We all have our “things”—the signature stuff we are known for—and for me, it’s my hair.
Or more specifically, it’s how often I change my hair. It’s been long, short, red, blond, and most recently, I’ve opted for a buzz cut, or as I like to refer to it…my “no hair” haircut.
For some, hair is just hair—no attachment, no statement, and no big deal. And for others, it’s more than that; there can be deeply rooted, meaningful reasons behind the aesthetic choices we make.
For a long time, I had no idea why I changed my hair as often as I did. I’d just get this itch and off to the salon I’d go. It took me more than a decade to figure out why I couldn’t settle on one style and why I felt the constant need to reinvent myself.
The truth is that I didn’t know myself, and it took the end of a 10-year relationship, a lot of reflection, exploration, and hair to fall, before I found my way toward my true self.
Currently, I’m using the number two setting on my clippers and this hairstyle has generated more conversation than any other. Everywhere I go, people want to talk about my hair and the reactions have been pretty interesting.
The most frequent remarks I hear are, “At least you can pull it off,” “Not everyone can wear their hair that short,” or “I wish I could do that, but I would look terrible with my hair that short!”
My response is often, “You can wear your hair this short. Just do it, cut it off!” But that response is a bit flippant because the thing is, it’s not just hair.
People have lots of reasons for wanting to keep their hair long. It can act as a security blanket if they’re self-conscious. Some people grow their hair to donate it. And others suffer from illness that change the texture of their hair and make certain styles inaccessible.
We wear our hair a certain way for infinite reasons. But I had just two reasons for wanting to cut mine off:
First, I just really couldn’t be bothered with it anymore. I didn’t want to spend any time on it. I’m not judging people who do; I spend plenty of time on other appearance-related things (scouring consignment shops for clothes, hunting down vintage jewelry, and sitting countless hours for multiple tattoos). I just didn’t want to spend time on my hair.
Second, I have an inherent rebellious side and a desire to be my own person. Cutting my hair is my way of thumbing my nose and giving the finger to the mainstream media that bombards us with messages of one version of beauty. The ability to go against the grain—to allow my true self to shine—has been hard fought.
Like many others, I set out on a path that seemed prescribed for me: school, job, marriage. And like roughly half of those who marry, I got married to a person who wasn’t right for me. I was young and I didn’t really know who I was or how I wanted to live my life. That relationship ended and the experience taught me a lot about myself.
Some of the things that didn’t sit quite right with me as a young woman, like my ex’s reaction to my getting my hair trimmed or comments like, “Just sit there and look pretty,” fire me up as a confident woman in her 40s. It seems to me that when you marry before you’ve figured out who you really are, you can either head down a path where you grow together as well as support each other’s growth as individuals, or you can focus exclusively on nurturing the relationship at the expense of exploring and creating a self that is separate and genuine.
Unfortunately, I headed down the second path and lost myself.
When my marriage ended, I entered into a new relationship fairly quickly, about six months later—not something that I would recommend—but when you find someone who really sees you and appreciates you, you forge ahead, unresolved issues be damned! Fortunately, I met someone who fell in love with me even as I was evolving. He weathered my emotional ups and downs and even embraced all of the changing hairstyles as I worked to figure out who I was on the inside and allowed that to shine on the outside.
In the last decade or so, I’ve been on a path to figure out how to live my best life, and more recently, I’ve the gained confidence to make decisions that are true to me. The work that I’ve done through yoga and meditation has allowed me to connect to my inner self. And when we operate from a place of authenticity, shifts and changes are inevitable.
I am not static, my life is not static, and allowing the shifts to evolve naturally as I continue to get to know myself better makes change seem less overwhelming.
I was chatting with a friend a while ago and we got to talking about yoga, spiritual practices, changes that we want to make in our lives, and how it can all seem pretty daunting at times. I thought about it some more and said, “Ultimately, I just want to be the most authentic version of myself, in all situations, with all people, all of the time. That is my priority, and any changes that I make or personal growth that I strive for has to align with that goal.”
It’s been a long process, but I can now confidently articulate who am: I’m a free spirit at heart. I’m passionate and impulsive. I love learning and trying new things. I believe that growth and change are not only inevitable, but also desirable. This is my authentic self.
In my amazingly full life, I am striving to make things less complicated, to let go of what is not true to me, to release what doesn’t bring me closer to myself—including my hair—so I can make room for the things that do.
Author: Kelly Henley
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman