Middle school is difficult enough for young women, but for Sanah Jivani, it was the moment when her life changed dramatically. She woke up one morning and found that, due to a medical condition called Alopecia, all of her hair had fallen off. Instead of letting this defeat her, Sanah set out on a path of advocacy for others like her who struggle with self-love. Now she plans to spread this message through her foundation, inspiring others to accept and love themselves just as they are.
Since you’re the founder of International Natural Day, how do you think college women can celebrate their personal definition of their natural self on a daily basis?
I think this looks different for everyone. Think about what it means to celebrate who you are. When I lost all of my hair and struggled with my identity, I stopped valuing myself. I began to self-harm and developed an eating disorder, and did not care what happened to my body.
Celebrating my personal definition of my natural self means taking care of the person I neglected for so long. When I am truly practicing self-care, I work to get enough sleep. I do the things I love and that I am passionate about. I eat foods that I enjoy and make me feel good. I spend time with the people I love. I buy face masks and my favorite dessert and take a night just for myself.
Self-care and celebrating who you are looks different for everyone. It’s important to explore what works for you.
You started International Natural Day and the LYNS Foundation after you developed Alopecia in seventh grade. What advice would you give to college women who might currently be navigating a dramatic change and struggling with accepting and embracing this change?
I will never forget the morning I woke up to find all of my hair on my pillow. I was heartbroken and convinced that nothing could ever feel okay again. I had no idea how I was going to find the courage to overcome this adversity.
However, I learned to use my adversity as an opportunity for growth. This is never easy in the moment, but Alopecia has taught me so much. I think it’s easy to think about dramatic changes as things that are completely negative, but it’s hard to realize that sometimes losing the things about your life that make you comfortable can help you find yourself in ways that you’ve never imagined.
Hang in there. Change is difficult and adversity can often seem unbearable. However, look inside yourself. I promise all of the strength and courage you need is within you.
The LYNS Foundation has expanded to include celebrity speakers and global events. What has been one of your favorite impactful moments while working at LYNS Foundation?
Self-love does not mean perfection. Even though I have grown much better at practicing self-love, I still have many bad days. I often ask myself, “Am I even making a difference?”
One day, I was having a particularly bad day. I was doubting everything about myself and my foundation. Sometimes, when I’m feeling upset, I reread some of the messages people have sent me over time. It’s always so touching and encouraging to see that I have made an impact in somebody’s life.
I saw a message from someone that I had missed when I first received it. It was a 7th grade girl who lost all of her hair to alopecia. Instead of deciding to wear a wig, however, she decided to go all natural because of my story.
It was surreal to see someone in the exact same situation as me who was the exact same age as I was when I first lost my hair. She had such a different outcome because she looked up to me and found my story. I am so happy I can be that person for someone.
And how do you plan to broaden the LYNS Foundation’s impact after you graduate?
I know it’s a crazy dream, but someday I hope to see the International Day of Self-Love printed on every calendar around the globe. I hope that every year, we partner with more and more schools. I hope that we continue to see growth and that we can continue to promote the importance of self-care and self-love curriculum. I know more than anything that running the LYNS Foundation is my biggest passion. I will spend the rest of my life trying to broaden the organization’s impact.
What words of wisdom would you give to a fellow college student who might be considering starting their own foundation or project?
For a long time, I was worried it would be impossible to balance being a full-time college student and a full-time non-profit CEO. I often considered not attending college or dropping out. Trust me when I say: it is definitely possible to do both.
Attending college and running a non-profit can be a lot to balance, but it doesn’t feel like it when you are passionate about your project. Find something that lights your heart on fire. It’s the passion that will get you through even the toughest days.
How do you keep yourself motivated in your professional and academic endeavors?
I started an organization to change the lives of others, but it changes my life everyday. I am motivated by the amazing schools and individuals I have the privilege of working with everyday. Sometimes I am convinced that my students motivate and inspire me more than I could ever inspire them.
Chelsea is the Health Editor and How She Got There Editor for Her Campus. In addition to editing articles about mental health, women's health and physical health, Chelsea contributes to Her Campus as a Feature Writer, Beauty Writer, Entertainment Writer and News Writer. Some of her unofficial, albeit self-imposed, responsibilities include arguing about the Oxford comma, fangirling about other writers' articles, and pitching Her Campus's editors shamelessly nerdy content (at ambiguously late/early hours, nonetheless). When she isn't writing for Her Campus, she is probably drawing insects, painting with wine or sobbing through "Crimson Peak." Please email any hate, praise, tips, or inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org