Power of the bald – Power of me.

This is a struggle for power around accepting this path we are on, and indeed it is a path, not a curse, not a karmic debt or victimization that separates us from others. I see it all as an untying of the knots, a blessing and a valuable lesson on this journey.

We are all born and move through life tying ourselves in knots. Knots are formed through expectations; conditionings, beliefs and they form knots of fear, insecurity, difference and anxiety. We succumb to false identities and ways of being that leave us measuring ourselves against false images of what we should and shouldn’t be.

The moment we leave our mothers womb, we are seeking as human beings a need to belong in the world around us.

We seek acceptance from our mother and fathers.
We seek acceptance from teachers and work colleagues.
We seek acceptance from friends and community groups.
We seek confirmation from anywhere and everywhere outside of ourselves to prove we are enough.

But often we fail to look within, to resonate with ourselves as to who we are. The power that comes from acceptance is the hand that unties these knots that bind us to this fear and self-doubt.

Cutting these ties and existing just as we are and only as we are in each and every moment is where we find power to exist just as we are.Not measuring up or comparing, but being damn well enough, to ourselves most of all!

We find power in who we are by showing up vulnerable and not attached to societies normality. We find power in not following a belief in how we should look through social media and visual representations of the perfect woman or man.

We change our feeds, we look beyond the superficial and we stand proud for the difference we bring to the world. We reach a point of acceptance for that person we see in the mirror when all we have known has been stripped away? We choose, and we choose powerfully, to be all we are in this moment and this day and we keep choosing! For in choice and the choosing we create what is acceptable, what is beauty, what is feminine or masculine and what is enough.

You look beyond the pain; you look beyond the discomfort of what you see. You sit in a place of complete vulnerability and you find comfort in the discomfort.

You slowly untie the knots that have bound you to how you should look and who you should be and you keep unraveling those restrictive knots that limit you in accepting yourself just as you are. You remember with hair or without hair you will find faults or ways you aren’t acceptable because that’s what humans do!

It may be weight, it may be hair, and it may be the size of your thighs or the sound of your voice or the shape of your eyes or the colour of your skin or the choices in lifestyle or the preference of your sexuality. At any given time you have choice to choose who you are for all you are, and all you aren’t, just as you are! No excuses, no exceptions, it’s a damn choice we all have the power of making. It’s a human ability we all possess in any moment – To choose to love ourselves for all we are and all we aren’t.

So to all of my fellow Alopecian beauties, I choose being bald, I choose being different. I like walking into a room full of people and feeling like I am not like everyone else, it means I have a story unlike everyone else’s. It means I am unique and vulnerable and I am okay in the uncomfortable of that and sometimes I’m not and that’s okay too.

It means for the most part I accept who I am in each and every moment and sometimes I’m just faking it till I make it, but I am choosing all of this, every moment and it is there I find the power. It is there I gain strength every time I choose to love me, bald and beautiful and uniquely different.

It is there in that moment that I stand proud for all I am and all I am not, striving and growing and loving me. It is in this power I find strength to become a better human being on this journey to be open and compassionate for every other human being struggling with who they are in this world.

So power to the bald, power to the unique, we all shape the beautiful world that our differences exist within.

-Bianca

 

 

 

Raising Kids with Alopecia (from ex-kid with Alopecia)

When young kids and teenagers first present with Alopecia Areata, it affects the entire family.

It’s usually a highly emotional, stressful and even scary time. There are so many unknowns with this condition – why it happens, how it might develop, will treatments even work?

That’s why AAAF exists. I’ve spent the last few years involved with the largest Alopecia focused organisation in this country, first as a Youth Ambassador, then Support Ambassador and currently as Secretary. I’ve spoken with dozens of parents and kids trying to come to grips with this new diagnoses, and they’re all asking the same question: What do we do now?

A full disclaimer on this before I get started: I’ve never been a parent and I’ve never raised a child, alopecian or otherwise. I maintain strongly that I still am a child myself – a perspective which grows more concerning with each passing year. But I have had alopecia myself since I was very small and have gone through almost every form since.

