“If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” is a phrase used by many people to celebrate their body in all its glory to the world and to millions of people on social media. To most this concept is easy to live by, but there are many people out there who struggle with the idea of simply loving their bodies.
Growing up, I can remember the days where I would pick up magazines designed for women, and I was instantly bombarded with images of models wearing the “ideal” photoshopped body, knowing that I would never look like those women who were easily represented on various billboards, campaigns, TV and magazines, my self esteem and worth were damaged. It was hard enough being the first generation Panjabi born in England, and trying to fit into groups around me was difficult in itself, and now I was tormented by images of the body shape and size that I could never attain. I can honestly say that I never really did fit it, and then my body was blessed with puberty and a furry upper lip.
I was horrendously tormented throughout my school years due to the amount of bodily hair that my temple was growing. I never really did grasp hold of why I looked so different from the other young girls around me. “PCOS is what you have” the doctors told me after conducting various blood tests and ultrasound scans on my ovaries.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS for short, is a condition that affects 1 in 5 people with ovaries. There are many side effects linked to PCOS such as irregular monthly menstrual cycle causing infertility, excess oils in the skin causing acne, a heightened androgen level causing bodily hair, androgenetic alopecia, diabetes, and kidney and heart issues; not only does PCOS alter the body, it will also have a damaging effect on one’s emotional health and quality of life.
My body shaming and bullying all started off due to my weight gain (linked to PCOS and hormonal imbalance), and then people moved onto shaming me for having bodily hair. This is something that people still harass me for having, and it is something that I will have to endure for the rest of my life. I am able to handle it well as a grown adult, but as a young child being bullied, my schools days were hell on earth.
I went into depression, I had major social anxiety, I lacked self esteem and worth; I was suicidal too.
But when I was 16 years old, I made a conscious decision to be happy. I’m extremely stubborn - so I decided to grow my facial hair -- it’s basically a big, beautiful, full, shiny beard and I love it. You can’t please everyone and I had to fight against the opinions of my loved ones who didn’t agree with me growing my facial hair. Sometimes what your loved ones want for you isn’t what you want for yourself; it won’t always be the best for you.
I believe that my story resonates with a lot of people. There are too many people suffering quietly. I have to be strong enough, confident enough to speak up for them, and help motivate people to grasp hold of a better quality of life.
As a motivational speaker I am fortunate enough to speak to children in schools, at conferences and other various events. The reactions from people is usually pretty positive - so many people have the same condition as me. The best part of being me is being able to touch people’s lives and show them that that there’s a better way of living. My life is now about adding value to society, letting people know that they can be happy in the skin that they’re in.
We have unfortunately been programmed to see images that have been presented to us as the truth, we have been boxed by labels and the result of that has damaged our body image and worth.
Diverse representation is very important - growing up I always wanted to see someone like me on TV or in magazine, I soon realised that I have to go out there and represent people like me.
My body, my rules is a motto that I live by, it is also the running campaign that I will tour with on my travels to Germany, Netherlands and Italy. The campaign is about stripping down gender stereotypes and man-made rules in the context of beauty.
It’s been a radical process of sticking my finger up at society - this is how I am and I choose to be this way. I have fought so hard to be the person that I am today, and I am going to adorn my body and cherish her the way I wish too. I am looking forward to bringing this liberating mindset and attitude to the masses in Europe in hopes to motivate people to take charge of their lives, happiness and purpose.