About a year and half ago, I got this wild idea to completely switch up my hairstyle. I had been going a bit crazy from my thick, curly mane. You know the feeling? That, “UGH! I’ve had the same hairstyle for YEARS. I need to mix it up!”
Usually, a fresh coat of hair dye does the trick. Or some bangs. Perhaps a new curling iron.
But this time, it felt different. I wanted to completely hack my hair off. Get rid of it all. I was over the big ringlets, I hated the humidity, and with short hair wouldn’t need to wake up early to style it. So, I did. I went to my next hair appointment and got a pixie cut.
I was jazzed. It was a moment of fear and excitement. It was this massive relief, like a cleanse. I got rid of this mound of hair that was constantly piled on top of my head. I felt so free and unstoppable despite the discomfort that also existed. I mean, anyone who has ever been in a situation where their hair is no longer part of their weight, has probably felt something similar. Something like freedom, something like fear. Something empowering, but a lack of control, as well.
After my dramatic change, I was absolutely STOKED to go to yoga for the first time. I kept thinking, “hell yeah. I don’t need hair ties. I don’t need to worry about fixing my bangs when they fall in my face!”. I could just saunter in and stagger out after a hot class. This sounded glorious.
Going to my first class, feelings of confidence and eagerness swelled in me. I set up my mat, pretend flicked my now non-existent hair when people gave me compliments on my new look and kept touching the back where I could feel my bare scalp for the first time in my life.
But then the worst thing happened.
I looked in the mirror at the front of class.
Tears welled up in the corners of my eyes as I saw the reflection looking back at me.
“That isn’t me. I don’t know that person”, I thought over and over.
The flow started.
And so did the self-hatred.
“Your head is so small.”
“Your ears are even smaller.”
“What were you thinking when you got all of those piercings? There are way too many for your miniscule ears.”
“And your hips. When did they get so large?”
“You look terrible.”
“This haircut is a mistake.”
How was it that snipping some hair could make me so self-conscious? Dead, limp, dry, unflattering hair. I knew deep down I shouldn’t care. But I did. And I blamed my new hairstyle for accentuating all of my “flaws”.
I left that first class crying. Sobbing. Drenched in the sweat that now coated my entire head because there was no hair to soak up the rolling drops.
I sat in the dark of my car and angrily ripped a beanie out of my backpack and shoved it on. Covering my shame. I drove home with angry tears dribbling down my face. When I got home, my significant other hugged me, confused by my complete change in mood and opinion towards this new hairstyle that was intended to bring me joy & empowerment.
When I left for yoga I was smiling, ready to show my (tiny) head off. Ready for the (probably fake) compliments. But coming home, my entire demeanor and attitude changed. And I’ll never forget our conversation.
I said, sobbing obnoxiously, “I’m not myself anymore. I can’t even look at myself”.
He replied, “If you think that your hair made you who you are, you really are crazy. You were relying on that curtain of hair to hide behind. But this new cut, whether you grow it out, or keep it, is going to allow you see yourself in a new way because it’s different. Your haircut doesn’t make you any less amazing. Your hair doesn’t define you”.
Disclaimer: I know I’m extremely lucky to have someone who cares about me and is insightful enough to say these kinds of things to me at the ideal moment. But, I think this point is very important because it’s true, and sharing this thought with others seems like the right thing to do.
At the end of the day, the way you look doesn’t have ANY bearing on who you are.
When he said that to me, I laughed. I remember thinking, you idiot, to myself.
The days following, I had moments of, “Oh shit, what have I done”, but forced myself to remember my hair (or lack thereof) didn’t define me. Didn’t define my strengths, my yoga practice, my humor, my personality.
Sometimes, having that perspective and foresight is hard. It’s probably the hardest thing with any kind of insecurity.
I will always be glad that I cut my hair short because it taught me some very big lessons about myself. About how to control my emotions, about how to stay positive, about what makes me, well, me.
When people talk about me, they don’t discuss my hair style, and if they do they probably aren’t the kind of people I want to surround myself with. My hope is that people talk about what I say, what I do, about my work, about my goals. Because when I reflect on myself, that’s what I think about. I don’t want to think about my smaller than average feet, or my wide hips, or my large shoulders. There is so much more to me than those things. And while I have started to grow my hair back out (sorry to disappoint, I missed high buns and long distances between maintenance haircuts), I have taken this lesson with me. It’s okay to feel bad some days. It’s okay to criticize yourself, but don’t let it own you. Be the healthiest you can be and appreciate all that your body does for you. You are more than your vessel.