I can’t tell you what it feels like to raise a kid that’s going through this, but I do know what it feels like to be a kid trying to understand AA and negotiate its’ effects on my life. If you’re going through something similar, then it’s my hope that maybe these four pieces of advice can help.

-Georgia, AAAF Secretary

 

  1. Keep Calm.

As you well know, receiving a diagnosis of AA can be a really scary period for yourself, your child and your whole family. The lack of conclusive information makes it hard to plan for the future and you can feel like you’re making decisions in the dark.

But I promise you, it will be okay.

Hard as it is, you’ve got to stay calm.

Most kids, and especially the very young, will take their reaction cues to the condition from you. If you’re upset, distraught, fearful of the condition, they will be too. I know that sounds like a lot of pressure to put on you, and I’m really sorry. But it’s not actually as hard as it seems. In fact, there are only two things you need to do.

Firstly, try not to focus too much on the hair loss. You might want to check the patches every day, or keep the hair, or measure the patches. My advice? Don’t. Alopecia is frustrating because it will do what it will do, and there isn’t a lot you can do about it. Cataloguing the changes will just become a source of stress, for both you and your kid.

Secondly, try your best to remember the facts of alopecia. The vast majority of people with AA don’t experience full hair loss. Most people have their hair grow back. And for those who, like me, do experience full time full size baldness?

We still have a 100% chance to live full, happy, healthy, active, engaging, and fulfilling lives, the exact same as everybody else.

It’s going to be okay.

 

  1. Keep Doing Stuff.

It’s a common response for people diagnosed with AA to withdraw from activities they once loved. This happens most with teenagers. Physical withdrawal from hobbies and activities and is often paired with emotional withdrawal from relationships and interests.

Encouraging your kid to stay engaged in the things they enjoy is vital for two major reasons.

Firstly, the rapid changes to one’s physical appearance during AA can have a huge effect on self-image and identity. If a child or teen is feeling upheaval about who they are as a person due to the emotional impact of AA, having interests and hobbies to fall back on can be extremely affirming. Not only does succeeding in activities and interests give us a sense of achievement and confidence, it also helps us to define who we are. Sure, we might be bald now, but we’re no different. We’re still a soccer player, artist, gymnast, girl guide, musician, photographer…

Secondly, staying engaged in hobbies and activities, particularly ones with a  team or social component, help to build our child a supportive network to rely on. Having alopecia can feel very isolating, especially if you don’t know anyone else with the condition. Building strong social connections through participation in sports or the arts or schooling can really help to combat any feelings of isolation.

 

  1. Social and Emotional Support.

Research has shown that receiving emotional and social support can improve quality of life for people with AA more than receiving medical treatment and intervention.

As a parent, you do your best to prepare you kid for the world around them. To help smooth the way for kids with AA, I would recommend three things – discuss, explain, and practice.

Speaking about alopecia in the home in a way that’s open, honest, and casual will have a large impact on the way your child, and your whole family, feel about the condition. How you treat the condition as a family will build the foundation for how your child experiences alopecia. If just talking about alopecia is something that is private and always serious or sad, actually having the condition will feel like something that is isolating or shameful. If it’s something which is discussed in an open and casual way, this will help your child and your family feel more comfortable and more confident about the condition. Remember always that this is normal.

Making sure you explain to your child what is going on is also vital. Not only does it help them to feel more in control and less frightened of what’s going on, but understanding the condition will make it easier for them when other people ask about it.

And they will ask about it. Oh boy, will they ask.

So what can you do about that? Practice how they might respond if people as about it. This will help them feel prepared and, again, more confident. It’s completely up to you and your child how you respond to people in relation to AA. If your child want to explain the condition, practice that. If they want to tell them it’s not their business, that’s totally fine to. Get yourself a script that feels comfortable for how you want to deal with it. (Pro tip: Siblings should also be included in practice how they’d like respond to people, because they will be asked about it too.)

