Self-Care Fashion Lookbook

I had juvenile arthritis and the way I dress changed the way I view my body

I didn’t particularly enjoy high school and I know that sounds pretty cliché, but it’s true. For the most part, my friends were supportive, but high school was tough because I was ill for most of it. My illness eventually wore down my self-esteem. I started to dress badly, and that worsened my mental health.

When I was in the ninth grade, I joined the school dance club, and after just a day of dancing, I felt aches in my joints. A quick trip to the doctor told me that I had arthritis – as a 14-year-old. I was officially diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and it was a very difficult, very long two years. Throughout ninth and tenth grade, I was on heavy medication, and my condition got worse— at one point, I was on crutches because my knees couldn’t take my body weight. I felt like an old, broken woman. 

When I eventually recovered in tenth grade, I didn’t like the way I looked. Objectively speaking, I didn’t gain that much weight, however, I hated myself for gaining the weight, being ill, letting myself go, and looking this way. I started wearing baggier clothes to hide my body, and I wore oversized graphic tees and sweatpants exclusively for months on end. I disliked looking at myself in the mirror, and baggy clothes made me look bigger, which further distorted my body image. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t handle myself well.

It still hurt to exercise, so I started to skip meals and count calories. I started to hate food, and I hated that I needed to eat to survive. It was difficult to break this habit and to build a healthy relationship with food. I gradually unlearned a lot of toxic habits and started listening to my body instead of punishing it for wanting to survive. 

In 11th grade, I finally started choosing my outfits intentionally, thanks to a good friend of mine. She forced me to go shopping with her, and I let her dress me. I was more open to her opinion than my mom’s (oh, the fickle nature of a 15-year-old). But, I was genuinely shocked when I realized that I looked good. She helped me buy clothes that I felt complimented my shape.

It was surreal to realize that I didn’t have to be ashamed of how I looked because I didn’t look that bad. Honestly, my friend made me fall in love with shopping and helped me realize that I didn’t have to hide behind massive t-shirts and sweatpants. I learned about contrasting colors, loose clothing that still looked good, and about dressing for my size. It was nice to know that I didn’t have to wear tight, petite clothing. I could dress well and stay covered up. 

Juvenile arthritis and the resulting medication sparked a series of body image issues that I still struggle with today.

I’ve learned to approach my body from a healthier viewpoint. I’ve learned that I look good and that (shallow as it may be) helps me feel good. Self-confidence is affected by a myriad of things, including the clothes you wear. Multiple studies have been done on how your clothes can change the way you see yourself, and how you dress impacts your self-esteem. 

I chose to wear baggy clothing because I was ashamed of my body, and I didn’t think my body deserved love. What helped was my friend showing me that I could look good, and my mom supporting me along the way. I remember how happy she was to see me expressing my personal style. It lifted me out of a two-year-long funk when I needed it the most.

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Mental Health Health

What self-care looks like in millennial speak

Despite the world turning into the 90th season of Game of Thrones with all its unbelievable plot twists (killer wasps, Trump actually getting COVID-19 after spending most of the year furiously denying it, the 2020 Summer Olympics rescheduling and Hollywood celebrities admitting they are in fact, out of touch with that cursed Imagine cover video). It’s no wonder really that millennial women’s mental health is the pits.

Life, uh, finds a way – to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park and we all learn to survive in all the ways we can. As someone who has recently rejoined the workforce after a long furlough, I’ve learnt a lot about self-care during quarantine and what it means for a working-class person (especially a young, brown woman of color) with limited access to affordable mental health options.

Which is why I’ve put together a list of things that help me and (your mental health) with all that’s going in the world.

1. Following dank (and not dank) meme pages

I can’t describe the effect a great meme has on my body’s serotonin levels – maybe it’s a millennial/Gen-Z thing, but I’ve been spending the whole quarantine following meme pages like SaintHoax, Employeetears and wholesomememes on social media to give my mental health a break and that much needed daily laugh quotient.

Here’s a personal favorite of mine.

2. Listening to podcasts

I love a good podcast, in fact, I listen to podcasts more than I talk to my best friends (whoops). Listening to a podcast is so calming – I love when you find the one because that’s all you’re going to be listening to while at home, at the gym, at work (if you work in an earphone-friendly place) and while doing anything. 

