by - October 23, 2020

I was going through different phases, both on a creative and personal level. I felt insecure about my creative and visual identity, the tone and voice I wanted to express, and I did not want this phase to be on public display. I’m a perfectionist and my own biggest critic. I didn’t feel loved not because I wasn’t loved but because I did not love myself to see myself going through public scrutiny. I wanted to come back to blogging several times, but I was facing personal issues, from mental health to losses of grandparents to career changes. I’m not one to be overtly open and forward with my emotions and personal struggles. I’ve managed to build a thick skin from a young age and have been completely private since forever. This was mainly due to protecting myself from external harm, fear of mockery and opening up to potential emotional and mental damages. 

When I started blogging, I was both naïve and unaware of the internet, what it held and how potentially harmful it would be The first two years, I used to get emails and private messages of all sorts, but I never fed into them nor entertained them publicly. I didn’t want to display anger, disappointment, frustration or any emotions that were considerably interpreted negative. Being angry isn’t negative, but how one chooses to channel it could potentially be negative. But it took me a while to understand emotions and build emotional intelligence surrounding not only online/social media platforms but even on a personal level in life. 

For a very long time, I was definitely not one to express anything to my family and friends, let alone strangers online. It always bewildered me how bloggers and vloggers came out so openly with their emotional or mental health struggles. Completely alien and foreign to me how they managed to channel it into their platform seamlessly. Courageous enough to come forward with this. Of course, I am aware they would not share the details involving their lives, but even sharing a fraction of it was both admirable and frightening to me. Admirable to come to terms with themselves but frightening how easily they’ve entrusted an integral part of themselves to complete strangers online. The authenticity and actuality of it all lays with the individual sharing their story, I am not one to speculate whether that was connected to being part of ‘reality TV’ culture, monetising on personal stories or gimmicks.

Though some of the support received were immensely appreciated, desperation to get approval and validation from certain people that would not pay me dust, got the best of me. This ultimately led to me not seeing anything I was doing as successful nor worth pursuing. I was comparing myself to others, not my work (arrogantly I thought on a creative point, I was way ahead and advanced haha), but myself as a person and why my platform wasn’t picking up as much as I thought. Comparison is a silent killer. I belittled my work more than others did, I was unable to acknowledge that my work was being accredited by major publications and companies. 

Yet, I feared that I was taking on a responsibility of representing Muslim women, boxing them and speaking on subjects that I was not well informed on. The fact that everyone jumped on minor disagreements and lashed out on those public women, scared the hell out of me.

Perhaps they were not as well informed, but that shouldn’t take away from their personal experiences, observations and perspectives. This is one thing many, me included, did not understand. Eventually, this grew into what we now know as the cancel culture today. Not many understand writing something privately to someone to inform them of their misconception or misunderstanding of a subject, instead most publicly comment practically preaching “sIs tHiS Is nOt HiiiiiJaAaAAAbBbBBB!!!”. How audacious people get behind screens and keyboards.  

At some stage, I felt so dishonest to myself and disconnected with reality, I just had to get away from the internet. I was not even sure why I started any of it and forgot my intentions of starting a platform that was meant to be a genuine celebration & desperate need for representation of women that shared the same religious believe, were culturally similar and understood what it was like to feel alienated or ostracised by society. What was heart breaking for me though was I felt ostracised by the same women and community I frantically wanted to fit in to. I didn’t fit into the Muslim community in the UK, because I am not Asian, I’m not Somali, I am not North African, I am not African and I’m definitely not white (colourism is a real issue in Muslim communities). I am an Arab, but not the usual Arab commonly known in the UK (from Bilad al-Sham). Yemeni, with a combination of African and Arab descent, brown skin, full lips and racially ambiguous. Perhaps I made myself feel ostracized, but I definitely was at fault for not standing up for myself. 

Definitely was not a “je ne sais quoi!” or ‘I have a thick skin’ kind of woman, as much as I tried to portray that to my friends, family and strangers online. I was hurting but had too much pride to show an ounce of vulnerability. Modest fashion blogging really made that come forward even more than I anticipated, and I couldn’t deal with it. I also couldn’t deal with the frivolous and ignorant views about fashion within the Muslim community. Everyone was suddenly everything fashion without spending a minute learning or knowing about fashion. I did mention before that it was an evolutionary and experimental stage for many, as it was a new territory, but I take fashion dead seriously. Not to an extend where I verbally murder someone for not knowing something fashion related, but to an extend where I pursued it academically and professionally. I have a master’s degree in strategic FASHION marketing for heaven’s sake.  

For those who know me in person, I am outspoken, loud, brave, curious and experimental. I have a bold personality that I would only display once I was comfortable in an environment or with the people within that environment. I’ve always spoke my mind, did not shy away from standing up to myself and others around me. But I was a completely different person online, tip toeing around anything that may stir people up or cause controversy. Yet, I was controversial in real life, asking a regional director to do a menial job for themselves at a prestigious company. The balls! 

However, with time and life lessons, I learned that I had to stop being so pitiful and own my work, my creativity and identity with pride and conviction both online and offline. To do what I consider to be right and to voice not only myself but give the stage to Muslim women who need to be their own voices. And this is why I am back, more mature, more courageous, more daring and definitely more ready to face whatever comes my way. Welcome to my new self and my ever-evolving journey to ever changing chapters. 

Love and Peace

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