismissive of anyone. This isn’t about being petty and snobby and nasty to people. This is about learning to set boundaries so that you can live your best life. If there are people that are freely putting you down or expecting a lot out of you without giving much in return, then they are not the people for you. Why are you so worried about what they think of you? What do you think of that person? Do you like them? Are they fun to be around? Are they worth your time? You are not at everyone else’s mercy when it comes to your own well-being and social life. These are things that you build up for yourself and it’s time to be more discerning about who we let onto the building site.

Step 5: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

This is so important because taking oneself too seriously can undo so much work and make things stressful and weird with those around you. While it’s important to set boundaries and make necessary changes, remember to have fun with it and maintain a good attitude throughout the process. When you need alone time, don’t just shut your loved ones out. Let them know it’s all good, you just need some time to yourself. If someone jokes with you about what you’re doing, don’t immediately take it to heart in a negative way. Usually they mean well and as long as they’re respecting your new boundaries, it can be fun to laugh about it and bond over it. People gravitate towards chill, easygoing people and the more you can laugh at yourself and have fun with life, the more you’ll be that person. So those are my 5 quick steps to starting self love.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Hijama & My First 1.5 Years as a Muslim

It has been a little under 2 years since I became Muslim, subhan’Allah. I can hardly believe it has already been that long and how much has happened. I am so grateful for what life has been like since then. The only thing I would maybe change would be to revert sooner, but then my life experiences before this stage are just as important to my development as this has been. There was so much I had to process and cleanse out of myself mentally during this time. That’s the thing about personal growth and life change, it’s never really smooth sailing. When you stay in the same place, physically or mentally, everything seems pretty great and sometimes it’s hard to see a reason for why we should change if it will be too much trouble. The more I learned about Islam and the more I adapted my life to my beliefs, the more work on myself I realised needed to get done.

Embracing Islam and diving into this trans-formative journey really brought out a lot of inner demons and muck that I had stuffed way way down over time. I couldn’t understand why I was an emotional wreck, why I felt so anxious and depressed, why I felt so messed up. There was so much dissatisfaction and shame with who I was, who my family was, what my life had been so far. So many insecurities and doubts and a general feeling of being stuck in a deep pit of failure that I was so unsure of how to climb back out. Very similar to deep cleaning your room after who knows how long. It makes you want to give up after the first 30 minutes, doesn’t it?

But I had to get this stuff all cleaned out and dealt with or it would eat me alive. I had to come to peace with so much that I was allowing to be a big deal when it was just part of reality. I had to let go of bad habits and damaging, self-sabotaging behaviour that, until I opened the closet door, had stayed hidden away under the surface always influencing but never showing itself completely. My first real relief from it all came with hijama.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure.” {Saheeh Muslim (5706)}

You know how you hear people raving about something and you think to yourself, “It can’t be that good”, then you try it out for yourself and realise, it really is that good? That was what hijama was like for me. I went into that clinic thinking that I’d just have a fun experience and probably wouldn’t do it again to walking out on air. I’m trying not to sound over-dramatic but I was literally transformed. Burdens and obsessive thoughts and feelings that I hadn’t been able to shake for years had just fallen away completely. I felt so free. I felt so normal and level-headed, that was the best part. This is something I would highly recommend doing for all new Muslims and Muslims who have never tried it. She only did my sunnah points and hormonal point but what a drastically wonderful difference it made.

And it’s lasted. With so much of the big stuff cleared out of my mind, I’m able to finally put in effective work on my relationships with those around me and myself, my deen, my goals, my interests, my health. So many passions have come back to light up my life after being bogged down. I feel like the woman who I’ve been trying to become for so long. It’s a job I have to do everyday, I don’t get to sit back and relax while perfection just rains down on me. I’m still finding things about myself that I will tweak and I’m still having to stay mindful of my thoughts and actions towards myself and others. It’s all a process but I’m finally making some progress. Of course, I have so much more to do and learn but I’m really happy right now with where I find myself.

