Stripped: Appearances & (hair) Conditioning
Last week I got an accidental haircut. I went in for a complimentary touch-up (less than a trim) and came out with 4 inches of less hair. I cried as soon as I stepped out of the salon door and continued in my car for the whole hour-long drive home, and for two more days after. I felt ugly, but more specifically - I didn’t feel like myself. When I looked in the mirror, I felt like a stranger in my own skin. I’ve had so many different haircuts and styles over the last three and half years, so I was surprised by my reaction. I had very long hair for most of my life and decided to chop it in 2014. This initial cut was such a freeing experience, and has continued to be over the last few years. I was once told that I would only look good with long hair, and I truly felt that was true... until I cut it. I felt like I didn’t have to hide behind my long locks anymore. I can feel pretty and sexy and confident with short hair? Yes, and even more so than I had ever felt before. Why? Perhaps because it was an external form of stripping (in this case shedding). Shedding the physical hair, yet also the ideas and lies I had been fed and continued to feed myself. “I’m not the kind of person who looks good like x.” I’ve since experimented with many lengths ranging from my chin to my shoulder, and a few different styles of bangs. So why was this recent haircut such a shock? Beyond not setting out to do it on purpose and it being such a drastic change - conditioning. In this case, I felt like I couldn’t have hair shorter than my chin because I have a strong jaw and long chin, and therefore the proportions of my face would be accentuated in an unflattering way.
I have felt like that often throughout my life, and not just with my hair, but also with much deeper subjects. This conditioning can be so insideous. In the beginning of this year, I vowed for unapologetic self-acceptance. I believe this haircut has been a small part of that journey. After I let myself cry and complain and feel the emotions, I knew I had to face myself. Why am I so hung up on how I look? Why do specific hairstyles help me to feel like me? This is a heavy topic. What makes us who we are? Our hair certainly has nothing to do with it. How can I learn to feel “like myself” right now, without something that shapes my identity in the way I want to be seen? I’m not going to wait for my hair to grow out again to be able to sigh and go, “okay now I feel better.” Fuck that. That is such a restricted, stifled way to live, and I’ve lived too much of my life that way already. So I went within. I listened. What came up is that I still seek approval from my mom. I don’t allow this to effect my actions (hence cutting my hair off and dying it red as a teenager and chopping it again a few years ago), yet I still want her to think I’m beautiful. Because she put so much emphasis on beauty during my upbringing. Because she was always more noticed and accepted for her beauty than I was. This is all bullshit because it has nothing to do with the truth. It simply stems from barriers I created as a result of the environment I was conditioned in. Once this clear truth (the truth of the conditioning) came through, I was able to let it go. I talked to her. I told her she was beautiful and had something to offer the world. I told her that my hair has nothing to do with her (something she already knows), that she is who she is regardless of appearances, circumstances and beyond. She is infinite. She is my essence. In her highest self, she has no fear. She is always in the truth, and she is courageous in her truth. She is me. I am her.
I know this, yet I get caught up in my humanness (as humans do). In my appearance, my identity. So what’s all of that for? Perhaps mirages for us to grow through and overcome. Yet also, without our identities, we would all appear the same. The beautiful thing about the external world is that we get to choose. We get to choose how we present ourselves - with our clothing, hairstyles, spaces. We have the freedom of self-expression. What hairstyle (and outfits and home items) would you choose if you broke down some of the conditioning around identity? If you detached from your identity and made choices from your truest form, without trying to prove anything to yourself or others? In this case, I didn’t make the choice of how my hair would look, but I choose to embrace it - to see myself clearly regardless. The importance does not lie in the choice itself, it lies in the intention behind it. When we don’t have motives, or when the only motive we have is to feel connected to ourselves, we become free.
Photo by Jamie Arrigo