Another hugely useful form of social support is other alopecians. Getting in contact with other people and families who are in the exact same boat as you is one of the best things you can do to normalize and stabilize the experience of AA. Not only do you get to share feelings with people who have been there and get it, you can build a network with which to ask questions and rely on other people’s expertise. I really recommend trying to attend alopecia related events if you can, or interacting via online resources.

 

  1. Remember always that kids are just small adults.

My best friend works in a preschool. She has this saying that has really changed the way I interact with the kids I come into contact with through my work with alopecia support.

“Kids are just adults with less life experience.”

It’s easy to think that young kids don’t experience alopecia in the same way as teenagers or adults. I think personally that that’s a mistake. The very young might not have the vocabulary to explain their feelings of the condition, but I think the emotions themselves are very similar.

I mentioned earlier how important it is to make sure kids understand their condition as it helps them be comfortable and confident with it. But more than that, it’s absolutely vital to help kids understand their condition because it’s their condition. Children have the same right to aware of their medical state as adults do, even if the process of explaining it is vastly different.

I also think it’s important for children to have some input into the decision about treating their alopecia. Obviously, age appropriateness is a strong consideration here, but if you’re looking into treatments for alopecia which may be physically painful or have side effects, the child has a right to be part of that discussion.

Obviously I’m not advocating that children should be their own guardians or have the final say in their care – kids don’t always know what’s best for them and the parents role in these decisions is vital. I don’t want to diminish that. But for situations like alopecia, where the condition doesn’t do physical harm and treatment is elective, it’s important for the child to have a say in what happens to their body.

The most important thing in all of this is to talk to your kids. Ask them how they feel about their alopecia and if they want to try treatments. Discuss why they want treatments and unpack those feelings. Make sure they understand that no treatment for alopecia is guaranteed success.

It’s not always easy to talk to young kids (or for that matter, teenagers) about these kind of topics, but it is vastly important. The more you communicate openly and honestly, the more trust you place in their ability to make decisions, the stronger the person they’re going to grow up to be.

 

Raising kids with alopecia areata isn’t always easy. Parents do their absolute best and can still have a difficult path. But always remember you aren’t alone with this condition and there are many people who can help ease the way. AAAF is currently working on a Parents Pack, a resource to help families like yours navigate these murky waters and have a positive journey. You can keep updated with the process (and get involved as well) by checking out our facebook.

In the end, this is all just one persons thoughts on a very complicated topic. What have you found works for you and your family? What experiences have you had that we haven’t covered here? Let us know in the comments – or get in touch with us at lovealopecia@gmail.com to start writing your very own article to share your thoughts with our whole community.

 

As for kids with alopecia themselves? I’ve met an awful lot of them over the years and I’ve got to say, though they all come from different backgrounds and have very different stories to tell, they all have one thing in common. They’re all pretty damn amazing.

Love, Alopecia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tropical Challenge – Beating the Heat while living with Alopecia

alopecia-and-hot-weather-author-linseyBy Linsey

Living in the tropics and coping with alopecia has been an interesting challenge for me.

I grew up in Indonesia practically on the equator. It was hot, sticky and 100% humidity. When I first got a wig I still had quite a lot of hair on my head— hair that I was not ready to give up on or shave off. I was thirteen and I didn’t want anyone to know I was going bald. I was so ashamed. So I wore my wig on top of my hair, sometimes even to bed. I broke out into heat rash on my head and my face. My skin was not happy and neither was I.

Later on in life when I was married and in my mid-twenties I moved back to the tropics. I lived in Papua New Guinea. My hair fell out again, this time it all went. At the same time I was a lot more confident and I had a husband who loved me no matter if I had hair or not. I decided that I would go wigless and instead wore colourful lightweight cotton scarves. They were a lot cooler on my head and my skin thanked me for it. No heat rashes, but I had to carry an umbrella with me where ever I went. Scarves to do not protect your skin from UV!

