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Should I shave my head?

A letter writer wants to shave her hair off, but worries that she might regret it and spiral back into bad habits.

Can our elder help her feel better about herself?

Dear EWC

Hi! I am a high school girl, and I have been wanting to shave my head for about a year now. I want to do this to empower myself and to learn to accept myself no matter how I appear physically. I have struggled with body image most of my life. As I am moving into college and my adult life, I want to learn self-love and positivity. I have wavy, soft, shiny blonde hair. I cut it off into a pixie a couple of years ago, and it is a little lower than my chin as of now. I have been valued on it since I was a child. I am curious to see how I am valued without it, as well. The one thing holding me back is not fear of regret itself, but fear of what might make me regret it. I am a bit overweight, and I’m scared I will become more aware of it without hair to hide behind and fixate on. I struggled with an eating disorder for a few years, and I really do not want to spiral into bad old habits. I am considering shaving for my local St Baldrick’s foundation and raising money. That way, if I did find myself regretting it, I would at least know I helped a good cause. So, that’s that. What would your advice be for me? Shave, or hold it off?

SuzannaRoseanna replies

My take on this is that you should leave your hair alone. You said that you have had trouble with body image most of your life and want to learn to love yourself. You also said that you (and others) have valued your lovely hair and that you are a bit overweight right now. I can’t really see how purposely removing a part of your body that you feel good about would have any chance of making you feel better about your body. I think you could find better ways to use your motivation to learn to feel better about yourself.

You might begin by making an honest assessment of what you like and dislike about your body as it is now. I mean an actual list for reference. The things you may dislike are possible candidates to work on (unless they are things you can’t change, then the issue is about acceptance). The things you like are ones to emphasize, not get rid of! Since your hair is a trait you like, you can make it a point to keep it shining clean and to wear it attractively. Adding barrettes, hairbands, and other accessories could play it up more. Oh, and I hardly think you are “hiding behind” your hair when it’s just chin length. I think you’d have to be Lady Godiva to hide behind your hair!

Since you’ve had an eating disorder, you have experience with this and, hopefully, you know from experience what helps you and what doesn’t. I encourage you to go back to whatever the approach to this was that helped you in the past.

You mentioned shaving your head to raise money for a good cause. I think you could more productively raise money without shaving your head. In fact, you might broaden the idea of helping others in need, by doing some volunteer work rather than trying to raise money. At this time of year, some especially good possibilities could be helping out at a food bank, delivering meals on wheels, visiting elderly people in nursing homes, or helping to walk dogs at the humane society. Any of these things, or others you might think of, could help you feel better about yourself because you would be actually doing good things for other people.

Most of all, I would like to see you work on seeing yourself as competent, worthy, and attractive. Affirmations to that effect, written on Post-it notes and put around the house, and in your school books, purse, etc, can be good reminders. Also, make it a point to be around people who are positive and value you. This might be a good time to consider broadening your circle of friends to get an infusion of new positive energy. Some new friends might surface as fellow volunteers if you decide to go that route. You could also join a club at school that focuses on some interest you have. I hope these suggestions will be helpful to you!

Letter #: 414587
Category: Self-Improvement

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