On body empowerment and fear of change

They say that you should do one thing every day that scares you. Not like punching a shark or jumping off a building, unless those are up your alley, but little things in life that are just outside our comfort zones. Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens and where you change your life!

I am going to tell you a story about my hair. Every time I cut my hair short, I love it but I can’t wait to grow it long again. “I miss my curls,” I say. “I love long hair,” I say. And I do. My hair looks very pretty when it’s long. What tends to happen, though, is that I wear it the same way every day. Up in a ponytail, out of my face. I wear it down some days when it’s freshly washed and looking particularly nice. I do not style it, though sometimes I mix it up and do a side ponytail or a braid. Me + long hair = comfortable.

So comfortable, in fact, that I spent a lot of time and energy over the past several months wondering if I should cut it short again. I was afraid to cut it.

A-F-R-A-I-D. Scared. Frightened. Worried. To cut my hair. Is that not the silliest thing you’ve ever heard? Fearful of a haircut? It’s literally hair. It grows back. The absolute worst case scenario is that I didn’t like the cut, and then I just had to wait a while and grow it back. This is about the lowest-risk thing I can imagine, and I was very worried over the decision.

Hair worries

What could I possibly worry about?

  • Not liking the haircut
  • Regretting the haircut
  • People thinking I copied my sister’s haircut
  • Boyfriend not liking the haircut
  • Accidental scissor injury

Hair serious

Let’s get real. Here’s how those fears would play out:

  • Don’t like the haircut? It grows back.
  • Regret the haircut? It grows back. Plus, if I donate to my a wig charity it’s like hair philanthropy and I can’t regret that.
  • People think I copied my sister? Whatever, a million people have this haircut and all that matters is I like it.
  • Boyfriend doesn’t like it? Good thing it’s not his hair and all that matters is I like it. (Spoiler alert: He loves it).
  • Being stabbed by a stylist? Like, seriously? Seriously. Not happening.

Why it pays to do what scares you

I walked into a salon and told them I wanted to donate my hair. They looked at my ~12″ of hair and said, “It might not be long enough… or, it will be a really short cut. Like a pixie.” I showed the stylist a photo I found on the internet, she looked at it for all of five seconds, then she put my hair into two ponytails on either side of my head and sliced them off with scissors.

In the moment she first took scissors to my hair, I felt that panicked feeling. As soon as it was off, I felt free. There was no going back, no more option to decide.

She cut the other side’s ponytail. She took a trimmer to me and literally SHAVED MY ENTIRE HEAD except for the top. I didn’t realize it was cut so short on the photograph I showed her, and even while she did it, I was still afraid that it was somehow “too short.” More fear. More worry. This girl continued to slice and dice my tresses until I was pretty sure I was completely bald because there was no way I had any more hair. She styled and blow dried it and I’ll be damned if it didn’t look just like the photo I showed her!

I left the salon feeling confident and EMPOWERED. I had made a drastic change to my body and my appearance and the effect on my confidence was immediate. I felt in control. I no longer had to worry about whether or not to cut my hair, whether anyone else would like it, or whether even I would like it. I completely love it, it suits me perfectly, and everyone in my life has absolutely gushed over how great it suits me – even people at work who you would never imagine to notice such things. To top it all off, there’s just enough that I get one little cute curl in my bangs. Life is good. Haircut is good.

When body change is scary

A haircut is a risk-free body modification. Some people get piercings and/or tattoos, some people cut and/or dye their hair, some people build muscle, lose weight, gain weight, or otherwise change their body’s shape. These are all changes to our physical appearance.

And changing one’s physical appearance can be scary.

If you’re totally happy with your hair and not scared to change it, that’s cool. Rock on. But I bet there’s something else you are a little afraid of changing. Maybe it’s weight loss. I know that I’ve been afraid of my own improving fitness since I started.

Here are some things I’ve thought about:

  • What if getting fit changes me?
  • What if I don’t feel safe in a smaller body?
  • What if my overweight body has become part of my identity? Do I lose who I am when I lose 50 pounds?
  • What if I think I am already beautiful? Does that mean that I am unhappy with my body if I want to get leaner?
  • What if my partner doesn’t support my efforts?  Does that mean I am in an unhealthy relationship, or that my partner doesn’t support my goals?
  • What if I don’t have the money to buy new clothes when I go down in size?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if my family and friends reject me for being different?
  • What if I grew up with my parents telling me I was fat, and I am afraid to prove them wrong?
  • What if people see me differently?
  • What if I attract unwanted attention?
  • What if people at the gym laugh at me or judge me?
  • What if people at restaurants laugh at my healthier food choices or judge me?
  • What if I allow myself one snack in moderation and people make jokes?

I counter these fears with the following questions:

  • What if getting fit makes me a better person?
  • What if I feel strong and empowered every day through my fitness?
  • What if I develop a new identity around that empowerment?
  • What if I accept my body’s beauty no matter what size it is?
  • What if my partner accepts and encourages me, and even joins me in fitness?
  • What if I got to buy a whole new wardrobe that makes me look and feel fantastic?
  • What if I succeed beyond my wildest dreams?
  • What if my family and friends are inspired by me and make their own positive changes?
  • What if I am able to finally break free of childhood self-esteem issues and do what is best for myself?
  • What if people see me as myself and not my body?
  • What if I attract compliments and admiration?
  • What if people at the gym give me a high five and encouragement?
  • What if people at restaurants take my lead and order healthier menu items?
  • What if I allow myself one snack in moderation and stop there, knowing it doesn’t have to be a big deal?

Flip your fear

The next time you feel afraid of doing something, whether it is big or small, flip your fears around. Decide to exhaust the list of “what if” statements that are POSITIVE instead of everything that might go wrong. Let your fears empower you to try something new, push outside your comfort zone, and take a chance on making a positive change in your life.

If you’re reading this, your track record for making it through fear and worry has been 100% so far. You’re still here. And you are amazing!

I leave you with this inspirational line from a poem by Erin Hanson:

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

What if I fall? Oh my darling, what if you fly? Erin Hanson quote

2 thoughts on “On body empowerment and fear of change

  1. starfish says:

    That’s interesting🙂 I’m doing the opposite – trying to grow my hair longer than I ever did before; and I think of it as a reversible kind of body modification as well. (Also growing out the first grey strands, which equals a bit of rebellion these days!) When I was 15 or so I got a radical haircut to matchstick length, but that resulted in crazy curls and didn’t look like a pixie at all.
    I’m also totally with you on the idea of getting fit and transforming one’s body in a positive way!

    • Caitlin says:

      As soon as I cut mine short, I want to grow it long again! It’s a constant battle🙂 I am really embracing the short this time. Good for you growing out your grey and being a rebel. It’s just hair, after all!🙂

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