How I Stopped Worrying About What Others Think of Me

“Live your life for you not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself.” ~Sonya Parker

On August 4, 2022, I buzzed off my long, thick, luscious hair.

I marched up Sandy Boulevard in Portland, Oregon, walked into Take Pride Barbershop, and sat in the chair with the most badass barber. She quelled my last-minute fears and boldly took the clippers to my never-shorter-than-shoulder-length hair.

It was instant liberation.

I had finally worked up the courage to do so after four years of internal debate and worry, which went something like: What will people think? Will people think I’m a man? Will people treat me differently? What if I’m actually ugly and my ugliness will be revealed? What if my head is oddly shaped? Will I have to wear a bunch of makeup?

My worries and thoughts were clearly steeped deep in societal conditioning about beauty and femininity. We are told that long hair is feminine and beautiful. We are told that young women aren’t supposed to have short hair. We are told that if you are a woman with short hair, be sure to wear makeup and jewelry so you look feminine.

But I finally stopped all the thinking, broke free from those norms, and I just did it. I said, “Off with the hair!”

And now I feel free-er, sexier, and prettier.

I feel more like me.

It’s as if I shed layers that were actually hiding my true essence. My true essence as an adventurous, empathic, sensual being who sometimes feels soft and tender, and other times feels bold and badass. My true essence as someone who is wary of rules and authority.

It’s also as if I shed layers of my ego. Because whether I like to admit it or not, my hair was a significant piece of my identity as a woman. Hair is an expert communicator, with the ability to send so many messages through a single glance. Hair communicates gender, sexuality, wealth, age, health, and parts of our personality.

Now that I have shed my long hair, I think the only part of me that is still communicated via my hair is my personality. For one can no longer look at me and quickly deduce my gender, sexuality, wealth, age, or health. (I do have very toned muscles and glowing skin, so people should be able to make an assumption about my health, but some people only see the short hair and assume I have cancer).

What is communicated boldly is that I create and live by my own rules. And if people know one thing about me, THAT is exactly what I want them to know. 

My buzzed hair also lends an air of mystery, as people wonder about all of those other little check boxes (gender, wealth, age, etc.) that are usually communicated via hair.

While I did shed some layers of my ego, my buzzed head also makes a pretty strong statement, and in full transparency, I get a lot of attention. This attention comes in all forms.

Sometimes it’s “Excuse me sir…oh! I mean ma’am.”

Sometimes it’s “You need to wear lipstick to look more feminine.” (Who said I wanted to look more feminine?!)

Other times it’s “Omg, you’re so beautiful” or “I LOVE your hair.”

Sometimes I get free guac.

I get a lot of smiles from passersby on the sidewalk.

I get a lot of lingering looks at the post office, the coffee shop, and the dance floor.

And while I do love to be called beautiful (who doesn’t?!), I don’t attach myself to the praise or the criticism because I have decided for myself that I am strong, radiant, and beautiful, from the inside out. I no longer care if people think I look masculine or feminine, ugly, or beautiful. I don’t care if people in Idaho think I have cancer. I don’t care if people think I look like a skinny boy without makeup on. (What’s wrong with looking like a skinny boy?!)

This level of not caring, of being so confident in who I am, is the ultimate freedom. 

Plus, I know that when people react one way or the other, it is not really about me and my hair. Their reaction means that I activated something within them. I activated their desire to be free and to stop following the rules that someone else laid out for them.

In the best cases, I offer others a little permission slip to step into their own boldness. Which is one of my favorite parts of buzzed life—when women tell me I’ve inspired them to buzz their long hair! That they were so worried about what people would think, but after seeing me do it, they now have the courage too. That is powerful.

So while the hairstyle of one woman may seem like a simple and insignificant thing, it actually plays a small but important role in the liberation and empowerment of women.

For when a woman has the courage to push back against beauty standards, that courage is ignited, and she also develops the courage to choose freedom in other facets of her life as well. 

For me, that has looked like more sexual freedom—making me more playful in bed and bolder in sharing my desires—and more confidence in all areas of my life.

Buzzing my hair has also created more time in my life, as I spend less time getting ready. It’s created more mental space, as I no longer spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about how to style my hair, when to wash it, and whether or not to get it highlighted.

It has also freed up more money because I no longer spend hundreds of dollars on highlights and cuts. My fiancé buzzes my hair at home and, occasionally, I bleach it myself.

It’s also led to freedom in how I dress. Sometimes I like to dress to express my femininity. Other times, I dress to express my masculinity. As someone who used to be deeply insecure about her tomboy-ish-ness and lack of desire to wear makeup, I have reclaimed the masculine parts of me with pride, which has been an integral part of my healing and expansion journey.

It has also deepened my sensuality. In the shower, the water massages my head more intimately. On a summer day, the sun kisses me deeply. On a breezy morning, the wind and I dance a graceful dance. On the dance floor, the softness of my fiancé’s lips activates my crown chakra. I feel less separation between the world and me. I am more integrated. I am more aware of my oneness with the natural world.

Yes, all of this because of my buzzed hair!

So I’ll leave you with a few parting words of wisdom:

1. People are going to talk and have an opinion about you no matter what, so you might as well do what you want and be who you want.

2. Others’ opinions of you really have more to do with them than they do with you, so don’t take stuff too personally and concern yourself first and foremost with your opinion of yourself.

3. If you want to buzz your head, do it. If you don’t like it, it’ll grow back. But I bet you will like it!

So here’s to taking action to live as a more free, wild, and confident you!

About Teresa Towey

Teresa Towey is a coach and mentor for women. Teresa curates individual and group spaces to guide you in breaking free from societal expectations about what you “should” do, so you start doing what you want, and are free to express the most wild and creative parts of you. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram. Use this link to schedule a free consult call!

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