When I was taking classes for my education degree, there was a lot of talk about learned helplessness. Basically, if you fail enough times in a certain situation, you just stop trying (there’s a lot more to it, so feel free to head over to Google if you’re interested). This is how I feel about my hair. Some may think I’m crazy. I’ve gotten plenty of compliments on my hair on various occasions. So, what’s the problem? Well, let’s go back a bit.
From the time I was around 8 up until maybe 22, I was a classic tomboy. I ran away from all things I considered girly. One of those things was doing my hair, my friends’ hair, dolls’ hair, or any hair. I washed it and brushed it when needed, and that was it. Sometimes I would put it in a pony tail for sports or for times I had gone too long without washing it (sorry if that’s gross). Because I was heavy, I didn’t feel pretty or feminine. Instead of putting in an effort and potentially failing, I created a new identity for myself. (Note: This is not meant to be a projection on anyone else’s experience. It’s just an honest assessment of my own.)
This strategy stopped working when I was about halfway through college and started to be seriously interested in getting married and starting a family. I thought a good first step might be shopping in the women’s clothing section.
This led to things like watching a lot of What Not to Wear and buying hair products that I had no clue what to do with. When something didn’t look right, I figured I should just buy a new product or get my hair colored or cut and see what happened. I would spend time in front of the mirror trying to figure out how to style it. Eventually, I would give up because I didn’t feel like anything worked. Enter my good old friend learned helplessness.
The cycle continued when I met my husband. I (actually, the Holy Spirit) had chipped away at a lot of my image issues, but I was still unsure of myself and vulnerable. I put a lot of pressure on myself to figure things out. I started working out, wearing makeup regularly, sifting through my closet for what I thought he would like, and doing something (anything) with my hair. While it’s good to make an effort to look attractive to your significant other, I was yet again finding my identity in the wrong place. I felt lost and inadequate. And, it was all self imposed.
After we got married and the pressure lifted, I started gaining my weight. When I was looking at a picture recently, I noticed that my hair was also neglected. My hair routine is the same now as it has been since I was a child. Wash and brush. That’s it. The simplicity of it isn’t the problem. The problem is that I still feel helpless, and I’m ready to change that.
Here’s what my hair looked like a few days ago:
Because I know that any change is a process, I am starting small. When I look at hair tutorials and articles online, I find the instructions are way too complicated. “Just a braid” is never that easy for me. I need the very basics, and I can’t find them. The first step was a haircut. Starting with the existing hair length would be overwhelming to me. By the time I’m done detangling, I’m just done. So, here’s my just-cut hair:
I am not my hair or my weight or my appearance, but how I present myself is a message to the people I meet about who I am. I’ve given people a lot of different messages over the years. Today, my message is that I rejoice in my Creator who has designed me to look the way I do for a reason, and I am taking steps to care for His creation.