I am Muslim. I am a woman. I am Middle Eastern. I am a first-generation American. I have layers to my identity and I do not fit into one category or can be easily labeled. I also know I am not alone in this struggle, yet the struggle continues for us to be understood.
Growing up, my name was not as simple as my classmates, so I didn’t feel “American” enough. Then at times when I had trouble speaking my native tongue, I was not “ethnic” enough in my cultural community.
The feeling of an outsider in someone’s world is all too common for many first-generation Muslim Americans, where we bounce around until our adulthood trying to balance what our parents taught us in our cultural households versus what we learned among our American friends and institutions.
It is a constant change of sequence of which parts of our identity we prioritize, whether it is our spirituality, culture, sexual orientation, or professional attribute among others.
I am not the first person to say this, and hopefully not the last one either. It is OKAY to have multiple identities and layers to define yourself.
You do not need to “fit into” any category, even though that makes some people uncomfortable because you are different from them. Remind yourself that there are more of us in the “unknown” category waiting to embrace your differences and find similarities between us.
It took me many years to feel comfortable in my identity, where I am a self-proclaimed “modern traditional spiritual woman.”
I have come to realize our identities do not define us, but we define them. So even if no one understands which attributes you prefer to highlight and how you choose to identity yourself, remember this: it is OKAY.
Our identities are a personal constant changing reflection of us as we continue to grow and learn more about ourselves.
I encourage you to celebrate all parts of your identity. Resist fitting into a category to simply please others, and defy the odds of becoming just like someone else. Embrace your own skin and start feeling completely comfortable starting today!
Written By Tayyaba Bukhari