I sat looking at myself for several hours today. I was in a training salon getting my longish, golden locks chopped into a short, pixie cut. I’ve shaved off all my hair before during ‘Shear Inspiration’ in 2007 to raise money for Children’s Cancer Society (always a worthy cause to give to), but this was just a ‘normal’ cut. Usually at schools where people are learning to become hairstylists, most people just get a trim, so my transformation was a relatively big deal there. So, over the half-day experience I had time to think about the mind, new experiences, and watch myself change in real time.
A rose by any other name…
I decided to get a pixie cut, which is a short cut, with longer hair on the top than the sides. The heritage of this cut in women’s styling started with icons like Audrey Hepburn, Mia Farrow and Twiggy. I DO realize that having a hair cut, colour, style like someone famous won’t instantly make you into that person – in some ways I’m thankful that my Lady Di cut so many years ago didn’t stick – but I love the idea of channeling the essence of the greats in whatever form. Just look at part of the name of the cut – pixie – which historically has been known as short in stature, attractively childlike, fond of dancing and wrestling, generally benign but sometimes mischievous – hello, tick, tick, tick, yes! When I work with young people, I often ask about their heroes (real or imagined) and discovered that while there were many traits these heroic figures had that young people wanted, there were often a number of similar attributes that the ‘heroes-to-be’ already possessed. Because the mind works by association, we often aim to connect – sometimes it’s a long shot, but more often than not, there’s some link between two thoughts. And because the mind also uses metaphors and representations, it may not be a bad idea to create these symbols in our own lives. So what did the cut mean to me? That I could let go of annoyance and weight without fear, that I could be sassy, ballsy yet feminine, that I could confidently be different from the norm while still looking and feeling good. Sometimes making explicit our implicit assumptions helps to guide in what we actually want. Not bad for a trim.
Looking at how you Look at Yourself
I don’t know whether you’ve ever spent time looking at yourself for extended periods of time (after your teen years) but it’s an interesting experience if you watch your thoughts and feelings. Clothed in a black smock, I felt like a talking head looking at myself, and listening to an interesting stream of conversation from within. None of it was inspired by outside influences – it was all me. I heard encouragement about the decision to go ‘short and sassy’; I heard plans about the new path this haircut would set me out on; I heard criticism about my face, my posture, my wrinkles, my… And that last voice was the loudest, yet the most insidious. She literally took classic phrases like “don’t make a face or it will stick like that” and twisted it into regrets about making faces in the past that might have contributed to lines in my complexion twenty years later. That voice made me want to close my eyes and not, literally, face myself.
Fortunately, I realized that I was stuck in this face-to-face position for hours, so needed to ‘reflect’. I stopped and listened more carefully – much of the disparagement was, in fact, fears or questions, some of the disapproval was comments from others in the past taken in by a critical ear. What would I say to my clients? To people I love whom I see berating themselves (from my perspective) for no reason at all? I’d be compassionate, loving and supportive. I’d listen to their valid fears and suggest options, and highlight where a new view on an old pattern might be beneficial. And so I did. Now, if you’re not used to treating yourself in this way, you’ll find that there will be some mild to extreme, ‘kicking and screaming’ talkback, but stay firm – your constancy will pay off over time.
What do others see?
While this interesting conversation was going on within, the conversation on the outside was much different. Because the cut was out of the norm for the beginner student, there were a flock of educators making sure the process went seamlessly. So imagine an assembly of people adding comments like “it’ll really suit your face”, “how brave you are”, “this is going to look fabulous”, to “wow, your eyes really pop when you’ve got short hair”. At first, these voices were simply white noise, but as I cleared out the disturbing rubbish that was filling my own head, the expressions came in louder and clearer. The words of Marianne Williamson rang through during my mental journey, “We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” And it’s true, as she goes on to mention that our playing small doesn’t serve the world. It’s not that we will spend our lives looking at the mirror hoping to be the fairest of them all, but that we can look at ourselves without the mirror and know that being the fairest might not be the most important thing, but know that we are “meant to shine” and do.
Little change, big impact
I left the salon lighter – while only grams of hair were left on the floor, the change did me good. As I accidentally flipped my phantom hair, I realized that the saying “a change is as good as a vacation” was true at times. In the world we are always looking for the big change, the profound shift, the turnaround – and it can seem scary that we have to do it all, now. Maybe it’s time to think smaller, to tweak little things in our lives that start that bigger change in ways that work for us. I often suggest that clients underachieve every day, rather than overachieve never – the former tends to get us to our goals rather than waiting for the perfect time and space to do that big change – and waiting, and waiting… A haircut may not change my world, but it gives me pause to consider what little changes I can make in life that will, in fact, impact me and my world even more. Just a little (shave and a) haircut, (and my) two bits.