“Beauty” Is Such a Beast

When I look in the mirror I have learned to say hello to my own vulnerabilities. I have learned to look at what I have rather than what I don’t have. There are many I have divulged my “secret” to. Many that I have let in on my biggest vulnerability; my hair loss. So why am I sharing this out loud? Well I feel that my definition of beauty has always been so temporary but I have only recently come to this realization and I wondered if perhaps others could gain something from my realization as well.

So what do I mean by my definition of “beauty” being temporary? Well lets just put it this way; when I received my diagnosis of androgenetic alopecia I was devastated. When I ran my hand through my hair and saw so much come out I was shattered. And when I noticed significant receding of my hairline in various places I was broken. I no longer felt “beautiful”. I admitted to my boyfriend at the time that I was no longer pretty. I began to avoid the mirror because the mirror brought a reality that I did not have the courage to face. “My beauty” was gone. I Googled to find ways to save “my beauty” and cried when I could not find the answers I was looking for. I went through PRP treatments, I tried medication but nothing was working to protect “my beauty”. I cried, I screamed, I fell apart, I even had days where I could not get myself to work until I started to realize how flawed my definition of “beauty” really was. Now I am not going to pretend that I don’t still have days where I get upset however I would like to acknowledge the growth I make everyday towards redefining what it means to be a beautiful person. I reminded myself of the wonderful “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” expression. Why am I limiting my definition of beauty to my hair? Why do I only feel beautiful because I have hair? When I started asking myself these questions I almost felt silly. Silly that me as the beholder have decided that I am no longer pretty. Recognizing myself as the “beholder”, I gave myself the control back. Recognizing myself as the beholder I was no longer letting social media posts about “beautiful hair” bother me. As a beholder I let something bother me for 10 minutes instead of for a whole day. As the beholder I recognized my power, the power to not allow feeling beautiful to go away even if my physical features change.

Now this is something that I wanted to write about when I felt like I found the right words and of course when I was ready, so here we are posting this a year after I actually wrote it. Writing this post has made me feel lighter because I feel like I am no longer hiding. I had a friend message me once after he received a notification that I had posted on Instagram after a while (thanks Insta for drawing attention) and playfully said there’s no way that YOU haven’t posted in a while and I laughed but responded back “well when you don’t feel good it’s really hard to pretend”. I pretended for a long time and I realized that I don’t owe it to anyone and most importantly I don’t owe it to my own mental health to put up a pretence. Through this post I guess my hope is that we can all look beyond our own limiting definitions of beauty. My hope is that we don’t have to have such experiences just to have learning like mine but I realize that this is wishful thinking. I don’t seek sympathy through this post. My post is to hopefully encourage others to question their definition of “beauty”. At the end of the day I guess you could say my post is selfish; it helps me to accept my reality and redefine my own beauty. Today I work on challenging what I see when I look in the mirror; I started this post by saying that I greet my vulnerabilities and I practice just that. There’s a difference between being happy about my reality and accepting it. I am not happy that this is my reality but I have accepted that my hair continues to thin and fall out everyday. Acceptance has made looking in the mirror easier; acceptance has also made it easier to focus on other parts of me that I am and should be confident about. Acceptance has made me realize that my thick hair was always one piece and not the complete puzzle. My hair loss is a new piece in my puzzle. I don’t love it but in order to continue completing my puzzle I need to put it in its place. Sure the piece is rusty it might be bent at the edges but it still fits. My puzzle feels more and more complete as I learn to accept my pieces. And I mean what better time than a global pandemic to really focus on my puzzle ;).

I still try each day to do something new or different to help me preserve this sense of control and maybe preserve some of my hair while I’m at it. I take hair vitamins- whether they do anything or not I have no idea but at least I feel like I am doing something. I try oils (which I definitely used to run the other way from) and a few other tricks that my good friend Instagram has introduced me to. I chose to stop colouring my hair and to keep my hair short because it gives me this feeling that it is more full and healthy. But most importantly I keep my expectations realistic; I have accepted that I will no longer have that THICK THICK hair that I once used to go get thinned out at the salon. I have accepted that all these tips and tricks I am trying might not do anything for me. And I have accepted that I am who I am whether there’s a bunch of hair on my head or not. I understand that there are many others out there who are going through the same or even worse but this is just my take and my journey. One thing I have been complimented on is how open I am about it and I guess that was just my way of gaining control. It did however come with some challenges and of course some invalidation from others; I was subject to comments like “it doesn’t look that bad, your hair is still so thick” but I was able to brush these off because I was never seeking validation from others. This was my journey and my process alone. I am happy to say I stand loud and proud on this side accepting that my hair loss exists and with a “this is reality” mindset. I remind myself that others have this or many other conditions worse than I do, not to invalidate myself or my feelings but rather to perspective take. I finally take it as a blessing that I had so much hair that even with losing it I still continue to have hair on my head that conceals some of the areas I feel more insecure about. And I do take comfort in the fact that there are options- I can keep my hair short or I can get myself a wig if it comes to that. Remember anything you go through is your journey and your process alone; kick, cry, scream, do what you have to and don’t set a deadline for the process. I promise you, you will know when you are on the other side.

Cheers to self love & greater acceptance.

– Neha

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