Body neutrality is a mindset that I’ve always needed, wanted and desired but didn’t know existed. I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. I wrote about it around the time that Robin Williams died by suicide. And, after I had my now 5 year old(!!), I suffered with undiagnosed post partum depression for an entire year before I saw an infographic online that made me think that my experience was not ideal. I remember telling my ex husband that and him asking me what I wanted to do about it.
I decided to reach out and the rest of my life has been on an upward trend since then. As part of my self care, I took up sewing. Teaching myself to sew has been empowering because it is one of those things that I always wanted to learn to do.
I remember weighing myself each morning after I’d used the bathroom. It had to be AFTER. The number that I saw on the scale would determine if I was going to have a good day or if I would have a bad day. It sounds silly now, yet, at the time, I didn’t realize that the number I saw on the scale didn’t actually have the power that I was attributing to it. The numbers I needed to keep in mind for sewing were my bust, waist and hip measurements. So I started to only pay attention to those numbers.
It won’t be surprising to know that I still judged myself on those numbers. I would feel some type of way depending on what my waist measurement was. I would think things like, “It’s smaller than last time! Goooo me!” or “Why the heck is my waist getting larger??” I had an irrational fear of “looking pregnant” ever since I realized that I did not have the desire to bear children- I did choose to bear children but I did not ever anticipate that I would. This thinking was counterintuitive to the mindset that I was going after yet it was integral to me coming to a place of healing.
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I would measure myself while sucking in my belly. I told myself that I was doing this so I knew what my “goal” waist measurement was. That was a lie. I sewed my clothes according to my suck-in measurements, they were too tight. I didn’t want to use my real measurement because I judged myself for whatever the numbers were. Not using the real number meant that I was sewing things for myself that I’d never be able to comfortably wear. My self-care craft was morphing into a self-loathing craft. I had managed to take some of the fun escapism out of the thing that I took up to cultivate joy…I hate it when that happens.
Where I went next was a zone of body positivity which, to me, meant that I would tell myself that my body is good and that it’s just right for me and you know the trope that new mamas who are coming to terms with the way their skin suit looks after they’ve had children goes: “I birthed a baby. My body is amazing. I will love her [my body] forever and ever because of what she’s done for me.” This was a useful transition but not where I ended up in the end.
I began to read about how to measure oneself for sewing. I read about sitting down and taking measurements. I read about making sure not to “flub” the numbers since you need accurate data for sewing. I talked with my therapist and about the level of self-acceptance that I aimed to achieve. She recommended some sort of not-diet diet and that was problematic for me as I tend to go overboard on stuff like that and become very dogmatic. My self image tends toward self loathing. I have to be very conscious to be neutral. It was a struggle to not become neurotic about it. We tried an e-course on body neutrality. The things I learned in the course and well as continuing to hone my craft as a sewist have been a balm.
I don’t really know how sewing clothes for my extraordinary body showed me that my measurements are nothing more than data needed to sew my garments. I don’t know how sewing my clothes in fabrics that I love the feel of and that I’ve spent a ton of time curating and stitching has led me to this place. This place where I don’t feel negatively toward my body and where I don’t feel (toxically) positive. This place of body neutrality has led me and my body towards a cease fire. I love my body and the way she carries me through this life. I admire the juxtaposition of the strength and the softness of her.
Sewing saved me from me and it’s been a long time coming.
Sam is a very happily divorced Black woman who shares her life with two kids who are aged 5 and 2. She usually sews for herself however there are times when she gifts others with items she sews. You can find more about her on her Instagram @WhatSamMade where she posts about all sorts of things from sewing to Black liberation, sexual liberation to book reviews.