There is something metaphorical about a woman’s relationship to her hair. Given that it’s just strands of old, dead cells, it’s kinda weird to think about how attached to our hair we are, isn’t it? But I’ve noticed that in general, how a person feels about herself (and her body) tends to be mirrored by her relationship with her hair. Are you afraid of letting people see your true colors? Are you always hiding your true nature? Do you constantly compare yourself to others, or wish you’d been dealt a different hand? I’m betting these patterns show up everywhere.
Because one thing I’ve learned from being a Health & Empowerment coach is that most women love themselves conditionally. Meaning they can love themselves, but only on days when everything goes right; when they look in the mirror and everything looks exactly how they want it to. But that’s not enough. True self-love needs to be unconditional. Only loving yourself on skinny days, or good hair days, is like only loving your children when they behave well. Imagine how damaging it would be for a child to receive love only when they conform to your idea of who they should be, and how they should act. It’s just as damaging when it comes to loving yourself. I’ve said this before about body fat, and I’ll keep saying it.
You must find ways to love yourself unconditionally.
Personally, my hair is curly, wild and independent. It takes no shit and refuses to be told what to do. For a lot of my life, I hated that. It was so frustrating that I couldn’t seem look polished or pulled together, no matter what I did. I’d tame my hair with time-consuming blow-outs, and constantly wished I could pull off the easy breezy hairstyles of my straight- and wavy-haired friends. Not coincidentally, I also desperately wished I could fit in and be “normal” like them.
But as I’ve grown into myself over the last few years, I’ve also grown into my curls. (Literally, since I gave myself a mohawk a year and a half ago.) I’ve noticed that my increasing levels of self-acceptance and self-love over the last few years have been reflected directly in how I feel about what’s on my head.
I’ve learned to love my wild hair, just as I’ve learned to love my body and my authentic Self, unconditionally. No longer do I reserve my love for the days when my hair arranges itself in a reasonable matter, just like I no longer reserve my love for days when I can see my abs, or days when my skin is clear. In fact, I rather delight in my hair’s rebellion these days. My curls veer off impulsively in whatever direction they desire, never considering what anyone else will think, and certainly not asking anyone’s permission first. Rather than fight my hair, I let it inspire and guide me.
8 lessons on Self- Love (as taught by my hair)
1. Take responsibility. I cut my own hair. Not because I’m good at it, but because I like to be able to say “yeah… I did that.” As someone with curly/wild hair, I have hated every single haircut I’ve ever gotten in my whole entire life. Seriously. I’m a friend for autonomy, and I just hate letting someone else make decisions for me. They mean well, but they always think stuff like “layers will look so polished and breezy!” Which might be true, but I’m not a polished or breezy person, and I’ve walked out of many haircuts in tears, because it just didn’t feel like me. Then I started cutting my own hair. And while they tend to be pretty bad haircuts, at least now they’re MY bad haircuts. I take immense pleasure and pride in every uneven layer, and every oddly short chunk, because I did it. You create your life. Taking responsibility (instead of blaming someone else), whether things go right or go wrong, is a game changer when it comes to self-love.
2. Don’t play small. People notice big hair; when your hair is naturally big and wild, you’re taught to hide it, to pretend you’re not big and wild, to blend in. Taming wild hair becomes a way of making sure you don’t draw too much attention to yourself; it helps you play small. I used to prefer my hair straight, because it made me look the most “normal” and appropriate. Every celeb on the red carpet has tamed tresses after all, and women with naturally textured hair have even been proven to come off as unprofessional. Taming your hair is a way of hiding your true nature, so you don’t make anyone uncomfortable. But you deserve to live so much bigger than that.
3. Know thyself. Other people are going to always project their opinions on you. When it comes to hair, just like with body size and shape, people feel way too comfortable telling you what they think you should do. But it’s your hair, and it’s your body. The only opinion that matters is yours. If you rely on magazines and “experts” your whole life, to tell you what you like, you miss out on the joy of the journey. Just like fitness, nutrition, and sex… you gotta trial and error that shit. Nobody else can know what you like better than you. I mean, my mom used to brush my curls straight back for god’s sake, and she honestly thought it looked good that way. (For the record, my mom has historically made really good decisions, but “hair in the 80’s” wasn’t one of them.)