Ten years on and I now live in Cairns, once again in the tropics. I love the warmth and my sensitive eczema-prone skin adores the humidity that keeps my skin moist. My alopecia progressed to alopecia universalis and I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes. I got eyebrow and eyeliner tattoos and learnt to do my makeup so I feel comfortable with how my eyes are framed. After much counselling and inner healing I am so thankful that I can now go bald on the hottest days. I wear a wig when I want to and the scarves and hats come out if I feel like a bit of colour.

We all know that most of our body heat escapes through our heads so wearing something hot like a wig can be incredibly taxing when our bodies need to let off steam. Even wearing a hat can be very hot. On the other hand being able to take something off your head can be one of the quickest ways to cool down. So when the heat is a bit unbearable a cool cloth on my head or a quick dunk under the tap is amazing!

I’ve also learnt that my head is incredibly sensitive to heat. I try not to go out into the blazing sun too much or I end up with a horrific headache. So, I try and be mindful of where I stand when I’m outside making sure I’ve got more to shelter me than just something extra on my head.

Living in the tropics can be unbearable at times and not just for me in a wig, for everyone. Maybe I’m the lucky one who can take off my wig/hat/scarf and just cool down extra fast.

I watched a really great documentary that encouraged me, it’s called ‘Embrace’ by Taryn Brumfitt. It reminded me that we are all different and unique. Everyone has something that they are dealing with, something that they might not like about themselves. It’s not easy to deal but we are not alone.

Alopecia as a Fashion Statement

By Gemma

I know what you’re thinking, how can losing my hair (and in my case eyebrows and eyelashes) ever be considered a fashion statement? Young girls are constantly bombarded every day with pictures and videos of women with long flowing effortless-yet-this-actually-took-3hrs-and-20-products-to-do hair, and I could never imagine celebrities like Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez without their iconic hat-rack toppers. Having beautiful hair seems to be one of the biggest fashion accessories in Hollywood, and people without it tend to be looked down on. Hey, look how people talked about Britney Spears’ epic head shaving incident of 2007! Even men are told they must have perfect hair and growing up with my little brother; it seems they take longer than the girls to get their hair ready.

gemma3

So in a world where the ideal hair-do can be narrowed down to a handful styles, how does having no head hair compete with that? Well, at the risk of sounding cliché: 50% of the battle is deciding to not really give a damn any more. However, reaching that sense of freedom can take time and to be honest, is a complete emotional rollercoaster ride. I can safely say I went through the ordeal just as much as the next person, and as is the case in this technology-obsessed era; I have the selfies to prove it! Obviously the first step in the climb was to admit to myself that I was indeed losing my hair. That was hard, it sucked, and there were days I sat on the couch and cried with my mum. I soon realised that the situation called for headbands, scarves, and eventually wigs. When I first started I wasn’t very fashion forward with my head accessorising, and this was when I only had one bald-patch.

gemma

When the second one formed I decided to name them Patch and Spot. Unexpected and unique names, I know. Once Spot reared his ugly head I knew that simple headbands weren’t going to cut it, so when my mum travelled overseas I asked her to buy me some pretty scarves. I watched video after video on Youtube and cancer support websites on the different ways to tie scarves, and I practiced and practiced in the privacy of my bedroom. After a while I started getting pretty good, and I learnt how to colour coordinate my scarf with my outfit, and most of the time my scarf added a little extra pizzazz to my day. I learnt to rock it.

A little later I decided to beat Alopecia to the punch and shave the rest of my hair off. This is around the time I started losing my eyebrows and eyelashes as well. This was another gut punch served by Alopecia in the battle, but my parents paid for a makeup lesson and I learnt how to draw them on and how to apply false eyelashes. When there was no hair left and drawing them on wasn’t really an option I found this fantastic website based in America which sold stick-on fake eyebrows. They were made of real human hair and were essentially wigs for my eyebrows – how cool is that? Of course I bought 2 pairs and wore them basically every single day. They stuck on with eyelash glue and after a couple of minutes I didn’t even feel that they were there. Coupled with my wigs, these few bits of hair glued to my face made me feel like no one was looking at me differently.

gemma-4

Then the magical moment happened. When I was getting ready for my cousin’s engagement party I realised something – I was actually pretty lucky. Sure it sucked to lose my hair in the first place, but now that I had, I could essentially choose what I wanted to look like every single day. Blonde, brunette, intimidating and sexy biker chick – I had as many options as my imagination limited me to.

