I have a ‘pigeon chest’
Ijaz didn’t know there was anything different about his body until he moved to a new school and started playing rugby. He first noticed in the changing rooms that the other boys didn’t have chests that dipped in the middle like his did.
Ijaz has pectus excavatum, a condition that means his breastbone dents inwards, appearing sunken. It can sometimes be called 'funnel chest' or be wrongly referred to as 'pigeon chest' and usually becomes more obvious when puberty starts.
In Ijaz’s case it isn’t harmful to his health at all, but at 14 the last thing he wanted was another aspect of his changing body to worry about!
I was a bit confused, I felt like I wanted to hide.
It was tough for Ijaz and he does wish that he had spoken to people about it, or seen a counsellor earlier in his life to help address how he felt about it. While there are surgeries that could alter the look of his chest, Ijaz never wanted to have them, he felt it was more important to be happy with himself the way he is.
Watch how Ijaz learnt to shed the clothes that camouflaged his condition, and embrace his uniqueness:
Ijaz eventually embraced the look of his chest after opening up to people he trusted about it made him realise it wasn’t such a big deal after all. Reading about philosophy and psychology gave Ijaz a richer appreciation of the world and himself, which helped him realise that he didn’t need to feel strange, or alone. We are all unique in different ways!
At 16, Ijaz decided to have a complete digital detox. He found deleting all of his social media accounts helped him gain perspective and stopped unhealthy comparison, which allowed him to feel even better his appearance.
Perhaps the boldest move that helped was when sporty Ijaz jumped straight into the limelight as a dancer! Stepping out of his comfort zone, Ijaz revealed himself (and his bare chest!) on stage for everyone to see, finally conquering the need he felt to hide. There was no stopping or hiding for Ijaz anymore.
It’s about being accepted, but not from outside, it’s about the inside.
Where to find support:
If you think you may have pectus excavatum but have not been diagnosed with the condition, you can ask your GP for an assessment to rule out any further health complications.
More information about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatments for pectus excavatum is listed here from the NHS