The first time I encountered a traumatizing moment that had to do with my identity was when I was in seventh grade. My hijab was stripped off my head by two male eighth graders and I was speechless. I felt my heart shatter as I ran to the bathroom sobbing. I was humiliated, embarrassed and confused. We were escorted to the office where I got an apology and the two students were given an in-school suspension for a couple of days.
The next day was followed by kind words from the other classmates–they were on my side. Little did anyone know that I died inside, I was too embarrassed to even tell my parents. The image of myself in the mirror crying will always haunt my memory, but never in that moment did I think I would take off my hijab. What hurt me the most was that I had no idea what to do. “How will I ever look those predators in the eye? How can I be in the same room as them? What do I do next?”
1. Follow a notable mentor
Whether you look up to Harry Potter or Dalia Mogahed, find someone that inspires you. Use their leadership to guide you through your hardships. This helps me know I am not alone, and someone else’s wisdom can help me reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Don’t let your hardships take away from who you are
Not everyone is going to understand you and when people take drastic measures to support their radical opinions, remember: this has nothing to do with you. Their opinions are simply born from a lack of understanding and they have to seek their own truth. Let your struggles strengthen you, and remind yourself that you will be who you are no matter what.
3. Talk to someone you trust
Always remember there are people that will listen with an open heart. We have to go through the stages of grief to understand why certain things happen to us, but we don’t have to do it alone. This was the mistake I made when I was torn inside about my hijab being ripped off. I kept it inside, and it still hurts to even talk about it.
4. Use your resources
Back in the seventh grade, the only way I communicated with the world was through AOL dial-up, and AIM. There was no YouTube, TED talks, or anything that could really help me through my struggle. Now I don’t have the excuse. When I can relate to someone’s experience, I find relief, because if they can get through it, so can I.
5. Heal your wounds
Do something that gives you peace. When traumatizing things happen to us, we tend to curl up in a ball and shut out the world. Pray. Play tennis. Workout. Journal. Share your experience. Everyone heals in different ways–find the right activity to help you cope. Sometimes that scar will remain, but it will get smaller in time.
6. Be stronger than before
Make sure you learn and reflect on your experience. Don’t let it bring you down, let it uplift you. Reclaim your identity, and don’t let anyone get your way.
These are just simple steps I wish I had taken back when I was just a teen. Confusion is not the best of feelings, but sometimes finding clarity is closer than we think.