From a young age, I was told that my hair was beautiful. It was the one (and usually the only) thing I was ever complimented about. From family members to random strangers, people would always take the time to touch and marvel at my hair; telling me how unique it was, how I should never change it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I hated the attention. In fact, it was the total opposite, and to this day I find a perverse amount of satisfaction when people coo over the colour of my hair; and that ladies and gentlemen is the entire problem.
Before I realised it, my entire self-worth was tied up in my hair. I grew it out, washed my hair in lemon juice and did everything to make sure it stayed as blonde as possible. I wasn’t satisfied until I had the blondest hair out of all my friends.
‘Is that your natural colour? Never change it! Promise me.’
One memory, in particular, reinforces these feelings when I dare to delve into it. I was around nine years old and visiting my parents for the summer who were living in Germany at the time. I had a minor accident while playing mini golf that resulted in me needing plastic stitches on one of my eyebrows. I don’t remember the pain or how scared I was whenever I think about this particular memory, just the nurse and her words.
‘Is this your natural hair colour?’
‘Yes,’ I smiled proudly, sharing a look up at my mother.
‘Never dye your hair okay! It’s so beautiful. Promise me?’
I hesitated a moment. She wanted me to promise her to never change my hair? Ever? At the time I had no idea why the idea of promising her this seemed so…damning, so I did it.
This kind, well-meaning nurse had inadvertently tied a sense of obligation to my hair that had nothing to do with me. From that day on, my feelings of self-worth were even more strongly fused with my hair. I was beautiful because of my hair, it was the one thing that made me stand out in a sea of people; It’s the one reason people even spoke to me.
I’m trapped in the unhealthy mindset that the moment I change myself I no longer have ‘real beauty’.
As I grew up and become my own person I wanted to change it, to explore my own self. I wanted to dye it pink and blue and go crazy. My choice of clothes as a teenager was daring and somewhat horrifying when I look back on it. I more mismatched socks and big cat eared hoodies. I felt new, I felt creative, but the moment I took them off all of that was gone. I was just boring me again. Plain Naomi with her blonde hair that was now chopped into a semi emo-styled haircut.
My mother gave me a few highlights in my early teens after I reluctantly agreed to with the promise that they would grow out. I initially liked them, feeling pretty good about myself…that is until a small voice produced it’s vipers tongue and hissed in my ear.
‘This is unnatural. If people find you pretty now, it won’t be because they like you. It will be the ‘altered’ you that they like.’
I became obsessed with the notion that if I changed anything about myself, anyone I date wouldn’t love ‘me’ but they me that I had created. An artificial me. Would they even like the ‘real’ me. These thoughts still consume me to this day.
‘You have such beautiful hair!’
I can’t tell you how much I would love to dye my hair pink. Hell, I even have a Pinterest board specifically dedicated to this one topic. But I know I never will. While the length of my hair is slowly growing disconnected to my self-worth, I have yet to win this ‘colourful’ battle with my (asshole of an) subconscious.
There is hope, however.
Thanks to a steely perseverance and various attempts of dip dying, I’ve convinced myself that getting highlights is okay and the next time I venture back to Wales, I plan to go get my hair highlighted. I still have mixed feelings about it and still feel suffocated by the idea of becoming ‘fake’, but I’m determined.
Soon I will be turning 25 years old and I’m sick of getting in my own way. I still have a long way to go, but I’m ready to start tackling things I’ve been too scared to address. I’m ready to challenge myself and break that promise I’ve tried so hard to keep.
Thank you for reading this post. My mind has been a little scrambled recently, so I’m sorry if this seems all over the place. I would love to hear your stories. Do any of you out there understand this feeling? Have you experienced anything similar? Let me know in the comment section below.
Have a great day all.