Finding My Most Amazing Self
The woman who cuts my hair and gives it its natural shade of blonde said something to me the other day that brought me down a couple of pegs. I was having one of those days where I felt tired, I was cranky, I certainly did not feel pretty after waking up with a pimple the size of a nickel and puffy eyes from spring allergies. Negative thoughts where my friends and we were getting along just fine. Dragging myself to get a hair cut was not really what I wanted to do, but I had hit that place where my hair was too long and if someone didn’t cut it I may do so myself. (I hope some of you can relate.)
Basically, I was having a low self-esteem morning.
So I sat down in her chair and tried not to stare at my puffy, allergy ridden face. She started to talk with me about how things are going, she knows I have a book coming out that is based off my research on women using music as a means to heal from trauma, and she was asking me how things are going. I relayed a few stories and talked about where things were at in the publication process. She listened intensely. As she was cutting layers into my hair (and I was staring at the half- inch of roots that had grown in, trying to find any sign of gray) she started talking about an organization she has joined. Her goal is to, one day, have her own business and she joined this group to learn from other professionals and to expand her own education. She told me she had never been to college and was trying to read everything she could to make up for lost time. Then she said, “You should come to the group meeting one day.” “Uh, ok”, I responded still thinking about the half inch of evidence that my blonde might not be natural. “No, I’m serious” she said as she stopped cutting and stared at me through the mirror. “What you do, what you are doing, the people there would be really into it. They would find you so interesting. You do stuff.”
I snapped back to reality. Here I was thinking about the novelty of what I look like and all the things that I was finding wrong with myself. I was sure that I would walk into that salon and she would be thinking, “Ugh, I have to cut the hair of that girl with the huge zit. Can’t she come and see me when allergy season is over? The sneezing and runny nose is beyond what I should have to deal with. And seriously, get your roots done more often.” In social theory this is akin to something called “the looking glass self”, the idea that the way I see myself is constructed via the way I think others see me. Except, in this case, the way I was seeing myself was so far from the way I was being viewed. My reality check told me that my hang-up on my looks was keeping me from seeing another person’s intellectual curiosity. I was so hung up on finding gray hair that I forgot to say things like “What kind of business? Where would you open it? Why did you want to join that organization?”
I think, sometimes, we assume that we will feel the most amazing about ourselves when we seemingly have it all together. Great hair, no zits, perfect bodies, straight teeth, clean houses, great clothes, four-star dinners, ideal partners, well-behaved pets, new cars, amazing jobs, children who behave like angels. There is this belief that perfection will make us emotionally stable and physically desirable. We forget that our most amazing selves exist outside of perfection. Perfection is the ideal no one can achieve. And, when stressing out about not looking or being perfect, we miss the great moments in life where you can learn from someone else, to expand your own self. I am a little embarrassed that I was so busy thinking about the way I looked that I missed learning about another person’s dreams, especially since we had spent so much time talking about my own. Lesson learned. I may still look in the mirror and see the gray hair, but I will not let it overcome me. I will fight it with being present when other people are sharing their dreams or goals with me. And with hair coloring applied in a purposeful manner by an amazing person who will one day rule her own salon.
Soundtrack for Today: “Hair“, Lady Gaga
Adrienne Trier-Bieniek, PhD is the author of the forthcoming book “Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos”, which is available for pre-order on Amazon. She studies emotions and music as well gender stereotypes in pop culture. Adrienne is a professor of sociology at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.