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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 556: Why I Shaved My Head

I shaved my head a couple of years back and kept it shaved for a total of about one year. Recently a point in my life has opened up that reminded me of that time and I realised that there were so many people who asked why I did it at the time and that I have never given the complete answer I wanted to give. So here it is...

Aside from making a statement to show the world that "I am one vote for world equality" there are many other aspects that were present. Yes, it was part of an effort to draw attention to a message that we need to change, that there are things that happen and exist in this world that are unacceptable, but it was also a big point for me personally, and I imagine for many (maybe even most) people in the world.

We give our appearances a lot of value and attention. We have become a very visually oriented society and are constantly trying to appear a certain way in order to fit in and be validated by others. It is safe to say that a large part of our identities and self worth is linked directly to what we look like. Hair forms a very big part for most people in their appearances and self image, almost like our hair is a part of our self definition and if we were to no longer have it we would be worth less.

This formed a big part of my choice, by shaving my hair off I was proving to myself that "I am not my hair" and that I will not wither away and die without it. Sure, I got some funny looks sometimes, but they were great opportunities to practice not giving a dam about what other people think of me (based simply on my appearance). Not having hair did not change me in any way. I was the same old me, just bald. It was a cool opportunity to test my self image - to see where and when I would allow a thought of "what do they think of me? Am I ugly now that I am bald?".

That is the biggest fear for most women. We value our hair as something that adds to or even is the basis of our 'beauty', so we fear that not having hair will make us ugly. Obviously the whole belief system around beauty/ugliness/appearances is based on a bunch of ideals that we literally made up and now choose to hold. In another time and another place, the ideals of beauty would have been completely different to what they are now - it is an ever-changing concept - and it controls a big part of many peoples' lives.

By shaving my hair I proved to myself that I was not controlled by my idea of beauty, nor by my desire for acceptance. Obviously my one act alone cannot change the world, it cannot change those beliefs that are so deeply engrained into so many people, but if even one person understood why I did what I did and started to question their own beliefs of beauty, then my action created a ripple effect, where one person speaks to another who speaks to another and so spreads the seed to question a small part of society that they so readily accepted before.

It's easy to say that you are not defined by your appearance, but it is another thing entirely to really ask and answer that question honestly. I asked the question in the most honest way I was able to. I challenged myself to answer it honestly by facing each thought that came up within me and looking at why I had placed so much value in my appearance and in how other people saw me. I am not what I look like. The length of my hair does not determine what choices I will make. The colour of my skin does not determine whether I will treat others with kindness or compassion. The colour of my nails does not determine whether I will respect another person. In this society, those things may say something about who you are, but they do not control you or the choices you make.

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