“Freedom lies in being bold.” — Robert Frost
I was blessed to be born 110 years after the emancipation proclamation, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never been enslaved. I may not have worn shackles or forced to pick cotton, but like most humans, I’ve lived with shackled thoughts and in a mental cage.
Recently, I freed myself from one of them by shaving my head. If you’re looking at the headshot that accompanies this column, here’s a newsflash: I don’t look quite like that anymore and that’s not even my real hair.
Some may consider the move to be a bold statement. The reality is that it was really an exercise to free myself and embrace what is. I suffered from hair loss for more than 10 years, but for the last couple of years I came to a place of acceptance of it.
It took years, but I went from literally mourning the loss of it, to being embarrassed about it and eventually talking about it openly. I was so open that any time someone complimented me on my hair I’d tell them I bought it in the store.
Despite my openness, I still had concerns with my balding head. I’d seen the videos of women whose wigs flew off. I grew tired of worrying about a strong gust of wind, racing to find a scarf when an unexpected visitor rang my doorbell or having my face drenched in sweat on a hot July day because I was wearing two sets of hair on my head.
The truth was I had enough of the fear, shame, and emotional turmoil of feeling less than a woman because I had lost my “crowning glory.”
I learned a long time ago that whatever you’re in fear of or worried about will continue to grow if you don’t face it. Despite having faced a number of my fears, this hair thing had grown into a monster in my life, peering out of the closet at the most inopportune times. It had way too much power over me, and that power persisted because of my resistance. Even though I had come to grips with the idea of losing my hair, clinging to the hair I had left felt like purgatory because I was stuck between the two worlds of hair or no hair.
Like every other person who has dealt with something they didn’t want to face, the only way for me to find freedom was to do the bold thing, the brave thing. Taking power back from the monster of fear meant embracing what is. My genes had taken some of my hair. My CHOICE was to shave off all of my hair and own my bald-headed glory. In that shave I felt like a butterfly that had emerged from its cocoon, free to be my fully colorful and beautiful new self.
To be completely transparent, I’ve been using keratin hair fibers to fill in the bald spots (my buzz cut looks so real that even I can’t tell where my hair ends and the fake stuff begins). I’ll admit I’m not ready to walk around with the Kojak/Michael Jordan chrome dome (I’m also scared of nicking my head shaving it … based on my track record with my legs). But the most important thing is I’m no longer afraid of making that choice or of being found out. I can choose to wear my hair short in the summer just like I can choose to wear wigs again in the winter to keep my head warm.
In the words of India Arie, I am not my hair/I am not this skin/I am not your expectations, no/I am not my hair/I am not this skin/I am the soul that lives within.
The beauty that comes from making bold choices is that you’re free to be, to own your life and your situation instead of it owning you. I may have lost my hair, but my soul is flourishing and free from the choice I made to embrace it.
My hope is that my revelation serves as an example for you to free yourself from whatever you’re fearful of too.
Tricia D. Teague is a speaker, founder of The Trep School, and trained coach with the Coaches Training Institute. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a free coaching session by going to www.thetrepschool.com/coaching