Hearing comments about your alopecia is often upsetting. Comments can come from strangers or people you know. Sometimes they are thoughtless or inconsiderate. Occasionally, comments can be deliberately rude or hurtful. This can be upsetting and distressing and may make you angry or tearful.
Having a strategy for dealing with comments can be really helpful. Thinking about how you would like to respond helps you to build confidence and feel prepared.
What kinds of things might people say?
AAAF created this great infographic about some of the common comments people with Alopecia hear. There is also a companion piece with what people can say instead. Find the full-size infographics here and here.
What you can say?
If you feel safe and confident enough to do so, there are many ways to you can reply to comments about your hair.
You could try to inform them about the condition.
- “I have Alopecia Areata. It’s an autoimmune condition.”
- “I lost my hair due to a medical condition called alopecia. It affects up to 2% of the population.”
- “I don’t have cancer. My hair doesn’t grow due to a condition called alopecia.”
Another option is letting them know the comment was inappropriate or hurtful.
- “It’s not very polite to make comments about someone’s appearance – I doubt you would like it.”
- “I overheard what you said and just want to let you know that that isn’t a very kind thing to say.”
- “I don’t have a problem with my appearance.”
You can also assert your boundaries and request privacy.
- “I don’t want to talk about my medical condition with a stranger.”
- “That’s not something I want to discuss. I’m sure you can understand.”
- “Please be respectful – how I look isn’t any of your business.”
What can you do?
You also may not wish to say any of these. It can be confronting and stressful to speak up. Choosing not to engage is totally understandable. You still have many options in how you can respond if you don’t wish to talk.
If you don’t feel up to responding verbally, you can still show that you disapprove of the comment. Ignoring the person is one option, and help to remind you that unkind people are not worth your energy. Responding with your body language by frowning and crossing your arms, or shaking your head and looking away, can also be powerful.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is remove yourself from the situation. This can be especially helpful if the comment is deliberately rude or aggressive. If you feel the person is unlikely to change their behaviour, walking away shows that you aren’t going to respond to their rudeness.
Remember anger doesn’t help
It can be extremely upsetting and frustrating to hear comments from others. Feelings of anger are very normal. However, responding with anger or rudeness will often make the event worse. This can feel unfair – if a person is rude and unkind, you might want to give them a piece of your mind. But this will often cause the situation to escalate. If you feel anger and frustration, removing yourself from the situation can be a better option.
What should you do after the event?
Once you’re away from the situation, check-in with yourself and address how you’re feeling.
Mindfulness and meditation practices can be helpful. Here are some options which may work for you:
- Slowly counting backwards from ten, focusing on nothing but the counting
- Take some deep breaths, paying attention to how each out breathe is different to the one before.
- Close your eyes and listen. List 10 things you can hear or smell around you.
- Writing down your feelings in a letter or journal
- Taking part in an activity you enjoy, such as exercise, spending time with friends, a favourite movie
Negative comments can introduce more negativity and doubt. Reassuring self-talk and saying or writing down positive affirmations can be helpful.
Try the following:
- “I would never say something that unkind. People who are that unkind are not worth being upset over.”
- “I am okay. The people I care about love and support me. I know myself and my value.”
- “I value people who are kind and compassionate. By saying these comments, this person has proved that their opinion doesn’t matter.”
- “My hair does not define me.”
If you find yourself struggling to be positive and kind to yourself, think about what you would say to a close friend if they were in your position. It can often be easier to be comforting and compassionate to a loved one. If you are still struggling, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
Talk to someone else about the event
Regardless of how to respond in the moment, you may still feel hurt or upset afterwards. Speaking to a trusted friend or family member can help to seek support and comfort. If you find yourself distressed by the event for a long time, consider speaking to a mental health professional.
If the comment happened at a workplace, education facility, club, or business, you may be able to seek further help. Consider reaching out to your boss/staff/management and telling them about the event. Let them know why the comment was inappropriate, and what might help moving forward. Informing people about Alopecia Areata can help prevent future comments.
How have you responded to comments? What tips and tools have you found helpful? Let us know in the comments.