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Confessions of a Hijabi Part 1


Pressure and I


The pressure of measuring up to the world's standards, can sometimes do more harm than good. As I was growing up, I felt a lot of pressure. Pressure from everywhere. Pressure to succeed, to be successful, to help others and be as a good of a person as I can be. That’s what my parents expected of me. From pop culture and the culture I was raised in made me feel like I had to be perfect, to look great all the time, to behave as a lady should. Eventually it got to the point where these pressures had their own growing structures, their own life, where they didn’t need any living source to be. They were hovering over me and following me everywhere. They had their own reasons for doing is. They were born when my family and I became refugees.

My parents, sister and I came as refugees to the Netherlands. My parents have been through hell and back to get to where we are today. They fled the country for many reasons. They wanted to escape the war. But more than that, my health pushed them to leave their country, their homeland, their life. I was young and I was not aware of this factor. They told me many years later. They did everything in their power to secure our future. So how could I let them down? The pressure to succeed, as a refugee, is a lot. As a parent, you want your children to shine, and let this ‘foreign’ country know that we have something to offer too. Naturally you want to out shine the rest, because you’re already at a disadvantage: you don’t share the language, culture or color of skin. I never really felt like I was a foreigner, not until years later when I made a drastic decision to cover up, and people made me feel like I was. But for the most part I felt pressure to succeed, even as a child.

At primary school, I remember the times that I wasn’t really focusing. I wasn’t paying attention. I was dreamy all the time. Not because I did not like school, but there were thoughts that kept on coming. I’d hear or see something, and instantly I disappeared in to a world of fantasy. This made it hard to keep up. That’s why I tried even more to focus. So, when the teacher asked me something, I could answer. I didn’t want to seem 'stupid' and get laughed at. At a young age I would tell myself, "Make your parents happy, you can fantasize later" or “Listen, otherwise you don’t understand”. I remember that my teacher wondered why I was talking to my self sometimes. I actually was saying these words out loud. I felt the pressure to be normal, just like every child in my class. But that led me to act in a certain way that could be perceived as abnormal. I tried so hard, all because I wanted to fit in. The system teaches us at a young age that any behavior or trade that divert from the standard is not normal, and is considered to be abnormal.

‘‘I am not good enough’’, said my self-esteem.

The older I got the harder it was to focus on all the schoolwork. At the age of 10 I began to realize it was not working. ‘‘I am not good enough’’, said my self-esteem. Then I started to say that I didn’t know the answers. This made me angry and ashamed, but I did not show it. I did not know the impact of it, until i grew up and understood what was happening. But my teacher never really knew that I was trying so hard to keep up. So, when I didn’t try anymore, she began to notice. She didn’t know that this was actually me. The me who saw her mouth moving, heard sounds out of this mouth, but couldn’t hear a word she said. I was living in another world I had created in my head and I could not fight this world anymore. She asked me a lot of times why I wasn’t paying attention, and I just stared at her. This made her upset and were times she asked me to step outside the classroom, to ask why I was behaving the way that I was. She probably thought I didn’t want to answer in front of all my classmates. When she asked me why out side of the classroom, I still did not answer her. I just stared at her, with hopes that she would give up trying to get me to answer. This actually worked. I was not doing it to be an annoying child. I really couldn’t answer her. Maybe it was because at that age you don’t know how to. But probably also because I didn’t want to be labelled as stupid. I rather was labelled ‘a troubled child’. "That was much cooler", I thought to myself. It was ironic because I was a quit, shy girl, with no attitude what so ever. But I had trouble understanding it. The system made me feel I wasn’t good enough and as a child I was trying to please it. Please the school system, the teachers and my parents, so that I’d be accepted and labelled a normal child. Still, these hovering pressures that lived beside me, pressured up to the point where I would explode and had temper tantrums. I would go from a happy sweet child, to this fire of fury. With no explanation, or so these grown-ups thought. They didn’t feel what I felt, they didn’t see what I saw, they didn’t hear what I heard. Well, I didn't either. I didn’t know that the pressure was too much. Subconsciously I couldn't cope with it anymore, and my consciousness let it pass as a shut down of self and this manifested in rage. This was my way of expressing what I was actually feeling: pressure and failure. As a child, you don’t always know how to express yourself, especially in situations like these. I didn’t know how to tell the whole universe, that I was just not the kid they wanted me to be. It made me sad and angry, but mostly ashamed that I didn’t fit in with the system. The system that makes kids, who are different in their learning or development, feel like they don’t fit the standard.

To be continued ..



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