I highly recommend Keep It by Crooked Media – it’s a podcast that examines everything from pop culture to politics, celebrity interviews and more. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher. The best part? It’s free for your mental health! 

3. Limit your social media use

Woman scrolling on Instagram using an iPhone smartphone
Attribution: [Woman scrolling on Instagram using an iPhone smartphone] Pexels
This has been said quite a bit, but we’re too connected to the world around us. There’s so much information available to us because of the Internet and social media platforms, while that’s amazing – it’s also very draining. As someone who works in social media professionally, I’ve had to learn how to reduce my use and force myself to take breaks from my phone for a few hours and on weekends (if possible) to maintain my mental health. 

Tip: try giving yourself 20-minute breaks from your social scrolling and then gradually increase the time frame over the week. You’ll find a big difference! 

Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans

4. Re-read a favorite book or a fanfiction

Kindle and books on a brown table
Attribution: [Image description: Kindle and books on a brown table] via Pexels
I’m one of those people who have this huge love for books, and I end up doing this hilarious thing where I end up visiting the bookstore and picking up new books to read but never end up reading them. This pandemic has made me read all the books I have lying around my room and I’ve reread Meg Cabot’s Size 12 Is Not Fat series for the millionth time. 

I’ve also managed to go back and re-read my favorite Sailor Moon, Harry Potter and Naruto fanfictions which coincided with my series rewatch party. The best part? It’s free therapy and my mental health immediately gets a much-needed positivity boost.

5. Treat yourself to something nice

Person scrolling on ASOS shopping app
Attribution: [Image description: Person scrolling on a shopping app] Pexels
We all need a little pick-me-up at times which is why I make a habit of enjoying one splurge expense every month. I’m on a budget at the moment since my finances are recovering but I would strongly suggest you treat yourself to one nice thing in a month. 

Whether it’s getting your hair done, a manicure or even buying that dress you’ve been longing for, sitting in your shopping cart – I would suggest you do it because we all deserve to enjoy something that’s only for us and gives your mental health that much needed boost! 

6. Do a Zoom party with your besties 

Young woman chatting with her friends over video
Attribution: [Image description: Young woman in orange t-shirt chatting with her friends helps mental health] Pexels

I get by with a little help from my friends (actually a lot) and I’ve been relatively lucky in the pandemic because I’ve met only three friends (with precautions, of course). But we do fun activities over Zoom like playing online games, watching Netflix movies or even just chatting for hours on end. Mental health? Going up ✅

7. Adopt a self-care routine of choice

Using a Korean sheet mask for mental heath
Attribution: [Image description: Using a Korean sheet mask to improve mental health] Pexels
Self-care can’t really be self-care without doing something that will relax your mind and boost your mental health. I personally like to use scented candles, put on a Korean sheet mask and watch The Mummy.
Great right? Which is why we’ve put this great list of routines you can try here.
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Fashion Lookbook

Here’s my big-chested secret to finding a supportive sports bra

I’ve never understood why it’s so hard to find sports bras or tops that are flattering on large chested women. From my experience, all of the cute ones either only come in smaller sizes, or are impractical. What I do find is never actually supportive, though, like a sports bra should be, and I wind up having to wear two sports bras just to feel comfortable while exercising. This is suffocating and not at all ideal, especially when sweat starts to build up in crevices that should just not be sweating. 

If I don’t go through the hassle of squeezing my chest into 2 sports bras at once, which is something that I think resembles a medieval corset, then I feel almost as if I’m being held back during my workout. It’s hard to push myself when I don’t really feel secure or comfortable. Not to be graphic, but if I’m going on a run or doing jumping jacks, the last thing I want to be thinking about is my boobs flopping around in every direction, basically an inch away from a wardrobe malfunction. Yet most of the time, that is all I can think about. Not to mention that all of that breast movement can also be downright painful during a workout. Frankly, it feels like my boobs are being torn right off my chest with every jump or swing. 

