Our hair holds huge emotional implications – for blogger Callie Thorpe it related to long-held insecurities, but cutting it off had a surprisingly uplifting affect
The first time I seriously contemplated cutting my hair was at a GHD Chop to the Chin event in association with Little Princess Trust. The evening was designed to encourage women to cut and donate their hair to a charity that makes wigs for children who suffer with hair loss. I had the longest hair in the room and as I sat through the presentations and one live hair cut I thought, ‘Maybe I should do this’. After all it was for such a worthy cause. The next day I talked it over with my husband and even with my Instagram followers but soon after I backed out as I had done many times before.
My hair had always been such a big part of my personality and I’m not ashamed to admit that I had an unhealthy attachment to it. As an adult I have never had short hair and although I have gently experimented with colour, my hair throughout the years has mostly looked exactly the same.
My attachment to my hair ran deep, growing up I was always overweight, I was the biggest in my group of friends and secretly suffered with disordered and binge eating after the loss of someone very close to me. My size had a massive effect on my self-esteem. I was so self-conscious that I would often try to hide my body or make myself smaller in situations and my hair played a huge part in that.
It became a shield, a form of protection. If I had long hair it would cover me up and divert attention away from my double chin and my round face. The longer my hair, the safer and more hidden and I felt. It was what people noticed first and complimented me on, saying things like, “Oh wow, it’s so gorgeous and long, I would love hair like yours – never cut it!” Or, “You wouldn’t be you without your hair”.
These comments were validation that at least one part of me was beautiful and they fuelled a need for me to keep my hair long. As the years went on and I gained more weight, the issue with my hair became something more serious. I would go months without cutting it so it would stay as long as possible and when eventually I did get it cut I would get upset if more than a tiny bit was taken off.
Even after I discovered the world of body positivity by sharing my life on my blog, my issue with my hair remained, in fact it got bigger. When I gained followers on social media channels I continued to be known for my mermaid locks. No matter what outfit I put on, no matter how daring it was for me, I felt far less self conscious so long as my hair was the focus of it.
After going on holiday and taking stock I started to address some uncomfortable truths. Looking through my old photos, I realised they all looked the same and this struck a chord with me. Although my hair was long, there wasn’t much I could do with it. It couldn’t hold a curl, it was unmanageable and quite honestly it was mostly thrown into a top knot, and definitely wasn’t a medium of self expression. For once in my life my hair felt like a frustration. I had grown as a person but I was stuck in the past and it was my hair that was holding me back.
This realisation spurred me on to book in for a dramatic haircut. That night I cried but it wasn’t really about my actual hair. I cried because I was letting go of the old me. Saying goodbye to the girl who used her hair as a comfort blanket and taking the scary step into finally facing up to my insecurities.
The next day, as I sat in the hairdressers’ chair and heard the scissors snip, I cried one last time and then a sense of relief rushed over me. Cutting my hair made me feel physically and metaphorically lighter and when I packed my hair into an envelope to donate to the Little Princess Trust I realised how unhelpful my attachment had been. When I thought about the fact that there are children and women out there who lose their hair every day because of cancer or long-term illness my issues paled in significance.
Hair can make us feel beautiful and boost our confidence, but it’s only part of our identity and realising this has made me feel more beautiful than ever. Plus I actually really like the new me.
Images: Callie Thorpe