Not a day has gone by in eighteen months that I haven’t had a thought or a word said about my hair. Interesting, no?! After all, it’s just hair, right? Perhaps there is something odd or particularly unique about my hair? Different to everybody else’s perhaps? Short answer, no. Simple answer: I’ve been growing out my greys!
Why do we, mainly women, go to these lengths in order to mask our real self? Is it just about self-expression, like clothing might be? When I decided to stop colouring, it had been a decision in the making for a year or two. I had thoughts of, “Am I letting myself go if I don’t colour my hair? Will I look old? How does my hair need to be, to be acceptable in this world?”
But the kicker in the decision-making came when I began feeling I was living a lie. For the first few weeks after colouring, I felt I could shine, let the world see me relaxed, open, and transparent. But when the grey roots appeared, I distanced myself from people; I had to move in a way to hide my roots, forced to think about if I was doing a good enough job to hide the greys, but at the same time feeling a fraud, feeling like a walking lie. I eventually didn’t want to do that anymore.
So my next visit to the hairdresser, I told her everything! We discussed how to transition gently; I was not ‘letting myself go’, but quite the opposite, letting myself be truly seen. I was starting the process of letting myself beam out to the world from the inside out. It’s not an attitude of, ‘it doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside’ – that feels quite given up and aggressive – but rather that the outside vehicle needs to reflect what the inside is. For a long while, I had felt a disconnect: that I was much more lovable on the inside than my vehicle was reflecting.
My hairdresser used foils of a light brown/blonde colour on the new roots, covering only some of the greys. This lessened the demarcation line between dyed hair and not, so the regrowth didn’t appear so savage. I was able to ‘kind of’ hide me growing out my greys, at the same time dealing with the emotions of the process, namely ‘Who am I?’
When you’ve been colouring your hair for 15 years or so, (I’m now 46), that’s a long time to be hiding. It may not be that way for others, but it was for me. I have had to find a new way to move – aka stop moving in a way that was the lie and uncover my natural way. By ‘move’ I mean,
- how I walk into a room (looking differently to before)
- adjust my hair (for practicalities rather than necessities)
- do my makeup (different hair colour calls for different colours)
- how I talk to people about the change – apologetic, justifying or claimed
- my understanding of what it means to age. This was/and perhaps still is, a big one. What exactly is wrong with being ‘old’ anyway?
The emphasis that I (and likely many, many women) place on our vehicle being the point of assessment for what’s beautiful in life, is catastrophic. Focusing on the 1% of us that is our appearance and making sure that’s right (whatever that is), while ignoring the other 99% is madness. There is a light inside us that informs who we are and how others see/understand/accept us to be 1000x more potent than what the body can ever reveal. It is this light that needs to be nourished, nurtured and allowed to beam out beauty. I’m sure there are women who are able to do that as well as colour their hair, but I couldn’t.
I only had two visits to the hairdresser where foils were used, but after that second visit, I realised I was ready to just go with it, no more colouring. The world would have to deal with whatever my hair looked like. I would have to get comfortable with what I looked like.
This has been another biggie; I have never been particularly comfortable with looking at myself in a mirror, but now it was even more challenging. There was no ‘me’ with dark brown hair reflected back, but a new ‘me’ with light and dark grey hair. A completely different colour palette and I didn’t know how to take it. I avoided looking at myself a lot, but there were times too that I forced myself to see what was unfolding. I forced myself to look into my eyes and really see what was there first – the hair, the skin came second. Eventually, at any time of the day, I could see my eyes glistening with light. Each time I faced the mirror I saw that first, felt what that meant – this is the light of my Soul being allowed to shine brightly – and then attending to my hairstyle as needed.
I shared with a work colleague early on in the process how difficult I was finding the transition process and she directed me to an online support group of women who all were at various stages of transitioning to grey hair. This group of women – unknown to me – has felt like a lifeline. There are women all over the world who have felt the pressures to look a certain way and are now choosing to not bend to that anymore. No reacting, no walking the streets with placards and chants. But with a deep seated intention to be who they are, inside and out. This group feels like the sisterhood that should and indeed can be our consistent way with each other.
I am realising that the colour of my hair is unimportant, but the way I do my hairstyle, take the time and care to have it be the way I want it to be is the be-all. No one could ever say that I’ve let myself go by not colouring anymore; that’s clearly a thought fed to me by a source that gets off on me feeling down about myself.
It is difficult to recognise my appearance with grey not dark brown hair anymore. Yet I think after 40+ years it's to be expected that I wouldn't recognise myself, especially if the only way I've known myself to be is by the marker of my external appearance. We have to know ourselves from the inside out, that way the outer appearance won’t surprise us. Somewhere along the way I lost my connection to my Soul being the marker of who I am. If I had had that connection, I doubt there would be a story to tell about my hair colour!
Suzanne A., Australia
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Accepting and Celebrating our Wrinkles