As a result, my exercise routine just doesn’t last very long because I’m so tired of having to deal with my boobs. Sometimes I even find myself holding my breasts in my hands to stop them from bouncing while I’m jogging. But I shouldn’t have to do that. Girls with larger chests should be able to find sports bras, or any other top for that matter, that are flattering, trendy, and fits their chest just as much as the next girl

But I also know that my big boobs are not going anywhere anytime soon. Neither are those narrow stereotypes of the ‘perfect’ female body that are the driving force of the fashion and athleisure industries. So, after a few years of dealing with this, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks of my own for finding a sports bra that is comfortable, stylish, and that I trust to keep my chest in place and supported. 

Our boobs deserve the best — AKA not to be smooshed so I’ve always found it best for a sports bra to have some sort of light cupping on the inside. This ensures that our boobs have a designated place to go so as to limit movement. 

Freya Active Bra.
[Image description: Freya Active Bra.] Via
Another thing that is key when looking for a sports bra is a strong and substantial bottom band. This acts like a shelf for our boobs to sit on and helps keep them in place during a high-intensity workout. When looking for a bottom band that offers maximum support, however, it’s important to take into consideration whether or not that band will rub or cause irritation in the area. Rubbing is not good. For this reason, I usually try to go wire-free when picking out a sports bra. Adjustable straps and a flexible under-band are always my go to for comfort and ensuring minimal bounce. 

Natori Gravity Contour Sports Bra.
[Image description: Natori Gravity Contour Sports Bra.] Via
Another important aspect is the material that your sports bra is made of. Moisture-wicking or mesh materials are great for soaking up sweat and acting as a ventilator to keep you cool. 

Zella Body Fusion Sports Bra.
[Image description: Zella Body Fusion Sports Bra.] Via
It’s time we start taking a stand and taking care of our boobs, because if we don’t, we could be doing more damage than we’d like to think. 

Skin Care Lookbook

My acne acts up when I’m really stressed — and I’m really stressed right now

All throughout my preteen and teen years, I’ve been locked in battle with my acne. I just feel like I’m never able to get it right for any substantial period of time before it flares up again and I’m left right back where I started: confused, frustrated, and uncomfortable. I tried everything I could before consulting with a dermatologist, who guided me in the right direction in terms of managing my skincare. But still, my skin is nowhere near perfect, especially right now. 

It’s hard to maintain and keep up with a solid skincare routine when I’m worried about keeping track of everything else. On top of that, my acne acts up when I’m under stress. So needless to say, quarantine has been a never ending fight between me and my skin. And I am losing terribly. The worst part is that my acne just makes me even more stressed – it really is a terrible, endless cycle. 

It feels ugly, too, because no one on TV or in magazines really has acne. Their skin always seems to be smooth, radiant, and totally flawless. I know that most of it is probably photoshopped, but still, it doesn’t really help my self-esteem. Plus, some people I know just have better genetics for skin, which means that they don’t really have to worry about it. When I see these things, though, I almost always feel like I’m doing something wrong, like my acne is something that I should be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Sometimes, I even feel like I want to hide. My acne has held me back from making progress in building my confidence because every time I look in the mirror, I see something wrong and flawed. 

Most of the time, when my acne gets really bad, I try to drink an exorbitant amount of water, eat healthier, and use a ton of aloe. During quarantine, however, I have fallen back into old habits. I don’t really eat very healthy and I am not exercising a bunch or getting much sunlight. This has not only brought out the worst of me, but also the worst of my skin. I thought that giving my skin a break from makeup and the wear and tear of everyday life would be good for it, but of course I was wrong. With all of the added stress of living through a pandemic on top of my normal stressors, my acne has gotten progressively worse. Surprisingly, I’m more dehydrated than I was before, and I eat much more junk food too. I’m also guilty of not really doing much to take care of my skin right now because I’m not seeing anyone or getting dressed up, and have just been incredibly lazy these past few weeks.

But now, I’m fed up. I don’t want to feel unattractive or upset with myself anymore. If I don’t do as much as I can to feel beautiful, both inside and out, then I won’t make any progress elsewhere. In any case, my skin certainly won’t heal itself. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if I want to take care of my skin, I have to take care of myself and my mind first. So what I’ve been doing lately to work on this is listening to a lot of soothing music, doing some yoga in the mornings, and sitting by the window while I work so that I can feel the sun on my skin. I try not to go overboard with my skincare regime during a breakout because it will drive me crazy. Especially since the results are not immediate, which can become very frustrating after a while. I’d rather focus on doing things that make me feel good or feed my soul, because that is what will help me achieve an overall sense of beauty and confidence.

