For a long time now, I’ve dreamed of cutting off all my hair. I’ve been through a lot these past few years and it just felt like a way to make a fresh start. Plus, with three kids under three, I was ready for something a little easier to maintain.

Despite how strongly I felt about it, I kept stopping myself … for a couple of reasons.

  1. There’s this stigma that seems to suggest that people who cut off all of their hair must be suffering from some sort of mental breakdown and, well, I didn’t want anyone thinking I was “weak” or that I had “lost my mind.”
  2. Our society places a high value on women’s hair. The beauty industry makes a fortune off our need to have the right style at the right time. We perm, flatten, color, and obsess over our tresses in hopes of looking like we’ve found that perfect balance between playful and professional with a million other labels in between. Why do we do that to ourselves?

Ultimately, as my life was truly crumbling around me, I refused to fall apart. In fact, I felt like an embattled phoenix rising from the ashes and knew exactly what I had to do to embrace the moment—I went straight to the bathroom and grabbed the clippers. Starting with the underside, I laughed at how good it felt to finally be doing it. With every stroke, I let go of something and I’ve been learning more about myself ever since.

We Hide Behind Our Hair

When I ventured out to Old Navy the next day, I quickly realized that many of us use our hair as a shield. Had I been pumping gas or running around my neighborhood, I’m not sure I would have been so self-conscious but, suddenly, I felt like everyone’s eyes were on my unevenly shaven head.

Typically, when I was going shopping or out to dinner, I’d have my “casual but put together” hair to make me feel secure. If I needed to speak to a manager or interact with an employee, I’d feel comfortable behind my smooth, shiny strands. With my patchy scalp showing, suddenly, I felt like there was a power differential. Would anyone take me seriously looking like this?

After several days of reflection, I started actually feeling empowered by my nakedness. I thought more about what I said, what I wanted and relied on body language and eye contact to send my message. I’m still working on it but, to be honest, I barely even think about it anymore!

Gender and Femininity

The ideas we have about gender and femininity continue to be challenged in our modern society and one of the biggest myths is that those who identify as female should have long, flowing locks. I never bought into this type of thinking so it really shocked me when it hit me right in the face.

All of a sudden, I looked at myself and wondered the message I was sending which, of course, is ridiculous. I quickly understood that some of society’s conditioning can sneak in under the radar without ever being detected and, for a split second, I wondered if I had made a mistake.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long (literally minutes) to come to my senses. My gender, and how (or if!) I express femininity is no one’s business but my own! I don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations about how I should look and realizing that was incredibly freeing.

Is It Mental?

Since shaving off my hair, I’ve had so many people ask questions or share stories about when they did something similar. It turns out that a lot of people have this urge when they’ve gone through something significant, but it only makes waves when a woman goes through with it.

There are cultures where people, after a loss, shave their heads as a ritual of rebirth and that’s exactly what I felt. Rather than feeling like this was a sign of defeat, shedding my hair felt like the beginning of the battle cry of my survival. It was the end of a chapter and marked my transition into something new.

When I saw Black Panther, I sat in the theater and marveled at the decision to make the female warriors completely bald. They looked beautiful, strong and untethered from the unrealistic ideals that permeate our society. I may not have Okoye’s defined arms and abs but I’m definitely channeling her spirit!

It’s Just So Easy

I’m still figuring out what length I’d like to maintain but one thing is for sure—I have NO immediate plans to grow out my hair! I love how it feels and I’m thrilled with how much easier this has made my life during a difficult time.

If I want to take a quick shower, I don’t have to think about whether I’ve got the energy to deal with my hair. Sweaty run in the middle of the day? No problem! I don’t even have to think about whether it will leave my hair a mess. I’m not even going to comment on how much this has saved me in hair products!

While I was never particularly high maintenance, I realize now that I cared a lot about how my hair looked, especially as a person of color. This new look has given me so much freedom in ways that I could have never imagined. I have no regrets!

Reframe Your Perspective

Don’t live your life worrying over what someone else might think or say about your decisions. Instead, reframe how you see the situation. What’s wrong with people thinking you are going through a tough time? If you genuinely are struggling and believe that shaving your head will give you a fresh start, do it! If anyone judges you, they aren’t worth your time anyway.

On the other hand, if you’ve just been wanting to change things up but are concerned that you won’t live up to someone else’s standards of beauty, it’s time to move past that way of thinking. You are going to be gorgeous no matter what and the sooner you believe that, the sooner you can start living life on your own terms.

At the end of the day, it’s your body and your hair to do with as you please. Experiment, have fun and take risks. You may learn some lessons along the way but that’s part of the journey, isn’t it? Be true to yourself in all ways, every day.