College is stressful, no doubt. Papers, tests, assignments and work responsibilities tally up like the strands of hair. Insecurities multiply, snowballing with a glorious force. These past two weeks have been difficult. I have questioned my self-worth, drowned in a river of insecurities, and have never felt as if I’ve ever had a lower opinion of myself. I have felt like a failure, the strings of confidence I had spent years lovingly wrapping around myself untangling and falling to the floor. It’s amazing how quickly years of work can disappear. And it’s amazing how deeply insecurities can sink your teeth into you, perpetuating a spiraling tumble of questioning your self-worth.
I knew I was in a place I could not afford to be if I had any success of continuing to struggle against responsibilities calmly, and for someone who is, admittedly, incredibly vain, I decided a trip to the hair salon would suffice. Vanity is extraordinarily psychological; pat on lipstick or don a new dress, and a person can go from feeling like the lowest individual to one who can take on anything. As I entered the hair salon, I was greeted by my stylists, a bubbly brunette with a remarkable tendency to calm her clients. I showed her an image of the balayage I desired, and her vivacious personality kept me company as she worked through my hair.
As each strand was lifted and painted on, it seemed that, in congruence to the dye lightening my hair, some inner part of me that felt terribly depressed seeped out of me. Who knew that a lightened strand could be so powerfully cathartic? It was then I realized the absolute power of hair.
I had never done anything to my hair before. I entered the salon as an individual with “virgin hair,” or hair that had never been treated before. I never understood how strands of hair could be a psychological precursor for an ego boost. I had never considered hair treatment to be so uniquely tied to one’s perception of themselves. I had never thought that as my stylist ran her calm fingers through my hair, weeks’ worth of insecurities could melt away.
What I did to my hair was simple enough. It was a basic balyage, where selective chunks of hair were lifted and lightened. The final look was incredibly subtle, barely noticeable if I hadn’t excitedly pointed it out to all my friends, but it was enough, truly. It was enough. It was enough for me to feel like the confident woman that is my persona and the image I present to the world. It was enough for the brief reprieve from insecurities to settle in.
Of course, the trip to the nail salon didn’t hurt. I chose the white color, and when I think back on that choice, I think I subconsciously chose a white nail color because it was a metaphorical blank slate; I had decided that my insecurities would not rule me so firmly, and saw an opportunity for a blank slate, a new beginning.
I think I’m addicted to hair treatment now—I already have the next trip planned. And I’m not addicted to it for reasons involving vanity, I’m addicted to its psychological power. After all, appearance can be instrumental in changing your perception of yourself, including melting away any insecurities, and I’d just discovered the power of hair.