Learn what you like, and then stand up for it.
4. Wear your heart on your sleeve (or head). We spend so much of our lives hiding and pretending to be someone we’re not. It’s incredibly liberating to let your appearances reflect who you are, and what you’re going through. Imagine looking in the mirror and saying: yep, I look like ME. I’ve had some pretty intense haircuts, most recently including long hair with designs shaved into the sides, a curly little pixie, and an awkward mohawk. But even the mohawk (which really didn’t look great) represented me well, because I was just coming out of a major breakup. My ex’s lifestyle had required that I show up places wearing dresses, heels, and a blow-out, looking pretty and “appropriate.” It never felt right to me, and by cutting my hair like a weirdo, I released my old identity and let my true Self show through better. I am odd and wild, creative, boyish, and happy; it’s thrilling and liberating to actually express that, instead of hiding it.
5. Let go of the outcome. Look, some days your hair is just gonna be a total idiot and not do what you want. Just like sometimes you’ll be puffy and bloated and wanna lay in bed all day eating chocolate. There’s nothing you can do, so don’t punish yourself or withhold love from yourself on those days. Just like with your body (and everything else), all you can do is establish good habits that give you the best chances for the outcome you want, and then let go of the rest.
6. Assign meaning. If you want unconditional self-love, you can’t just love yourself on the skinny days, happy days, or good hairdays. When shit gets difficult to embrace, the trick is to reframe it as a lesson or a gift. Ask yourself: what is this particular situation here to teach me? When you can find the gift or lesson hidden within something, you can also find gratitude for it, even when it’s not doing what you want. (Note: try this with absolutely everything; cellulite, breakouts, knee pain, rude servers, your overbearing mother-in-law, etc.) Assign meaning to anything you’re struggling to love, and let the gratitude flow in.
7. Let your freak flag fly. It’s liberating and thrilling to consciously destroy the image that other people have of you. When I first told a friend of mine that I was going to cut my long hair into a mohawk, he was shocked and suggested I go to a fancy hairdresser to get a “classy, elegant pixie cut” instead. I found this hilarious, because it had never occurred to me before that someone might see me as “classy and elegant.” I knew right then that I was gonna get weird with my hair.
8. Let go of the emphasis on being “attractive.” Men tend to love long hair. As a female with long hair, when you say you’re thinking of cutting it most people get upset and protest. They say things like “Nooo, you’re so lucky, I would kill for that hair!” and “Leave it long, it looks so gorgeous!” Though well-intentioned, those statements are based around the erroneous notion that other people have a right to decide how you look, as though your appearance exists for them. “How you look is for our pleasure; by being attractive, you owe us something.” By consciously letting go of an identity that objectifies you, you learn a ton about both yourself , and the people around you.
When I cut my hair into a mohawk, it changed how I was treated. I became objectively less feminine and attractive. Men and older women would say it was such a shame, because I had been so pretty. Younger women would tell me in hushed whispers that they wished they had my courage. (Courage to… what? Look less attractive?) I got hit on less, and those who hit on me seemed oddly smug about it.
I loved it though, because I learned a lot about people’s perceptions of me, and who I wanted in my life. Every time I’ve cut my hair in a way that made my mother cringe, I’ve come out stronger, braver, and more Me, because it helped cut ties with identities that weren’t really mine to begin with. It helped show me that I am not my hair, just like I am not my body. The more often you can prove to yourself that you’re more than how you look, the easier it is to find and love your true Self.
I am passionate about helping women learn to love their bodies, but loving your body as a woman in our culture isn’t easy, as you know.
That’s why I created the Body Image Alchemy Blueprint:
to help women explore and address the actual blocks that get in the way of truly loving and accepting yourself. If you want to love and accept your body no matter how it looks, but don’t know where to start, this course is for you.
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