My issues with acne definitely won’t be going away anytime soon, so I think it’s important for me to realize that dwelling on it won’t solve anything. I just have to keep on keeping on.

Editor's Picks Health Care Mind Love Wellness

17 unspoken truths about surviving the suicide of a loved one

Editor’s Note: the following includes a discussion of loss, suicide, and death. 


In May 2018 my older brother died of suicide in Boston.

Our family was supposed to meet him there in a couple of days for his graduation but instead, my father received a call from a detective a few hours before his flight, and he found out that my brother had hanged himself at the subway station near his apartment. Our family flew to Boston anyway to receive him, pack up his stuff, and bring him home to Pakistan for his final resting place.

Those days mesh into a blur of one long day now as I remember trying to fuse whatever I knew about dying with the knowledge that now my brother was dead, and that he chose this fate. Everything I thought I knew about death shifted.

1. The emotional paralysis. 

When someone dies, there is an overwhelming amount of sadness that takes over as you feel wronged by the world for taking away someone you loved. When someone chooses to die, there is an asterisk against their death – an asterisk that pushes your sadness to the back as you continue to swim in a state of shock and confusion that doesn’t allow you to accept what just happened.

2. The taboo loss. 

Support comes in all sorts of packages, I’ve learned. Some packages make sense, like when my cousins decided to join us in Boston for the most difficult weekend of our lives.

Some didn’t make as much sense – when people from the same families whispered their suggestions of changing the cause of death to something more appropriate on his death certificate. Or simply to avoid disclosing the actual cause of death to our mosques back home, to avoid the clergy from denouncing my brother’s death a sin.

3. The nervous mourners. 

At other funerals, family and friends take the reigns so that the immediate family can simply just mourn; at my brother’s funeral, the roles were reversed. As much as people wanted to be there for us, they needed us to lead them in setting the mood and figuring out how to mourn him. We were all at a loss.

As I sat down to write his eulogy, I broke down wondering if I ever knew him at all.

Suicide is considered sinful in our religion and culture, but I can never deny the fact that we had an immense amount of support from everyone we knew.

4. The questioning of your own relationship.

Immediately after learning how much my brother had suffered in silence for years I began going over every conversation, every interaction, every fight we had ever had. We spent most of our lives in the same bedroom, sharing everything. And suddenly I find out there were so many layers that I was blind to for years. As I sat down to write his eulogy, I broke down wondering if I ever knew him at all. It’s a thought that still pays a visit every now and then.

5. The sinful death. 

All I thought about was how I had failed him, how so many of us around him failed him, and how many countless more people we fail every day. But because suicide itself is such a sin in my religion, a lot of people were more focused on praying for his forgiveness.

After all the years of suffering he endured, how convenient of us as a society to absolve ourselves of any accountability because our scripture denounces suicide. What about our forgiveness for driving someone to this desperate point?

6. The reduction of a person to a cautionary tale.

My brother was charismatic, popular, hilarious, empathetic, handsome, loving, goofy. He was every color on the palette in his short 25 years – an older brother, the oldest son, a best friend, the baby cousin, a football coach – but then he took his own life and gradually I witnessed the shift in the way people spoke of him.

Despite how great he was, he has become reduced to a mere cautionary tale for many people.

7. The importance of self-accountability. 

After surviving the suicide of a loved one, human fragility becomes magnified. I became more attentive to the different roles I play in so many people’s lives. Because I know I loved my brother, I can take accountability and say I wish I was able to do more for him, without hating myself for it. Once you can take accountability for something as horrific as your brother’s loss, it becomes easier to take accountability for the rest of my life from here on.

8. Pandora’s Box of advice.

After my brother passed away, a lot of people chimed in with an infinite amount of advice that we hadn’t asked for. My grieving parents were advised to marry me off, or at least not send me back to Rome to complete my studies. I was told my parents were now my responsibility, that my younger brother needed a better role model.

