Growing up in the U.K., Harnaam Kaur was bullied relentlessly for having facial hair.
“I was the ugly duckling in my group of friends,” she tells PEOPLE. “I remember being bullied by many different people in my primary and secondary school period. The bullies made my life a living hell every day. I did not enjoy my education, and I feel that I did not achieve as much as I could of because of all the bullying that I had faced.”
Kaur, now 24, began growing facial hair as an adolescent due to polycystic ovary syndrome. She tried to remove her hair, but this greatly damaged her skin.
“I started to wax my facial hair, tweeze it off, thread it off,” she says. “I shaved every day and I even used hair removing creams. My skin became very rough, I was left with scabs, and parts of my skin were torn off when I was waxing.”
Because she couldn’t remove her hair, her depression over her appearance led her to begin self-harming, and eventually Kaur considered suicide.
“One day I decided to actually go ahead with ending my life,” she says. “I had the pills there ready.”
But something would not let her go through with it.
“I thought about all the negative energy and strength that it actually takes to want to end your own life,” says the Berkshire, England, native. “I decided to turn all that negative energy into positive energy, and grasp hold of life. I wanted to live a happy life, and I made the decision to keep my beard and accept my body for the way it was formed.”
Now a body-confidence and anti-bullying activist, Kaur fully embraces her unique look and hopes to encourage others to do the same.
“I feel that my appearance empowers and strengthens me to walk into the world, knowing that I stand up for a diverse look in beauty,” she says. “I believe that we cannot label what is perfect in society these days, as people are different from each other. It is beautiful to see people accept who they are regardless of what they look like.”
And although she has a beard, Kaur wholly embraces her femininity.
“I allow myself to buy beautiful dresses, wear makeup and do my nails,” she says. “I am a woman with a beard and I fully celebrate that.”
Kaur shares photos of herself regularly on her Instagram page, which now has more than 7,000 followers.
“I pray that my followers become body confident and strong,” she says. “I trust that they will see that beauty is not just about what a person looks like from the outside, but all about the gems that they hold inside, too.”