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Fashion As Comfort: Using Clothes To Heal

Fashion As Comfort: Using Clothes To Heal

A health crisis can come in many shapes and sizes. For some people, it is managing a disease or defect for an entire lifetime. This disease or defect might be visual or it could be internal. In many cases, it’s both. For others, it could be an injury sustained in the line of duty or while playing a sport.

Dr. Laura Miele-Pascoe, a professor with Ohio University’s Masters in Coaching Education, wrote about the psychology of injury for professional athletes in an article for Psychology Today. Discussing the career-ending injuries of athletes like Lamar Odom, Miele-Pascoe points out that, “Not everyone has the capability of overcoming what I call the darkness inside of their psyche. Some people turn to drinking; others turn to drugs . . .” This can be said for anyone who has suffered a health crisis and is struggling to cope.

If the crisis involves a person’s appearance, coping can sometimes be even more difficult, as everyone can see the scars, the loss of hair, or whatever has altered that person’s appearance. We all cope differently. While it may seem superficial to some people, fashion can work wonders for people managing health crises. Some use it to cover up; other use to enhance.

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Fashion As A Cover-Up

I had open heart surgery when I was eight months old and have had a huge scar on my chest ever since. It is visible above most necklines. I’ve been lucky that my heart has remained relatively healthy the rest of my life. I haven’t needed extra surgeries, and my scar healed nicely without any extra help, though there are some great new treatments out there.

Had my surgery taken place when I was older, or had I needed more than one, I may have been less confident about having this scar. For many of my fellow women survivors of this type of surgery, comfort may be found in wearing a strategically tied scarf or higher neckline.

I have a second scar from my surgery, one that healed improperly. This one is more traumatizing psychologically for me than the other, because I was always teased for having a second belly button. Even today, I prefer swimsuits that cover it rather than ones that cover the giant red line running down my chest.

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Fashion As A Way To Show-Off

For more than five years, I’ve volunteered with my local branch of the American Cancer Society (ACS). I’ve met amazing people who have survived cancer and who are still fighting it. I’ve met a young man recovering from breast cancer and toddlers fighting lymphoma.

For these fighters, one of the biggest battles is the physical effects cancer treatment has on them. Not only do they deal with the emotional toll of hearing, “You have cancer,” but many endure painful treatments that will save their lives but do damage to their appearance in the meantime.

There are nonprofit programs — like Sherman Oaks, California’s weSPARK — that treat both the emotional and the physical effects of cancer treatment. weSPARK partners with ACS’s Look Good Feel Better to provide self-esteem boosting fashion and beauty treatments for cancer patients.

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Look Good Feel Better provides makeup tutorials, hair styling guides, and even a virtual styling tool to women and teens undergoing cancer treatment. Some cancer survivors and patients go about using fashion in a different way to show off their strength.

One woman I met at a Relay for Life still wears her hair shaven as a reminder to herself and to others that she survived breast cancer. She also wears a “F*ck Cancer” shirt on a regular basis; the t-shirt and her hair proclaim an understandable love/hate relationship with the disease she defeated.

Fashion As Both

Many people going through a health crisis use fashion in both of these ways. They gladly show off some scars and hide others, like I do, calling one a lifeline and barely admitting to another. Others cover up their balding heads with hats and skillfully tied scarves while wearing vibrant clothes, calling attention to the healthier parts of their bodies.

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Some people take the combo to extremes. Brave mastectomy survivors are covering up scars and showing off their survival by getting tattoos on their chests. PersonalInk is an organization of tattoo artists dedicated to providing their services to mastectomy patients who want to cover the scars but show off what they’ve survived.

Injured veterans are also finding solace in the fashion and tattoo worlds. Many who have lost limbs to improvised explosive devices are turning to modeling to heal their psychological scars. Alex Minksy, a former Marine who lost his right leg, began his second career as the subject of a photographer’s simple request. Now the tattooed vet models for fitness sites, fashion photographers, and even on the runway.

Fashion As A Healer

No matter how we use fashion, it can be a great healer. We may use it to cover up a new injury or show off an old scar. We may use it to do a little of both. Like each of us, it is diverse enough that it can heal our psychological and physical wounds. We just have to find the fashion that speaks to each of us.

More by this author

H. E. James

Writer and researcher

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships. How can relationships flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there? And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift? Less appreciated in the GTD world, however, is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

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Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

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The leap happens when we realize two things:

  1. The self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  2. The logic inherent in the assumption that others either have many things going on in their lives paving the way for misunderstandings.

Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.

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Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

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In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

“Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life’s best practice among the people I have met so far. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

More Tips About Building Positive Relationships

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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