I was told so many things, I wondered when the word suicide became an open invitation to comment on my life.

9. Dubbing silence as “strength.”

My brother wore a happy face all the time, only to substitute it every now and then for some snarkiness. But when we found out how much he had kept to himself, a lot of people immediately reacted by saying he was so strong for keeping this all to himself and for hanging in there for so long.

I became more attentive to the different roles I play in so many people’s lives.

And yes, I believe enduring the pain he endured for however long, definitely takes strength. But also equating his silence with strength is glorifying pain, and is exactly why people choose to stay quiet.

10. The before/after split. 

When I think back to any event in my life now, like my high school graduation, I imagine that part of my life as ‘Before Emad’.

My college graduation falls on the other side of the divide – ‘After Emad’ – in a world that’s completely changed. My calendar is no longer dictated by years but by my brother’s association, as the girl I was before was someone who was going through life with just one eye open.

11. Past memories are tainted.

Now that his death makes me question how well I really knew him, all of our memories together also feel somehow tainted. Was a really happy memory for me, actually a really difficult day for him?

On his last visit to Pakistan, he told me he wanted to throw a massive New Year’s Party with me at our house. We threw a combined party with all our friends and family and I remember that night as one of the best nights of my life. But now when I think back and hear people’s stories from that night, it seemed like my brother’s public way of saying goodbye.

12. Achievements today are tainted.

Any happy event after the loss of someone special is hard to endure. It feels incomplete and bittersweet and you wish they were able to spend this day with you. Death by suicide haunts you as its a constant reminder that this person chose not to be here for this moment today.

My college graduation. My first job. My writing. Every News Year and birthday since. And yet you don’t harbor any resentment because you’ve accepted their decision already.

13. The unfinished business.

We’ve all always understood and accepted death as the final end, especially because none of us were particularly religious but Emad’s death made things trickier for us to simply accept it and let go. Perhaps because we felt like he had prematurely let go of us, and we weren’t ready yet.

Despite our personal reservations, each of us in the immediate family went on our own journeys and found a spiritual connection to him that transcends any worldly emotion.

14. Personal dissociation.

After spending so much time questioning the kind of sister I was to him, it becomes difficult to stay the person you were before he passed away. Not only is it difficult, but it’s almost impossible. It’s as if the trauma from losing him has made me dissociate myself from the girl who I used to be while he was around; the girl who might have let him down.

15. Therapy becomes your friend.

There were not a lot of safe spaces after he passed away. As the adult of the family, I became the perfect person for people to ask inappropriate questions, for people to casually blame, for people’s unsolicited advice – all of it. I had been in and out of therapy for a couple of years as it is, but my relationship with therapy transformed after the suicide.

Was a really happy memory for me, actually a really difficult day for him?

It became the one place I wasn’t judged or questioned or blamed, but it also became the place that would give me the same tools I wish someone gave my brother.

16. It feels like the end – but it isn’t.

For the longest time, it’s bad but eventually some good begins to trickle in. The pain doesn’t disappear, but it’s not the only thing left in your heart. I don’t necessarily know if it becomes less, but slowly other things start filling up your daily routine, and the pain begins to share its space with all these other feelings so you no longer feel consumed by it.

17. The unexplainable connection with the beyond.

It can be a dream. It can be the right song playing at the right time. It can be a fleeting scent. It can be a distant voice. It can be absolutely nothing more than the wind touching your cheek right when you needed it.

It’s this intangible feeling that perhaps doesn’t have the right vocabulary to support it yet but it’s there. Whether it’s a delusional coping mechanism, or it’s a sign from him, at that moment you feel as if the universe is holding you.


If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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Health Care Wellness

Asking for help does not mean admitting defeat

Trigger Warning: Mentions suicide, anxiety and depression.

The first time I went to therapy was as a sophomore in college when a random panic attack before my first ever Honors’ class sent me spiraling all the way to the counselors’ office. I continued to go for the rest of the semester, grateful that the offices were tucked away discretely on campus so that I would never have to explain to friends what made me go to therapy. Two years later, my older brother died of suicide.

Armed with a tangible reason, I was no longer concerned about what people thought as I prioritized my mental health. The cluster of internal dilemmas within had never weighed heavily enough on the invisible scale of emotional pain before, but my brother’s death became a fitting ticket of validation that allowed me to seek help without being ashamed. And that thought haunts me.

My brother’s suicide was completely unforeseen. He was a charming, intelligent, friendly, and sensitive man who was loved by so many. He was a student at a university in Boston, worked full-time, and would only come home once in a couple of years. In his last message to us, he confessed that he felt like he was putting on an act of keeping it together. Other than the toxic society we all wade in and get contaminated by, my brother was also struggling with an internal dialogue he never let the rest of us in on. I spent months thinking about why he thought he wasn’t good enough, but even longer wondering what made him think he wasn’t even good enough to ask for help.

The cluster of internal dilemmas within had never weighed heavily enough on the invisible scale of emotional pain before, but my brother’s death became a fitting ticket of validation that allowed me to seek help without being ashamed.

It’s not that he didn’t have access to information or resources. In the past few years especially, the conversation around mental health awareness has continued to expand and include a variety of voices and experiences. However, as the conversation deepens, it often uncovers struggles that are far more ‘intense’ than our own. A person dealing with waves of anxiety may feel their pain outweighed by another person who battles crippling OCD.  A person with high-functioning depression will always seem better off than a person wrestling with paralyzing depression. The Pandora’s Box of information around mental health has finally opened but as we process this overwhelming amount of information, we often end up placing problems side by side on the same invisible scale my sophomore-self was using.

I understood anxiety as the feeling that envelops you during an overwhelming panic attack, when in fact that there can be layers of anxiety that lead up to it instead. As a student, I spent too many mornings before an exam heaving over a toilet bowl after a night of insomnia, and ending the day with a fever. Dubbed a nervous girl with a weak stomach, I didn’t realize the impact anxiety had on me until the full-blown panic attack in sophomore year. I remember the feeling of relief that settled into my chest as I was given an appointment with a therapist based on the panic attack. It almost felt like I was worthy enough to finally be helped, rather than being ‘dramatic’ or too sensitive.

Self-imposed shame is an obstacle for innumerable people around the world who have accepted mental health’s existence but cannot extend the dialogue to themselves without admitting defeat.

Because the conversation around mental health gained momentum only a few years ago, there are a lot of negative thoughts that we have internalized as an ignorant society that belittle the vast spectrum of mental health. If a mere headache can have layers of treatment – from an aspirin to eye-tests to MRIs – then why does the chronic sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach have to be deemed any less worthy? And yet, we wait for a breakdown to be able to relate all our newfound knowledge about mental health to ourselves. It’s easier to offer help, love, and support to those we care about so when we see a friend struggling, we help them discuss all their options without brushing the issue aside. But when it comes to ourselves, we decide independently that resources like therapy and medication are reserved for those who are ‘really suffering’.

This idea of self-imposed shame haunts me as it remains my biggest obstacle against helping myself. It was an obstacle for the 19 year old girl who didn’t know how to tell her friends she had to see a therapist because she was nervous and didn’t know why. It was an obstacle for my brother who hid behind a cloak of high-functioning depression for so long, it kept him from seeing how much he was struggling himself. And it’s an obstacle for innumerable people around the world who have accepted mental health’s existence but cannot extend the dialogue to themselves without judging themselves for being ‘weak’ or admitting defeat.

We shouldn’t need a dramatic life event to justify helping ourselves. Just like there are ways to cater to milder forms of physical ailments, there are also ways to cater to the mental challenges we go through every day. The judgmental thoughts that arise and keep us from doing so, are thoughts we internalized long before we had all the information we do today. To continue the progress this dialogue has made, we must also stop judging ourselves and equating the idea of self-help to a defeatist attitude. Our health is personal and does not need to be justified to, or validated by anyone else. In the past few years, we have made enormous strides in accepting the information around mental health; perhaps it’s time to destigmatize and accept its resources as well.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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Health Care Fashion Love Wellness

Plus-size fashion should not mean minus the love

From the time when women only wore dresses, they, whether by themselves, or had them specifically tailored, had their dresses made and altered to their body’s exact measurements. This dress would be fit exactly to their body proportions, helping them escape the struggle with body positivity that exists today.

