How Cutting My Hair Changed My Life

Image courtesy of Kanji Photography.

Image courtesy of Kanji Photography.

Coco Chanel famously said, “A woman who cuts her hair is ready to change her life.” Well, she wasn’t wrong. I was tired of fighting with my inner demons. I was tired of running on the treadmill, out of breath and exhausted by the unchanging scenery. I wanted something different.

Let me give you some context. I am busy. Like really busy. I work a full time and a part time job, edit two websites, write for several others, teach yoga and raise my toddler. At the time I made the big chop, I also had two stepdaughters visiting from out of town (grand total of seven people staying at my house) and had just enrolled in an intermediate level Chinese class. At some point during this summer, my long, perfect, make-all-the-girls-jealous 3C curls went into a struggle bun and stayed there.

Like most other women, especially women of color, I identify with my hair. We spend, as a community, billions of dollars on it. I had often talked about cutting it all off before, and had rocked cute bobs and shoulder length cuts. I had never gone much shorter than that until a couple weeks ago, when I walked into a barbershop with a screenshot from Pinterest and told them to “take it off.”

Cutting my hair made me realize something: just because other people wanted what I didn't want, it didn’t mean that I had to keep it. There wasn't even anything wrong with it. I just didn't enjoy it anymore. And when I started taking a close look at my life I saw that I was doing that everywhere. My life was just like my hair—it looked great, but it was full of problems that I didn't want to have anymore.

That extra twenty minutes in the morning made a disproportionately large impact in my day. It was time to sleep in, time to do my make-up. I didn’t have to debate if I’d look like a hot mess after the gym or if I’d sweat out my press. I could leave the windows down in the car. I could try to do a headstand in yoga class. I had freedom to move.

Cutting your hair off makes your whole life look different to you. My new haircut was telling me what I really craved in my life—beauty, confidence and simplicity. I started looking for other things that I could cut, starting with my hours at my full time job. When people asked me why I did it, I simply said “I don't want to be there anymore.” For some reason, cutting my hair had given me permission to take a stand in other areas of my life. “I don't want to” finally became an acceptable answer. I hadn’t asked everyone in the world for permission to reinvent myself. I just did it. And you know what? Everyone loved it. I felt emboldened and validated. My confidence soared--mostly because I think I had no other choice. I couldn’t hide behind my tresses and think about whether I was prettier with my hair this way or that way--I had to rock it or I’d look like Frederick Douglass. So I cut off my insecurity too. Continuing the trend, I planned a closet purge. I threw out bags of clutter. I dusted off my business plan, filed an LLC and started taking concrete steps towards opening my own business.  

Your hair, your skin, your age, your bank account—none of these things define who you are. But we all make the mistake of collapsing our identities into those things. Sometimes it's healthy to create a mini-crisis for yourself so that you can write a new definition for yourself.

Are you ready to change your life? What can you give up to help you move forward?