I believe that if you really want to see transformation. you have to go through a little bit of chaos for a minute. They say it always gets worse before it gets better which I found to be so true. So don’t get discouraged if your first year as a Muslim finds you in the midst of all kinds of trials. Becoming a better person is not in the interest of shaytaan or your old self. You’ll fight yourself, you’ll face obstacles, you’ll feel like a crazy person. You never felt this way before because you weren’t trying to disturb the beast. But you have now and it’s rearing it’s ugly heard for you to get a good look at. Don’t run away from it though because it’s so much simpler to conquer than it seems. You just need to be persistent, stick to your deen, and place all of the control and trust in Allah (SWT). And go get cupping done, seriously.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

What to Expect When You Cover Your Hair in America

Every revert’s story is different. We all come from different backgrounds and lifestyles which can greatly determine the level of ease our assimilation into this new life will have. This is such a deep and individual process that for this article I will stick to the basics of what a female revert will probably experience when she starts covering her hair. What can you expect from the world around you? From your friends and family? From future employers and strangers?

I’m going to be real with you. As I’m sure you already know, there is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering surrounding Islam that I hope to dispel as I continue writing on this blog. Your decision to embark on this journey is not going to go down well with a lot of people. It is very realistic to assume that your family will express disappointment in you, maybe even go so far as to cut you off. You will see friends that start to avoid you or pretend to be interested but slowly fade away. Coworkers will question your decision and, perhaps crack jokes or make you feel silly for it. If you choose to cover your hair, you can expect to have to learn how to control every word that comes out of your mouth. People will feel uncomfortable around you and you will be subjected to a level of surveillance that no one else has to go through. You will get dirty looks while you’re in the grocery store minding your own business. If you work with the public, you can most certainly expect comments ranging from curious to ignorant to downright degrading.

People will all of a sudden think that it is appropriate to discuss topics with you that they would avoid with anyone else. There will be people who think that simply because you cover your hair, that you are open and comfortable with discussing hijab and women’s rights in Islam. All of a sudden, you will become a poster child for hijabis and Islam, whether you like it or not. You will also meet people who feel that it is their own, personal mission to “save” you. They will see you as oppressed and confused, in need of confidence and freedom. They will feign concern for your well-being and worry about your own personal decisions. They will attempt to be saviours who debate with you until you see the light. And there will be some people who won’t talk to you at all and some who will be a little too friendly.

I will also advise that you use caution if you are going out alone in certain areas of the States. I don’t recommend going out alone once the sun has set and use your discretion when going into certain places. The key is to know where you are welcome and to use common sense. I live in the southern United States which means that there are certain restaurants and stores that cater to a group of people who have a tendency to hate Muslims. There are certain cities nearby that have a very small population and consist of the same type of people. I will not find any allies in these areas so I stay away. 9/11 didn’t just hurt and kill the Americans in those buildings. It brought on terror, threats, and death to the Americans who just so happened to be true followers of the religion that an evil group of men used as a scapegoat to commit terrorism. While American Muslims prayed, provided aid, and condemned the acts of these men, America turned on them and has sought to hold innocent people accountable ever since. There are too many stories of Muslims being harassed and killed here to take anything lightly now.

Life as a hijabi in the States isn’t a living nightmare but it does require some adjusting to how you would normally interact with others and carry yourself. I have personally chosen not to talk in depth about my faith with others. If they ask then I will answer, but it stops at that. Don’t make apologies for your beliefs or try to explain or justify any of your decisions. You don’t need to prove to anyone that you are an empowered woman with your hijab. You don’t need to reassure anyone that you are free or that you feel beautiful and confident. We should have love and patience for everyone that we come across, but we should not sacrifice our beliefs or well-being to cater to the ego of someone who chooses to remain ignorant and hateful in a world that offers plenty of opportunity to be the opposite. I love America and I am so grateful that I was born here, but this love for my country doesn’t mean that I should refrain from reality. Islam has given me so much more freedom and passion for life than I’ve ever had before. I cover my hair proudly now and I am so proud of each and every one of you beautiful women who have chosen the same path. This is a beautiful journey that brings so many benefits and as with every beautiful thing, there are those who try to stifle it. Trust in Allah (SWT), hold your head high, be prepared, and speak the truth.

