February 5, 2024

Belonging Within

by Nyla Hasan

growing life by Shivy @shivy.studio
Artwork: growing life (flower ਫੁੱਲ) by Shivy (shivy.studio)

How can I cultivate a sense of belonging in my own body? 

I am emerging from seven years of significant physical changes to my body through motherhood. I have recognized a disconnection from myself physically. I think this began during pregnancy where my body stopped feeling like my own, and it only grew further when I experienced the physical and emotional trauma of child-birth. Many parts of this experience have felt disorienting and foreign.

The journey of reclaiming my body has been difficult, gradual, and complex. I can see how my relationship with it has changed and evolved from youth to now. This phase– pregnancy, giving birth and nursing have profoundly altered my body and my relationship with it in a way I didn’t anticipate. It has expanded how I see what my body is capable of, but also has caused a sense of loss, disassociation and confusion. The process of regaining control has been overwhelming. 

Mourning my former self 

For a while, I mourned my former self - the life I was living AND my past body. I didn’t have control over the change throughout pregnancy and postpartum. I felt like my body wasn’t my own, it was a machine designed to produce for 2 people, and it needed to be fueled and maintained to keep producing. It was this process, during nursing where I really began to dissociate from my body. I noticed that I was seeking constant distractions to numb the feeling. I found myself endlessly scrolling on my phone down Instagram and Facebook rabbit holes while pumping. 

It felt like this phase, motherhood, wasn’t at all connected to my sense of self or comfort. I had never felt this before; profound loss of control, not belonging in my own body, feeling totally disconnected... feelings that inconspicuously began to take over and root in my psyche. 

Losing my sense of joy

With the birth of my second child, July 2020, amid the height of the pandemic. It got worse. I lost the capacity to prioritize self-care. It felt like survival. It was survival. Even simple tasks, ones that brought me pleasure didn’t bring me the same joy I used to feel.

Throughout my life, the act of getting dressed to express who I am with what I wear has always brought me joy. I mean, I grew up wanting to be a fashion designer. I should like getting dressed, and it should bring me joy, but it didn't. My body was changing so fast, what I needed to wear was evolving just as rapidly and it was hard to feel any control or comfort. Not only was my body undergoing changes, but my preferences were now evolving daily.

I love to dress up but it was feeling like a mountain to climb to find motivation, to feel good and to figure out what works for me now. Redefining my sense of style so that it connects me to my own joy, curiosity, and playfulness along with allowing a gentler, more tender way of approaching myself and my inner critic has led to me enjoying getting dressed again. 

Realizing transformation

Getting dressed is becoming a tool for me to make a mental shift towards my day. I have always believed that fashion plays a role in our self-esteem/self-confidence but I had never truly experienced the depth of it until now. When we are wearing something that makes us feel good on the outside - it can be just as transformative inside. 

So today when I got dressed, I’m getting dressed to connect to me– my joy, my curiosity, and my sense of play. My choices, a pair of relaxed-fit, wool trousers, my Adidas Gazelles, and my infinite layering experiments, all tie back to who I am today. 

Creating connection to who I am through what I wear gives me a sense of belonging in my own body. Getting dressed has grown from something I used to do for fun, to a deeply personal and creative process to support me through my day.

How do you find belonging in what you wear?




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