An activist, model and human being: what do the labels mean to you?

Bav Mistry talks with Jo Boon about everything from mental health educaition to gender identity. Bav shares the story of their childhood, the campaigning it inspired and what body positivity now means to them. 

What does body positivity mean to you? 

Compassionate acceptance of you and your body. Society and our culture has conditioned a false image of perfection, rather than a celebration of how unique and different each one of us is.

Do you think that the way we construct gender is helpful? 

Not at all, it's very unhelpful. It can be harmful how gender is constructed in the past, and in today’s world. We all have the same needs and have the same feelings. We are just humans, a person. We  perceive animals as they are, rather than as defined by their gender; for example a fish or a bird.

Why do you think it's important that we share our stories with one another? 

The media tell's stories on other's behalf, and often warps them in the process- as if different people's experiences are the same. Through sharing and through vulnerability, people then can empathise with what a person has or is experiencing and how it makes them feel.  

What are your thoughts on 'labels' in society?

Label's, in my opinion, are toxic and a lazy way of description.  Label's are assumptions of who a person is, which leads to judgements being passed. Also, labels can have different meanings to a person and if a person has had a negative experience with a label then there is a risk of generalising all those with that labels.

Do you think we should talk about mental health more, and why does it matter to you?

Very much so! Mental health was a taboo in the past and still is today. I think it should be taught about at an early age. Education should be given to both family and friends; not just about the person's illness but how to support and communicate; as well as support for the friends and family as it’s not easy for them too. Mental health research is still in it's infancy, and there is a lot more to be learnt and there is a risk of others wrongly advising and diagnosing without a professional background.

What do you most want people to know about you?

I’ve had a really tough childhood which I thought I left in the past. I was quite wrong. 32 years later, my body and mental state exploded, triggered from an unpleasant experience. All my mind and body wanted was attention. This took me on a life changing journey to discover who I am and what’s happening to my body and my mind.

I had done hundreds of hours of different types therapies within 2 years, endless books and research on psychology, neurology, anthropology and philosophy.  I didn’t come away with concrete answers but they gave me an insight and awareness, of how we humans are so complex. It saddens me how many unmet needs there are, and how imprisoned we are from being ourselves without judgement and rejection.

With this knowledge I’ve taken a path of compassionate living, for myself, those in my life and with those who pass by in life (strangers.) This involves mindfulness of being present, critical thinking and taking a step back that everything is not black and white. Listening to my feelings for unmet needs, or if my childhood patterns are triggered, hearing others empathetically and validate what others are feeling, with a compassionate communication. Being vulnerable to allow my authentic self to be seen and heard.

It's not been easy, but it has got easier over time and something I have accepted as part of me. There is a core unmet need I'm working to fulfil to be loved and find a sense of belonging, to be accepted for who I am,  a tribe and a life partner. I'm learning to manage my fear of rejection that I'm not enough, the conditioning of I'm not lovable and that my past was not my fault; choice and control was taken away from me.

I'm glad to have gone through this late experience as its given me a different, positive future and encourage everyone to really spend time to explore them self and be kind and listen to what your body has been waiting to tell you. 

If you had to sum yourself up in six words or less, what would you choose?

Sensitive, Compassionate , Alone, Creative,  Conscious, Optimistic