Ps: And you know what else you can expect? The flood of support and love you will receive from other hijabis whether it’s on the street, in the store, online, in the masjid, etc. You are going to face some negativity but you will always have a support system of other Muslims behind you. Don’t forget that.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Imposter Syndrome: Revert Edition

When I first reverted, I was alone. I found myself in an area that was very much lacking in a strong Muslim community and so resorted to internet research and books to grow in my deen. It wasn’t until I met my husband, that I finally had the opportunity to connect with other sisters and brothers in Islam. I traveled to London to meet his family and felt like I blended in as soon as I landed. There were women in hijab EVERYWHERE. No one was giving me dirty looks, I was invisible, and I loved it. But something also happened, I started to feel like an imposter. Sitting there with my husband’s wonderful family, getting to know everyone, I realized how little I actually knew about Islam and how underdeveloped my iman actually was. I had so much to learn and part of me began to feel almost foolish due to my lack of knowledge. How could I sit there wearing hijab and claim to be Muslim when I knew so little?

Another factor that I believe contributes to this imposter syndrome, is how synonymous culture has become with Islam; specifically cultures arising from Asian and Arabic countries. Growing up in America, raised by a Black/Native American mother and a German/Welsh father, I shared a similar upbringing and lifestyle with many of my fellow mixed, American peers. Our culture here typically derives from a Christian background with a primarily secular lifestyle. Joining a new family and being surrounded by beautiful people from a completely different culture and a faith still new to me was fascinating and I am so grateful for it. But I cannot lie and pretend like I felt I belonged here. Just as the hijab set me apart from most people in the southern United States, my background and nationality felt quite alienating in my new Muslim family. Naturally, people who claim the same culture have a much closer bond. When I come across other mixed girls or other members of my family’s tribe, the connection is so much stronger then in my interactions with others. It’s simply how things are. So being a fairly new revert with distinctively different features from those around me, a Christian upbringing and an American accent felt so uncomfortably visible in a primarily Asian and Arabic community.

I began to feel the same way on social media as I followed more and more Muslim women. In every post I saw gorgeous traditions and cultural practices, and it seemed like everyone connected over these things so much more than anything else. Everyone I met had been born into a Muslim family, so all of this was so normal and essential to who they were. They were well-practiced Muslims who were familiar with the lifestyle and the teachings to back it up. I felt like I was playing dress up, trying to join the party. I didn’t have much in common with anyone around me here, no familiar life experiences or similar upbringing, simply a shared faith. Could I ever belong? Probably not. I can appreciate this culture but it will never be my culture. I can love the people so dearly but I will never be one of them. I can be obsessed with the traditions and the style of dress but it’s not my style. And that’s okay. Because being a Muslim has NOTHING to do with culture.

Islam is a religion, a set of beliefs that are set apart from culture. Anyone can be Muslim because you don’t have to be born into it, Alhamdulillah! Allah (SWT) has brought you into this faith, so you do belong no matter how you feel. The key is to remain humble. You will not know everything when you revert, you won’t know everything one year after you revert, and you STILL won’t know everything 50 years after you revert. It is about being humble, pursuing knowledge, and putting that newfound knowledge to practice over and over and over again. You are not joining a new culture, you are joining the Ummah (Muslim community). This community encompasses so many cultures from all over the world. It is a very intricately woven, vibrant web of people coming from so many different backgrounds to join together in worshiping the one true God. It is very easy to come across cultural traditions from primarily Arabic and Asian countries and think that this is what Islam is. And when we focus on these cultures, it becomes exclusionary. That is one of the many great beauties of Islam: that so many different people can come together and share this faith and this struggle. Islam does not exclude those that God has brought into it, Alhamdulillah.

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