Last fall, I came to the conclusion that my hair had stopped growing.
I started 2012 with a chic bob that looked pretty good on me, but just didn’t feel great. I was ready for long hair again. When it gets long enough, my hair develops some wave – not a lot, but enough that I don’t need to style it to death quite as much. I can muss with it, get rained on, and skip straightening it without it looking lousy, something not possible with the bob. So I decided to grow it back out.
Who knew growing hair was easier said that done? Once mine reached collarbone length, circa June, it seemed to stop growing. This wouldn’t have been the end of the world, except that the length it stopped at is irritatingly high-maintenance, which meant more blow-drying and straightening, which meant more damaged hair, which meant less growth. I got it trimmed in July, trusting to the legend that getting your hair cut encourages it to grow faster – but between July and November, my hair grew barely an inch. I had to admit that for whatever reason, my hair just wasn’t going to reach the length I wanted it to without some serious changes to my hair-care routine. My bad-hair days were turning into a bad-hair year.
It was surprisingly hard to come to terms with that. My hair has always been very healthy. I took it for granted and treated my hair as an accessory, something that could be changed fairly frequently because it would always grow back. Instead, I had to start doing everything differently. Less blow-drying meant more showers before bed instead of in the morning. I went from straightening my hair three or four days a week to not at all. I even tried to minimize breakage by using hair claws instead of elastics. That method lasted about a week for two reasons: one, hair claws hurt, and two, my thick but slippery hair slides right out of claws. Which meant I defaulted to ponytails.
And guys, I hate having my hair in a ponytail. I have a youngish face, and having my hair back instead of down exacerbates it. I can’t hide my slouchy neck when I have a ponytail. Under my new regimen, I wore my hair down maybe once a week, when I was accustomed to having it down four or five days a week. The rest of the time, it was in a ponytail or claw. But that’s what I had to do with my hair every day in order to protect it and keep it growing. I gritted my teeth, wore a little extra makeup and more fun accessories than usual, and told myself firmly that I still looked like my loveliest self even with my hair back.
Maybe the changes in my routine did the trick, or maybe I just wasn’t being patient enough, but my hair is finally reaching a length where I can let it air-dry and see some decent waves develop. Nothing fancy, but nothing a headband or artfully-placed bobby pin can’t spiff up – and it’s infinitely bearable to a dreaded ponytail.
I discovered during those weeks just how much my self-esteem hinges on my hair, and I didn’t really like what I found out. One negative thought led to another, and the worse I felt about my hair, the worse I felt about myself as a whole. I learned quickly that I had to nip my negativity in the bud, or else I’d go from hating my hair to hating everything else, even the things that had never bothered me before.
That led me to try a new self-image exercise: for every negative thought I had about my appearance, I’d come up with two positive thoughts.
My hair is frizzy. Well, it’s getting healthy again, and also my eyes look fabulous today, so there.
My boobs are small. Well, they also look fantastic in this bra, and also my legs are getting super buff thanks to the elliptical I’ve been using, so there.
My bad posture shows with this ponytail. Well, my fabulous collarbone also shows in this boat-neck top, and I’m rocking red lipstick today, so there.
Paying special attention to the parts of me that looked and acted great helped take my mind off the part that didn’t. Some days were better than others, of course, but I only had two options: feel crappy, or choose not to feel crappy. I’m not very good at choosing to do the right thing, but I really hate feeling crappy, which meant making the choice was my only option. Whether it’s about a long-term “problem area” or a single bad-hair day, choosing to feel good about yourself, in any capacity, is a victory. It means you accepted yourself for who you were just then, and that you didn’t give in to external pressures to look a certain way. It meant you chose you, as you are, over what you think you should be, and that’s a win.
What tricks do you use for getting yourself through bad-hair days, metaphorical or literal? (And what hair-care tips can you share with someone who apparently has been doing it wrong?)