Waking up and struggling with self-esteem before my first cup of coffee can be a friggen daunting thing. As I stared at myself in the bathroom this morning, all bleary-eyed and with my pajama shirt inside out, I couldn’t help but feel unsettled. Not in a major, god who am I? kind of way. No, we’re not that dramatic before 6 a.m. It was more in a “thrown off guard” kind of way. I frowned slightly as I tilted my head, not quite recognizing the brown eyes that blinked back. We’re so used to seeing our faces that sometimes it’s a bit of a shock when you stop and really take it all in. And with the frown deepening, I ran my fingers through my hair, feeling antsy over the way the waves fell around my shoulders. For the first time in a long time, I hated my hair, and it wasn’t for reasons you’d suspect.
I’ve always been the type of girl who never stressed herself out over a haircut. I’d listen to my friends’ tearful phone calls over botched layers or too-short-bangs and I’d try to cluck sympathetically as I smothered the giggle down. "We’ll get through this tragedy together," I promised. To me, hair was just hair. Unless you got the stylist’s initials buzzed into the side of your head, it’s never really that bad. I’m one of the fearless few who walk into a salon without a plan and look the hairdresser straight in the eye and say, “Whatever you think is best.”
And I’ll admit, that’s landed me in some hot water in the past. One time I saw a YouTube video that promised a weird curling trick would make it easier to trim your bangs and so, curious, I did it. And by some unknown laws of physics, it turned out that I cut my previously Deschanel-inspired bangs into a sharp, skeltered “v” that started about a half inch from my hair line. I looked like a Barbie doll that was victim to a toddler with safety scissors. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I did this impromptu-DIY experiment at Easter dinner at my cousin’s house. When I walked back into the living room my mother was rocked with shock, she brought a hand to her throat and gasped in horror. She was so horrified, in fact, that I’m pretty sure she whispered some old Polish curse at me as she did the sign of the cross. I shamed the family name with my offensive skill with scissors.
Another time I walked into a Great Clips (a Great Clips, you guys) and the only person working there was a burly Armenian man with both chest hair and snake tattoo alike battling to come out of his unbuttoned shirt. Most people would see this and run. I, however, was in the mood for an adventure and stayed. And then proceeded to ask him to hack off 10 inches of hair into a pixie cut. As you can imagine... it didn’t end well. I had to swallow my laugh for a solid 15 minutes as I watched him give me a David Bowie shag and then nearly got a hernia from that caught laugh when I saw he squirted gel into his palm and started running a comb through my sides a la the Fonz. The four block walk back home was interesting, to say the least. Again, I looked absolutely tragic, but I didn’t really mind it.
And while some of you are ready to call my bluff, I’ll explain why I didn’t mind it. I always thought myself as pretty. Not in a cocky way, but in an, “It’s just me and you, bud,” kind of way. In the end, I’m all I have. And I know I have a beautiful heart and I have enjoyed seeing myself grow and work to be the woman I am. So I never allowed myself to be petty towards myself. I never allowed myself to think the word “ugly” when it came to a botched cut or as I’d pinch my thighs as I sat in shorts. I wouldn’t do that to my best friend, and I wouldn’t do that to myself. Gabourey Sibide says it best, “One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl... It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see.” I’ve always believed that to be true.
That is, until recently. Which brings me back to this moment — this morning when I’m standing in front of the mirror, scowling at my brown mop. I hated it. I flicked a glance at my round cheeks, my smattering of freckles, and with some heat, wished I was prettier. And that shocked me. With a slight jolt, I snapped my eyes back to my reflection and felt real sadness. It wasn’t my hair. Of course it wasn’t. It was my attitude.
Over the past few months, I’ve been in a slump and, as the days passed, I’ve been slowly chinking away at my self-confidence. At my self-worth. I let myself feel insecure. It’s a sneaky thing, when you wake up one day and realize you’ve been putting yourself down for weeks, without you even knowing it. As my slump grew, I felt myself blend into the background. At first I thought it was being humble and quiet mannered, but really I was letting myself shrink. And as a result, I started fretting with my hair. I became obsessed with finding a good cut, a way to curl it like all those pretty blonde girls, finding a way to make my bangs look more Alexa Chung and less Matilda. These feelings were full of nothing but fret, and all completely new to me. So as I brushed my hair back once again, I sent a quiet apology to myself.
I haven’t been feeling like I was appreciated, like I was noticed. I felt like I didn’t hold that same light I did a year ago, and that’s a tall order to realize. So instead of admitting to those vulnerable feelings (because admitting them would make them real), I gave those feelings a new home and decided it was all because of my hair. If my hair was better, I’d get it all back. The same goes with you wishing you had a better wardrobe, or you pinching your arm fat and wishing it was gone. Those aren’t the real issues. The real issues are the hurts you feel underneath that.
So maybe if you admit to yourself what that hurt is, and try to work to solve it, you can finally become a little more forgiving towards yourself. No more pinches and no more narrowed eyes. Your outside is beautiful. Take care of what’s inside now.
Images: Author's Own