A different story

It’s World Mental Health Day and I’m taking it one deep breath at a time.

I just applied for a job at a tech company that for years I held quite distant from my interests. Not that I disapproved of its contributions or it as an organization. I just lacked the confidence to place myself into such a prospect.

I did not believe that there could be a seat for me at the table.

I internalized my own inferiority so deeply and for so long that without ever any real thought or contemplation, I projected an outwardly facade that *this* environment or *that* industry was’t a good fit. That it was always about them, and not about me. I was so full of shit – literally carrying it around inside me unwilling to deal with its removal. Deep down, I had so little sense of my own value, to keep my small inner self safe, I hid my insecurities behind a variety of fringe ambitions. I could not have ever known what work in corporate settings would be like since I had never tried it.

Until about seven years ago, I moved mental health to the top of my priorities list. It is precisely what has paved my path forward and helped build up the confidence I have today but I still have a long way to go before I am fully balanced. Once I was ready to take a good look at my inner shit show, the first things that came to light were physical challenges and complex PTSD.

I never complained about body aches while as a teen or in college, under the assumption that everyone felt the same way living a computer heavy lifestyle. But, as with any mechanical issues, there had actually been much more to it. As soon as I learned how to become its ally, my body taught me about its unique connective tissue and how I’ve neglected it over the years. No wonder why I struggle with ADHD symptoms. The hundreds of internal signals per day are hard to ignore when embodiment is a priority.

My parents certainly didn’t have the luxury or privilege to tune in and attend to themselves physically insofar as preventative care but I feel compelled to break this cycle.

Same with childhood trauma – everyone has it. But not all of us have access to resources to address its impact.. Imagining my child-self standing next to my adult-self helps bring clarity to each momentary need and keeps triggers in perspective. I have an amazing therapist to thank for this tool.

These days, I care for my body with bike commutes, yoga/ pilates/ weight training, and mostly healthy foods. Long walks are my favorite as they help me center my mind and realign with the body. I also heal from cooking, writing, taking pictures and thinking about planetary aspects. When I am resting a lot and doing all these things, I feel a natural confidence pursuing full-time work with any company I align with. Forever dedicated to my self-care, and regardless of this application’s outcome, I will always be winning. Throughout this process, I have gained clarity around framing my work experience and where I want to take it next. Receiving these gifts, I could not be more grateful.

When my wellness program is well-rounded and I attend to all my needs, I am able to share my talents, skills and interests with those around me. Aligning in this way helps me contribute to any company with ease and with a constant awareness of the value I add for its mission. After all, with waking up comes great responsibility.

Happy World Mental Health Day!

Modest fashion

The image created by Western media of Muslim women as dark floating figures is being replaced with symbols of modernity, social progress and cultural inclusion, one amazing look at a time.

Last month, I visited the de Young Art Museum in San Francisco to see the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit. Dynamically curated, and first ever of its kind, the presentation explores the theme of modesty and garments like the burkini. It also examines local fashion revolutions taking place among younger, more digitally connected Muslims, such as the incorporation of the head scarf in sportswear. But, the most interesting topic highlighted was the advent of modest fashion.

Thanks to social media and institutional support, the ignorant notion that Muslim women are fashionably repressed is finally beginning to fade away. The more accurate reality is that many of these women dress modestly with a deep sense of pride and identity. From a purely design perspective, the challenge of coverage presents the opportunity to get creative with what you put on and how you wear it. Modest fashion transcends what it means to be a modern woman. If an outfit requires more fabric, then more thought goes into pairing accessories, color accenting and the overall silhouette. All is soft sculpture; less about bodies and more about clothes. And a similar sensibility underlies today’s modest fashion landscape.

An actual sector of the apparel industry with its own fashion weeks in major capitals and market analytics, modest fashion is a mode of dress heavily associated with the values of the Muslim culture. Sleeve and dress lengths considerations, layering of garments, skin revealed minimally and conservative necklines are all identifying components. Did you know that there are Modest Fashion Weeks now taking place in Dubai and London? I didn’t, until now. What’s delightfully glorious is that all this movement unfolds under the “for us, by us” mantra. In the Muslim world, fashion freedom is being brought to women by women. 

Muslim women represent an enormous global market and regardless which societies they call home, their fashion inspiration connects them with design aesthetics on a deeper level than what might meet the eye. This is how Algerian entrepreneur Ghizlan Guenez started an online modest fashion retailer The Modist—with a sophisticated yet postmodern approach to style, packed with enough substance for its very own article. Stay tuned as I plan to delve into Guenez’s story and project later.  

Women pursuing appearances of their ideal imagination are by definition empowered and I am excited at the chance to share more relevant points from the exhibit with you in future posts.  If you are in the Bay Area, don’t miss this one before it is taken down in January.