As a curly-haired woman, I have a very turbulent relationship with hairdressers. Visiting a hairdresser, especially one that has not cut my hair before, always makes me nervous. Hairdressers recommend visiting every six weeks, I visit a minimum of every 6 months. They cut hair wet, whereas my hair should be cut dry. In fact, curly hair has a whole different hair care process that unfortunately very few hairdressers know of, let alone have mastered.
A few months ago, I realised that my long (hip-length) hair was in desperate need of some professional TLC. Layers were too long; shape was too triangular and my ends? Well, they were long past dead. So, I did some research, found a ‘curly hairdresser’ (i.e. curly hair friendly) that looked relatively trustworthy and decided to book an appointment!
Long story short, I not only got a haircut but also learnt a very important lesson. Let me explain.
The haircut process in itself was actually very interesting and I was genuinely so excited at what the end result would be. And then she finished. Now let me say from the outright, I loved the shape. Every curl sat so perfectly. However, there was one huge problem – I expected my hair to remain somewhat lengthy but to my dismay my hair was now short. In the process of her reshaping my hair and removing all my dead ends, a lot of length had to be cut off. And truthfully, I was not mentally prepared for my new hair. I was so unprepared for the change that I cried the entire trip home from Redfern back to the west.
Now, so what? It’s just a haircut, right? Yes – I agree. My mama always taught me that ‘hair grows’ and as such, I am not someone who is too attached to hair. Yet here I found myself incredibly distraught at my loss of hair.
So, as I sat on the train silently weeping, I started to think. My hair looked good, so I know I that was not the cause of my distress. And in trying to figure out the source of the emotion, I finally understood why I was so upset.
I realised that my notion of self-worth, my measure of my own beauty and ultimately my identity was wrapped up in my long, curly hair. And I know it sounds a bit ridiculous but now that my long hair was gone, I had a real identity crisis. Who was I, if not the girl with the long, curly hair? Do I even suit short hair? Do I look even younger than usual? Does it make my face rounder? Am I just like every other curly-haired woman with short hair?
Self-worth is an interesting notion. The very idea suggests that how we perceive our worth should come from ourselves, however very often we base our self-worth, our measure of beauty or even our identity on specific things in our lives – physical looks, body weight, relationships, jobs, hobbies, accomplishments, knowledge, or wealth. These elements all certainly contribute to and enhance how we view and value ourselves, however I believe we do ourselves a real disservice if we base our entire self-worth on something that – at the end of the day – is just a part of who we are.
Speaking truthfully, growing up I often struggled with self-worth. My parents (bless them) always told me I was ‘loved and special’ but I didn’t always feel it. ‘Special’ were the ones who had boys’ attention during high school, who were good enough to captain the sports teams, who would be included in singing groups, who had lots of friends or were visibly talented. And then there was me. For so much of my life I felt very ordinary and often very invisible (but that’s a story for another time). As I got older, my hair turned into the curls we see now and became this beautiful, unique feature that was mine. And I suppose somewhere along the journey of growth and self-love over all these years and realising my own worth and beauty, my hair – and specifically my LONG hair – subconsciously became a significant part of who I was.
So significant that an unexpected hair chop sent me into a spectacular spiral.
As I write this now, I ask – what are you basing your self-worth on? I believe we are all beautiful in our own right. Not reliant on any external factor or visible element but rooted in the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that we have been created and given a purpose, and that we are loved and made worthy by the Most-High. Our self-worth (and identify) is not dependent on our height, weight, colour, race, hair type, relationship status, friend circle, economic position, talent, spirituality, physical appearance, mental strength, public recognition, our past, present or future – we are deserving of our own self-worth no matter what.
That night I learned a very important lesson about self-worth and about myself. It took some time to adjust to my new hair (which I love by the way) but more importantly, I was able to start the process of adjusting my measure of self-worth and reframing how I viewed and loved myself. It’s all a journey and I will always be learning, discovering and rediscovering – but it’s growth and growth means progress.
If you have a healthy measure of self-worth, that’s wonderful. Keep on, and maybe lend your wisdom and tell your story to those around you. If you, like me, have had a slightly skewed measure, that’s okay too. May you gently and assuredly find your way and learn your worth and may that bring the peace that comes from knowing you are loved and worthy just as you are.
‘He makes all things beautiful in its time, and all things includes you.’ – Ecclesiastes 3:11