For most of my life I have had long hair. And to be honest, my hair was who I was in many ways. I equated my beauty with the length of my hair. And the longer it was the more beautiful and confident I felt.

So whenever the thought of cutting my hair crossed my mind, it caused so much anxiety. I felt as if I would be cutting off who I was. Imagine the fear of losing who you are based solely on the appearance of your hair. It was terrifying to believe that I could so easily lose who I was with a pair of scissors.

It wasn’t until after completing my eating disorder program that I realized where this fear was coming from. And even though it’s been two years since I’ve been in an actual program, it is still an extremely raw and vulnerable thing to come to terms with. Just like losing weight gave me confidence and almost a sense of protection, my hair did the exact same thing. My hair had been a security blanket I used to shield and protect me. I used the beauty of my hair to deflect attention from who I really was because it was easier to be the “pretty girl with beautiful long hair” than the “pretty girl who was going through emotional and mental turmoil.”

As much of a train wreck 2017 has been, it has also given me exactly what I needed. Time. Not being in school and only working part-time, I was able to spend a lot of time reflecting on who I am and what I stand for. And oddly enough, I was still correlating my hair to who I was. Which caused a whirlwind of decisions and mental arguments leading to scheduling an appointment at a local hair salon. As scared as I was, I knew it was something that had to be done. I cut off twelve inches and donated the hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths campaign.

Immediately after cutting off my hair, I didn’t feel the way I would have expected to feel. I expected to feel shy, quiet and muted. I had envisioned not wanting to draw attention to myself, because I was no longer acceptable as a woman. I just cut off all my hair for crying out loud. I looked like a boy! Well that’s what I told myself anyway. But in reality, seeing my short hair for the first time was the most empowering feeling I have had in years. Instead of feeling like I had lost myself along with my hair, I felt like I had finally regained who I was. I no longer had my hair to hide behind. I had to be vulnerable and actually be seen as the woman I truly am instead of my hair.

Though cutting off your hair may not seem like a big deal, for some of us it is, because just like I had, some of us use our hair for more than just the physical appearance.

On that beautiful June day, I cut off more than just my hair.

I cut off the standard of beauty that society has placed on me, and all women.

I cut off my toxic relationships.

I cut off my security blanket.

I cut off my past.

And most importantly, I cut off fear.

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