SAN ANTONIO -- A San Antonio college student who struggles with an auto-immune disorder has launched a world-wide event to promote self-acceptance.
Sanah Jivani was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was 3-years-old. It's a disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss in patches on the scalp.
As Jivani got older, her condition worsened. She said when she was in the seventh grade, she woke up to discover most of her hair had fallen out.
"I woke up one morning and pretty much all of my hair was on my pillow. As a seventh grade girl, it was heartbreaking,” Jivani said. “I felt like I couldn't look in the mirror. I couldn't even look at myself. I had so much self-hatred in my heart. I didn't want to go to school, I didn't want to face my friends or my family."
Jivani said dealing with her hair loss was harder with the cruel taunting from her peers. She said students created a Facebook page about her.
"Students would just post things, trying to guess why I was wearing the wig and in my heart, I was like if only they knew this was something I can't control," Jivani said. "I got notes in my locker: like 50 ways to go kill yourself. And I constantly asked myself. What did I do to deserve this?"
Jivani said the bullying was devastating and her loss of confidence had affected her school work. She said if she didn't get her grades up, she would have to repeat the eighth grade.
"I knew I had two choices. I could continue to go down a path of self-hatred or choose self-love," Jivani said.
She chose the latter and decided to leave her wig at home for the first day of high school.
"I just told myself, 15 seconds of absolutely insane courage and you can get through the door. I felt like my whole word opened up. I mean, it sounds silly but once I started to love myself, it's like the sun started shining. The birds started chirping again. It was just like I could really take in all the beauty that was in the world," Jivani said.
Jivani said her personal journey inspired her to empower other boys and girls.
She is the CEO of the 'Love Your Natural Self Foundation.' Her non-profit organization has various projects to promote self-acceptance, including 'International Natural Day' that takes place February 13.
"I chose the day, February 13, because it's the day before Valentine's Day,” Jivani said. “You really have to love and care about yourself before you love and care about others."
The first, International Natural Day was held at her high school.
"We had people open up about the past abuse they have been through. They opened up about their parents getting a divorce. It showed me that insecurity comes in so many layers. It's not just physical. It can be something internal as well and everybody has something. Everybody has a wig. Something they're hiding," Jivani said.
Jivani plans to host an 'International Natural Day' event at her university, UTSA. The event will be Monday at the Harris room at the main campus from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
She will share her personal story and how she started her non-profit organization.
"I hope that this event at UTSA will be an example for college campuses all around the country to host an international day of self-love," Jivani said.
For more information on Jivani's foundation, you can visit http://www.internationalnaturalday.com/.