Does having a place to hide subconsciously suggest to us that we should be hiding?
Up until 2nd grade, for as long as I could remember, I had a thick fringe of glossy black bangs. They hung in an impenetrable velvet curtain against my forehead and would eventually start to obstruct my eyes. My mom would regularly trim them back, but they were always there, like a weighted security blanket.
At some point in second grade, I had a surge of confidence and told my mother I wanted a new hair style. I had this idea that Bangs were for babies. Or prudes:
Even then, I recognized that I carried my fear in my hair.
She agreed, and we refrained from trimming my bangs until they were long enough to pin to the side of my head with a barrette.
I will never forget the Arctic blizzard-level shock I experienced the moment the skin of my forehead came into contact with the open air. I might as well have been stripped naked from head to toe. I have infinite sympathy for all the dogs who won’t come out from under the couch for 3 weeks after being dramatically shaved.
A whole new uncharted level of self-consciousness hit me like a pile of bricks. As my mom pinned down the overgrown lock that was now an official part of the rest of my Hair in what was probably a perfectly comfortable room indoors, I shuddered against wind on parts of my body I had never felt before. Having my forehead (and adjacently, my eyes and a sizable portion of my face) so boldly, unabashedly exposed to the world was like having stage fright without being on stage.
Even though I stayed committed to being fringeless that day, that uncorked flood of niche body image issues stayed with me indefinitely. To this day, I still have this weird aversion to bangs. It’s strictly personal. (I like when other people have them.) They represent of one of my shadow aspects. They simultaneously carry with them the threat of being unprotected and the shame of being unable to handle an absence of shelter.
Ever since that day in 2nd grade, I had more or less the same haircut in varying lengths. I maintained this shaggy, angled wisp of “side bangs.” Side bangs are not an actual fringe, but they hung generously in front of my face half the time, sometimes obscuring one eye like a pirate’s patch.
I would stand in front of the mirror and adjust my side wisp inanely, caught in a vicious cycle of questioning myself. How much of me deserves to be seen today? What unworthy parts of me can I control by hiding them behind this lock of hair?
Even when slicked back with the rest of my hair, my lock of side bangs was always on call, ready to swoop down between me and the world, should I be assaulted by an inexplicable fit of insecurity, self-doubt or self-loathing.
If I was feeling unworthy at any point during the day, my hair would rescue me like some kind of bodyguard and provide me with a place to hide until the storm of being an introvert around people was over.
On one level, I’ve loved having long hair:
My once long, full mane has always struck me as this magical fifth limb that could be whipped around for emphasis after my arms and legs. It was an an exclamation point after a thousand words spoken through dance and body language.
Our hair is also an intuitive connection point to Source. This has been widely documented in a study of Native American soldiers. It is one of the themes in James Cameron’s Avatar movie about an indigenous population whose members are all connected to one unified field through their hair, or neural queue. Hair is highly sentient, a life force all its own. It is a main conduit for our sixth sense. This I believe.
I also believe in doing the opposite of everything I have ever believed in, because in truth, I believe in everything.
One day felt like a good day to buzz all my hair off. I had just finished a series of ayahuasca and San Pedro sacred plant medicine ceremonies at Gaia Sagrada in Ecuador. My wiring reconfigured, I’d been reborn. It felt a natural expression of a pivotal point. I had the medicines’ invigoration to push myself.
Still early spring, my head was a little bit cold for awhile, but that was nothing. A month later, I keep forgetting that there is no arduous pony tail or bun piled behind my head to adjust whenever I want to lay my head down.
It’s just me now. Not me and all my baggage, weighing me down, dragging me into senseless acts of personal scrutiny that were once so compulsive I was unaware of how much energy they drained me of. Just me, completely free.
The subconscious question of “How can I hide myself today?” isn’t even on the table for me to obsess over because there’s no way to mold my buzz cut into anything other than exactly what it is.
I no longer have my lock of side bangs. I can no longer obsessively adjust them to obstruct half my face, one of my eyes, and therefore my personal power. Feeding the monsters governing poor body image and low self-esteem is no longer an option, so I don’t even consider it.
When I stopped feeding them, I had more room to love all the ways I am beautiful, like in the graceful arc of my skull. There’s a ruddiness to my complexion and a brightness to my eyes that weren’t there before when they were twitching to get behind their curtain and under their security blanket.
Limiting my options to engage in dysfunction was one of the most potent things I have ever done for myself. In shaving my head, I liberated myself from my childhood compulsion to hide from the world.
If you could take old, outdated insecurities that limit you from reaching your potential and just chop them right off of your person like hair from your head, never to question your soul’s authority again, would you?
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I Shaved My Head and It Feels So Good to Have No Hair to Hide Behind was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.