Here I am in a bikini - it's time to be proud of our bodies

I was brought up to believe I should keep myself covered at all times to protect my modesty from the gaze of men and, if I was not careful, my body would bring me shame and disgrace.

As a Muslim teenager in 1980s Britain, I longed for the freedom of the light cotton dresses or shorts and T-shirts worn by schoolfriends in summer. But it never happened.

Because in my religious community, those clothes would have branded me a harlot and signalled that I was offering sexual favours.

So to appear on TV in my bikini was a big ask. But on Loose Women I will do just that as part of the show’s Body Confidence Campaign.

I firmly believe all women should be encouraged to celebrate their bodies. So I had no choice but to put my bikini body where my mouth is – wobbly tummy, scars and all.

It turns out that one in every 100 UK women has Body Dysmorphic Disorder which, the NHS says, “causes a distorted view of how a person looks and to spend a lot of time worrying about appearance”.

In many ways my parents were amazing. Loving and supportive, they gave me the values that made me who I am today. But they failed me badly when it came to making me feel good about my body.

Much of it is down to cultural and religious beliefs. Covering up meant wearing the shalwar kameez – a baggy tunic and trousers that disguises shape – and the dupatta, a scarf covering hair and breasts.

Men, of course, could wear what they liked. Don’t get me wrong, I loved wearing my shalwar kameez at home and on special occasions, but I also longed to feel attractive and fashionable.

This idea that my body was to be hidden really damaged my confidence. So when puberty kicked in and I gained curves and hips, I felt embarrassed, ugly, ashamed.

I’m sure many non-Muslim teenagers go through this phase too.

But for me covering up reinforced the message that a woman’s body should be hidden, never seen.

It has taken years to accept the way I look and I still feel awkward if someone pays me a compliment.

So when Loose Women’s Body Confidence Campaign launches to encourage women to celebrate the story their body tells, I will confront my insecurities. We want all women, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexuality or ­religion, to celebrate their bodies and see post-op scars, birthmarks or stretchmarks as part of their unique life story.

For the first time, I will bare my body without filters or airbrushing.

It wasn’t easy. On top of the coming difficult conversation with my mum, I’ve been stressing about my short legs, jelly belly and psoriasis scars. All that will appear on billboards. I don’t do things by half, do I?

It was a chance to say: “I’m not perfect, but I’m alive, healthy and this body has made me a mum. I am grateful and proud to have it.”

Seeing Kim Kardashian’s booty with cellulite and stretchmarks made me feel a little better . If she can flaunt it with a smile, what the heck have I got to worry about?

If you’d like to get involved with the campaign, share your story at #MyBodyMyStory or #madeuthink?