Beauty shouldn’t be defined by the length or colour of your hair

Photo by Madeline McInnis

 

Ever since I was very young, people have always commented on my hair.

I sported a mop of ginger curls that eventually grew down the length of my back and became my signature physical focal point for most of my life. As odd as it may seem, I connected a large amount of my overall self-worth to my hair.

As someone who has struggled with a considerable amount of self-image issues – and still does to this day – my hair became the only thing that I thought was worthwhile about my appearance.

I realize that it’s a pretty vain concept to place so much unnecessary significance on a relatively arbitrary aspect of who I am, but it’s been a consistent thought that’s followed me since I was in elementary school.

As someone who would rather blend in than stand out, I’ve never been the kind of person who wanted to be noticed for anything in particular. Too much attention stresses me out, but I always took solace in the fact that people seemed to like my long, red hair.

I was a persistently awkward, somewhat gawky adolescent and puberty didn’t work wonders for me like all of my Judy Bloom books and the pristine characters on Glee convinced me it might.

Glasses, braces and hormonal acne plagued me like an inescapable destiny that my dramatic mind convinced me I would never be free from. My fluctuating weight gain was another factor that dragged down my resolve over my physical appearance and, as foolish as it is to think about, my hair was the only constant that didn’t seem to betray me.

My hair is now grown out and back to its original red, but I feel more confident about it now than I did before. I know it’s not my only saving grace and if I want to get it cut or dye it just for the hell of it, I should.

Even though I would look in the mirror and find criticisms with nearly everything I saw, I would be comforted by the fact that some stranger would pass me a compliment about my hair. It was unhealthy and a strange way to look at myself, but it framed my mindset well into my teenage years.

Eventually, though, I came to hate it. I didn’t want it to be the only thing that I liked about myself and I didn’t want to continue to let my damn hair define me.

So three years ago I made the boldest decision I have currently made in my 22 years of relatively uneventful existence: I cut off all of my hair.

I don’t know what really pushed me to do it, but I wanted to be spontaneous and original on my own terms for the first time and not let my bizarre attachment to the hair on my head hold me back from not giving a shit about what people may think.

My resolve over things can be pretty flimsy, especially when every hair stylist I had ever sat down in front of had always convinced me to keep my length and original colour, calling it beautiful, “virgin” hair that shouldn’t be changed.

Telling my new, heavily tattooed, buzz-cut sporting hairdresser that I wanted to completely change it affirmed my decision. She merely grinned at me, completely giddy with the opportunity and went to work without question.

Cutting off over 20 inches of hair and dying it bright purple felt like I had shed an essential part of who I was. It was liberating and exciting, but it was a conflicting experience to look completely different from what I was used to.

After many break downs, especially during the stage where it looked like I was sporting a mullet and was a member of Duran Duran, I grew to accept it, no matter what it looked like.

My hair is now grown out and back to its original red, but I feel more confident about it now than I did before. I know it’s not my only saving grace and if I want to get it cut or dye it just for the hell of it, I should.

I still may not be the most confident person about my appearance, but I’m slowly learning to take pride in what I do have and be okay with changing it if I want to; not for anyone else, but for me and me alone. 

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