Sanah Jivani

It was everywhere. It was a regular morning during my seventh grade year, but I couldn’t help but panic, because I was surrounded by my own hair! All over my pillow, the sheets, the floor. I couldn’t breathe. My head felt light, and my heart felt heavy.

I knew I had a hair loss disease called Alopecia, but it had never been this bad. I dreaded what I was about to see in the mirror.

When I finally got the courage to face myself, I was completely bald. All of my seventh grade problems stopped seeming so dramatic, and that day, I was forced to grow up and begin a terrible battle with self-hate, self-harm and wigs. The bullying I faced was absolutely unreal. From an online BurnPage made about me to a note in my locker titled “50 ways to go kill yourself,” I didn’t think I could handle it anymore.

I hit rock bottom, and self-acceptance seemed like the only way to save myself. Before my freshman year of high school, I decided to go without my wig. I posted a video on social media telling my story and opening up. The response I got was absolutely overwhelming; it was crazy to see how many people loved me once I learned to love myself.

The joy I got from sharing my story was unbelievable. At that moment I knew that this is what I was born to do. I knew that the bullying, the tears and the sadness were all worth it, because they gave me a unique perspective that I could use to inspire others.

It hurt me so much to know that people all around the globe still struggled with self-worth. That's when I knew I had to do something. I created a non-profit and started a movement called International Natural Day, which is now present in 28 countries.

Natural Day first started at my school. When I first came up with the idea, other students didn't seem as enthusiastic as I was. I knew for them to understand Natural Day, they had to understand the power of confidence. As a freshman, I decided to stand up and share my story in front of all 3,800 students at my school.  By the end of it, I was sobbing. The next day was amazing... Every student came to school letting go of one of their insecurities. I then knew that my story would be the driving factor for this movement.

On February 13th, I challenge people all around the globe to let go of the one thing that holds them back. This could be something physical, like hair or makeup, or an internal struggle, like a past of abuse or bullying. I chose the 13th because it’s the day before Valentine's Day, and you have to love yourself before loving anyone else.

The stories I hear on Natural Day change my life every year. People post photos using "#NaturalDay" on any social media site. Schools/businesses that host a natural day send me photos via email. From seeing a little boy go without his wig to watching a woman get help after facing abuse for years, Natural Day is a day all about breaking free, and it’s amazing to see the courage every one radiates on this day. Although people say that I inspire them with the Natural Day movement, they will never truly understand how much they inspire me.

Today, my non-profit collects donations to travel around the globe and share Natural Day's stories, host empowerment sessions, and give schools the resources they need to host a Natural Day. I hope to continue my work over the next few years, and will not stop until Natural Day is printed on every calendar around the world.

For more information, visitwww.internationalnaturalday.com or contact sanahjivani@gmail.com.