Harnaam Kaur is a 23-year-old woman living in England. Like many women (between 10% and 20% of those childbearing-aged), Kaur suffers from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) which has been known to cause excessive hair growth in some patients. In Harnaam’s case, her PCOS meant that with puberty came an unexpected development … she began to grow a beard.
After years of attempting to hide her facial hair and enduring name-calling and bullying despite her efforts, even to the point where she contemplated taking her own life, Harnaam decided to live as she is, beard and all, and she says she has never felt more feminine. With unwavering confidence, Kaur told Barcroft TV:
“This is me, this is who I am, it’s my inner beauty, it’s my outer beauty, it’s my oneness, it’s my wholeness, I’m different, and I’ve learned to accept it, fully.”
Watching Harnaam speak (and I whole-heartedly recommend you take a moment to watch the video above), it is obvious that she is absolutely at ease with her decision to let her beard grow; she laughs easily as she talks about the confusion her excess facial hair can cause. By the time I was about a quarter of the way through her interview, I found myself focusing on her eyes and admiring her eyeliner, already forgetting about the thick beard just below. (She does do a really excellent job with that eyeliner … I’m envious, I have to say).
I do not have a beard. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the way I look. I was not bullied as a child for my appearance (well, there was a short stint in kindergarten where I was called Spock for my pointy ears, but my teacher quickly put an end to it and it never resurfaced). Still, I’ve never felt inherently feminine, as Harnaam now describes herself, and I’ve never felt completely at ease with my body and my wholeness, as Harnaam so eloquently put it.
Listening to Harnaam, it’s hard not to reflect on my own tough time with self-acceptance. The criticism with which I regard my own face and body is ruthless — and my confidence, and no doubt my attractiveness (stress ages, you guys), are constantly affected by my scrutiny. I’ve spent hours in front of the mirror hating what I see, picking apart physical flaws that would be imperceptible to anyone but me. I’ve imagined life with symmetrical eyes, and wondered if I should fill that divot on my nose. I’ve been reduced to tears by my jeans not fitting, and there isn’t a place I go where I don’t begrudge the slim, smooth legs of all the women around me, cursing my own bad luck for white skin that shows every imperfection (not to mention my lack of knee-bone definition). Watching Harnaam speak, I quickly forgot about her beard and envied her infectious confidence, her self-acceptance, her refusal to let a silly thing like a little extra facial hair hold her back, or keep her from loving herself.
Harnaam’s beard is a part of her, and by fully embracing herself, she has set herself free, undeniably letting her beauty shine through. While Harnaam’s parents initially expressed concern for her finding employment, or even love, Harnaam currently works as a teaching assistant, and there is no doubt in my mind that she will have no trouble finding someone to share her life with, bearded or not.
I look at my four-year-old daughter, and I can only hope she grows up with the kind of confidence and love of herself that Harnaam has come to know. I know that it falls to me as her mother, her first female role model, to display that kind of confidence. I know that it falls to me to follow Kaur’s example and learn to love myself unconditionally, asymmetrical eyes and all.