Bristol

Body image: 'Stop telling people to love themselves'

Harnaam Kaur
Image caption Harnaam Kaur has polycystic ovary syndrome and chose to stop shaving her face at 16 despite being bullied

Role models should stop promoting "self-love" and instead focus on "being kind", a woman with a beard has said.

Activist and Instagram influencer Harnaam Kaur told students in Bristol that being bullied because of her facial hair led her to attempt suicide as a teenager.

But at 16 she chose to stop shaving and "own it" and was "so glad" she did.

Ms Kaur was speaking at a conference on staying "body positive" in a social media age.

The University of the West of England is home to one of the world's leading centres for appearance research. It also invited plus-size model Jada Sezer and actor Richard Blackwood to speak to 250 staff and students about body image.

It comes during Mental Health Awareness Week after research revealed body image worries are making people feel depressed and suicidal.

Image caption Richard Blackwood urged students not just to post pictures "for the likes"

Ms Kaur, who has excess facial hair because of polycystic ovary syndrome, said she went through a phase of being beaten at school and as a teenager.

"One day, when I was at my lowest point, a switch flicked," she said.

"It was so hard to build a relationship with myself but I'm so glad I did."

'Be kind'

She told students she had rejected the label of "body positivity advocate" because she felt "loving your body" was too much to ask for those battling mental health problems.

"Stop telling people to love themselves and start telling them to be kind to themselves instead," she said.

Ms Sezer, who uses her Instagram feed to campaign for body acceptance, urged students to use social media "for your benefit."

"Don't forget you have the power to create your own platform," she said.

"Follow the people who make you feel good and unfollow those who don't."

'It's not real'

Actor Richard Blackwood spoke frankly about the breakdown that took him to the brink of suicide at 23 and how he built himself back up.

"I would say to those who feel bad after going on Instagram, 'don't believe the hype'- it's not real," he said.

"If you are just posting pictures for likes, take the picture down, you will never be satisfied.

"You need to find inspiration with who you see in the mirror."

If you've been affected by a mental health issue, help and support is available.

Visit BBC Action Line for more information about support services

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