Now, I understand the unrealistic nature of having that system today with time and convenience as factors. Furthermore, many people simply cannot afford to have each item of their clothing made. And so, we turn to the ready-made clothes market.

Obviously, not every shirt or shalwar or pair of jeans that you try on will sit on your body the way you want it to. But that’s simply because not every person who is a size 8, 10, 12 , 14 will have the exact same body structure.

Let me further emphasize this:

Woman one: Size 10. Petite shoulders, thicker thighs.

Woman two: Also size 10. Broad shoulders, thigh gap.

In conclusion, a shirt that is structured to stay put on the shoulders of woman one, may feel a little tight for woman two.

(Woman two, if you like the tight on the shoulders shirt, GO FOR IT.)

The point I’m trying to get across is this: when we shop for clothes, it can take a lot of trial and error to find clothes that you feel flatter you, even if they’re all in the same size. Sometimes, we have to try on a range of sizes before finding the perfect size for you.  And sometimes, we never even find that piece of clothing in a size that we feel looks good on us. So what happens when there isn’t any concept of the ‘clothes fit’, or ‘body proportions’ in your clothes market? And what has this issue done to affect women in Pakistan’s ability to look, feel good, and love themselves through their dressing?

In Pakistan, society has brainwashed us into believing that the thinner you are, the more attractive you are. The moment someone gains an ounce of weight, they will receive comments both behind and to their faces. This can work the opposite way as well, when you lose some weight, people comment on it as well. Now, if you want to lose weight in a healthy, good for you way because you think it’ll make you feel more comfortable in your body, go for it. You do you.

There doesn’t need to be a goal in every woman’s mind to lose 20 pounds so that she can be married. Some women are not interested in losing weight. Leave. Them. Alone.

So, where does inclusivity of fashion come into this issue of the body image stigma, that is rampant in Pakistan?

Imagine walking into a store and seeing a mannequin wearing a pair of jeans you really want to buy. Imagine being a size XL but the last size for jeans is a large. What would you do? You could leave it, and if there was any self-doubt in you, you may wish in that moment that you were a smaller size. Or, you could buy the jeans, but always wish they fit better on you. The same item of clothing that initially brought you so much excitement now becomes a cause of your self-doubt.

The way we choose to dress is an extension of our expression. Our body type should not limit our ability to do that. Loving ourselves should not be a choice we can only make when we fit into the image society has created for women. If you’re a plus-sized woman in Pakistan, it can be extremely difficult to find clothes that compliment your body type. This is not to say there are not fashion labels and brands in Pakistan that are not targeting the elephant in the room that has been very cleverly concealed by society’s veil.

These initiatives are teaching us that body image, body love, and self-care begin with adoring your body’s current state while actively pursuing health and wellness goals.

No matter what size you are, you can wear beautiful clothes.

It is incredibly worrying to live as a young woman in Pakistan and know that is you aren’t of a ‘preferred’ weight or body type; you won’t have the same facilities available to you as girls with a ‘normal’ body type will have.

The truth is we really need to evaluate the sort of message that is being cultivated for our youth. The argument I am making is not to disagree with those who need to eat healthier or exercise more for their personal health reasons or for their personal choice. My argument is that the fashion industry cannot be a catalyst for increased body-shaming and decreased size inclusivity.

A person’s weight is not in any way a measure of their intelligence, ability, or personality. A constant implementation of these suffocating standards will only make our younger generations more judgmental and prone to believing there is an ideal beauty standard that they need to fit into. The very vital message of self-love and body positivity will be completely lost for the future. How will young girls realize their self worth if such a huge part of their culture undermines them?

This is why Pakistan’s fashion industry needs to collectively lead the movement towards body positivity. For most of us, the clothes we wear are the first connection we make to our bodies. The fashion industry needs to recognize their responsibility in creating beautiful clothes for women of all shapes and sizes. This could be the ignition for the change of mindsets, the end of society’s unrealistic standards, and most importantly, a journey of self-love and acceptance for all women to embark upon.