The Happiness Connection  

Willing to shear your hair?

You are so brave!

What would you need to do to deserve such an accolade?

Go to a foreign land by yourself?

Quit your secure job to become an entrepreneur?

Or maybe this comment would come because you decided to cut your hair.

My friend Shannon has beautiful, thick, fast-growing hair. She never shies away from trying a new style and has worn her hair at a multitude of different lengths.

Recently, she decided to change from shoulder-length hair to a pixie cut. As the stylist worked her magic, my friend was conscious of the reactions she was getting from other women in the salon.

They were supportive, but also surprised that she would do such a thing.

One woman told her that she was “so brave.”

In Shannon’s words: “‘I feel like "brave’ is a really strong word for getting a new haircut. Soldiers are brave. Rape victims who speak out are brave. Kids who survive foster care are brave.”

This anecdote got me thinking about two different things.

Why are so many women afraid to cut their hair?
What do you have to do to be considered brave? Is there a standard?

To get a clearer answer to the first question, I asked my own stylist for her thoughts. She started by sharing her personal experience.

Long hair makes her feel more confident, sexier, and thinner. She is already confident, beautiful and slender, so I was surprised by her answer.

Her insight on why women in general are afraid to cut their hair revolves around the desire to look young. Younger women tend to wear their hair long, so it stands to reason that as women age, they feel they look more youthful with long hair.

Women also believe that men like long hair better.

Is there any truth in these beliefs?

Let me turn to evolutionary psychology. Your No. 1 drive is to survive, both as an individual and as a species.

There isn’t a lot of research available about hair length, nor are the findings conclusive. Here is what I uncovered.

Subconsciously, men are attracted to women who are healthy enough to bear children. There is some evidence to show that long hair is a sign of good health.

There has also been research that suggests it is less important how long your hair is, if you have a face that men find appealing. For the most part, men are drawn to faces that look young and healthy as they are signs of an ability to reproduce.

As I’ve said before, health is the subliminal key to being attractive. Rather than worrying so much about weight, styles, and hair length, concentrate on eating well, exercising, and inner wellbeing.

Let’s move on to how our society views hair length.

Longer hair is more common among women, while shorter is the norm for men. I suspect we have been conditioned to believe this is normal. To break out of that mould can be scary. You are likely to carry a hidden fear of being judged.

In my opinion, it takes some men more courage to grow their hair than it does to cut it. The opposite is true for women.

I don’t know how the length of your hair makes you feel. You can feel any way you want about your hair, but it is probably worth taking a moment to consider why you have those beliefs.

If you are female, do you like your hair long, or do you feel good about it because someone else likes it long? Do you hold on to your locks because you think it makes you more youthful or feminine?

These distinctions are subtle, yet important, to consider.

The second question intrigues me more.

What do you have to do to be considered brave? Is there a standard?

This is where your personal experiences and values show up. You are likely to see yourself as “normal” and therefore judge others against what you believe and the life you have lived.

Does cutting your hair require courage? Not for Shannon, but for many people the answer is a resounding yes.

For one woman, a pixie cut may be uncharted territory. It may be their first experience going against the subliminal norms of our society.

I have spoken with women who said the hardest part of chemotherapy was losing their hair. They hated many of the other side effects, but that was the most traumatic one.

In the case of fighting cancer, the decision whether to have long hair, or even to have short hair, was beyond their control.

I think the important lesson from all of this is to remind yourself that what takes courage for you, isn’t going to be the same for everyone else.

Instead of judging whether something requires courage or not, inspire others to take a step out of their comfort zone and try something new. Assure them that they will survive the experience.

I have no idea how Shannon felt the first time she had her hair cut. It may have taken more courage than it does today. Perhaps she has never defined herself by the length of her hair.

Regardless of the answer, she has changed her style often enough that it is common. It requires little or no bravery.

My favourite part of Shannon’s experience, was her appreciation for the opportunity it gave her to pause and examine her beliefs.

There is something to learn about yourself and the world around you every time something catches your attention.

If you want to do something that requires courage, begin by taking little steps. Each time you venture into the unknown and live to tell the tale, you are giving your brain evidence that you are a survivor.

This will make it easier next time you are pushed into circumstances that take a lot of bravery.

You will look that challenge in the eye and tell yourself, “I will survive.”

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories