How I Learned to Stay True to Myself After Years of Self-Doubt

I wasn’t always so transparent. Growing up I was very quiet. Always in deep thought or some imaginary land. I never said what I was thinking. When I did, my peers thought I was weird.

Then I went through a phase where I spoke a lot more. I was told that I “talked too much” and that I “sounded like a broken record.” From an early age, I found out that adults needed to be reminded and that most of them lacked accountability. And, if I wanted to get things done, I had to be assertive and vocal about my needs.

In my teen years, the person I was inside hadn’t matched the outside. So, I hid within myself. I dove into writing fictional stories, that way I could live vicariously through characters, leaving the real world behind.

Years passed, and I still clung to fictional stories even as an adult. No one would accept me – the real me – if I ever spoke my truths. I’d get eaten alive by the Islamic communities and the online ones, too. For sure, I thought that no one wanted to hear anything other than which famous blogger I met in New York or what I wore that day or what lipstick I was wearing. They couldn’t possibly want to hear the ugly truths about my life. Why would they want my stories to taint the beautiful aesthetics of social media?

I get asked a lot how am I so comfortably transparent about my life on the internet and in person…

For years, I posted what I thought people wanted to see. They liked my fashion. Not me as a real-life person. A human being who struggled with her husband or mental illness or eating disorders. A person who struggled with a Muslim identity, a Black identity in a Eurocentric-crazed society.

One time, I posted something about body insecurities. I didn’t go into full detail or anything. I just gave Instagram a snippet into an ongoing problem in my life. Women began commenting about their own body issues, just openly sharing their stories and praising me for being honest. My inbox was flooded with more stories about the hardships of being a fat woman and how my photos gave them hope.

Even then, that wasn’t enough to get me to completely come out of my shell. I was still very much so a “style blogger” who kinda-sorta talked about body stuff.

I get asked a lot how am I so comfortably transparent about my life on the internet and in person, especially with the rise of hardcore trolling and judgmental-ness of peers. And the fact that I am in a fat, Black Muslim body that is constantly policed more so than my counterparts. I can’t tell you how I started to become more transparent on the “Gram,” but I know for a fact it was in small doses at first. I didn’t just jump out there like HEY! THIS IS ME!

No. No. No. Rome wasn’t built in a day, y’all. Nor is self-discovery and acceptance.

But, on some real shit, the tipping point for me was the divorce. I most definitely 100% used my marriage as an excuse to “not say certain things” that could embarrass my now ex-husband or break the fasçade of perfection that he tried so hard to attain.

To be an artist is to be comfortable and transparent with your work. 

I felt like half a person when I wrote or shared things. Always keeping him in the back of my head. Is this appropriate? Would he be mad? Is this Islamically pleasing for me to say or post?

Transparency was a no-no. And it hurt me greatly. To be an artist is to be comfortable and transparent with your work. I was too busy trying to please others and forgot about pleasing myself. I played it safe and suffered for it.

To be transparent about my life, raw with you, the reader, the watcher is therapeutic for me as a writer. To be able to openly live in my truth is so much more rewarding than hiding my oddness. To be able to connect with a person half way across the world from a story, a photo is amazing.

Of course, I got a lot of backlash from my decision to go word-rogue and I have trolls on the daily who harass me. But, the people who I’ve touched and who have touched me through my journey is far greater than any negative thing someone says about me or my spirituality or my body.

I challenge you to live in your truths and be a little more transparent each day. You never know who will be touched by your truths.



Leah V