I stuck all the bits of hair to my face and donned my wig for the party; however I underestimated how hot the weather would be. It was too hot to wear my wig and after some internal panicking I decided to go without. The first time in months I was seen in public without anything completely covering my head, Patch and Spot were proudly on display and after some initial questions no one treated me any differently than anyone else at the party. I was amazed! Where was the pointing and laughing I had imagined? Where were the mean comments and rude remarks whispered behind my back? I could not believe it, I felt great and I actually had a completely incredible night.

gemma-5

From then on I learnt to dress my skull up as little or as much as I wanted. I changed my look as often as I liked and I never once got a mean comment voiced within my earshot. I used my Alopecia as a fashion statement. Bald head and dark lipstick? You betcha! I was the shorter Australian version of Jessie J. I did it like it Ain’t Been Done because I embraced that Nobody’s Perfect and the world, well, It’s My Party. Jessie J references aside, I didn’t feel embarrassed to be headhair-less anymore; I used it to my advantage. As you can see from the extra pictures below, I can look like any way I like.

I completely understand that this article must sound like inspiration propaganda and that it can’t be true. I just want to show anyone who’s reading this that it is possible to feel good with Alopecia. Some days are going to feel dark and awful and you’ll sit on the couch and cry and eat a tub of ice cream, and that is completely ok. I did that more times than I can count. Do what you need to do to get through. One day it will feel easier and I promise you will reach the same place as me. Good luck!

“Alopecian” – A Language Guide

ALOPECIAN
[Pronunciation: al-uh-pee-shee-an]

Noun (Informal): A person who has a form of the hair loss condition known as Alopecia or Alopecia Areata.

Plural: Alopecians

Examples:

  • Alopecian women and girls often have a very different experience with the condition than men and boys, but the common assumption that alopecia is ‘easier’ for males is incorrect.
  • Having been an alopecian for most of my life, I have a very different experience in crowded, public spaces than people who do not have such a visible difference.
  • As an alopecian, I loathe being called an alopecia sufferer.

 

I’ve been using the term alopecian for a while now, although I’m certain I’m not the first to do so. I’m also often questioned, almost always from non-alopecians, about why I use this term.

My primary reason for using the term alopecian is simply that I don’t like the alternatives.

“Alopecia sufferer” is probably the worst, for reasons which I imagine are obvious. I don’t think of myself as suffering, a victim of some tragic affliction. The term “alopecia sufferer” implies that the condition is something that is wrong with people like me, which I fundamentally disagree with. It’s demining and implies that I should want myself to be ‘fixed’.

The most accepted alternate terminology is “people with alopecia” or sometimes “people living with alopecia”. These are fine for formal discussion and professional language, and are certainly preferable to the “sufferer” idiom, but still I find them lacking. For one thing, the length and formal address of the phrase feels to me out of place in casual conversation – “Why is that kid staring at you?” “Oh, because I’m a person living with alopecia.” It’s a clunky sentence.

My primary objection to ‘person with alopecia’ however comes from the philosophy behind person-first language.

If you’ve read any disability related literature or been involved in disability advocacy, you’ll know that person-first language is a hot button topic. The theory is that when discussing someone with a condition you should name the person first and the condition second. This is a reversal of the usual English syntax, where the adjective usually comes before the noun (eg. the brown fox, the lazy dog). So instead of saying Deaf person, or autistic woman, you would instead say person who is Deaf, and woman who has autism. The use of person first language was adopted by many advocacy groups in the late 1980’s, based on the hypothesis that how we speak about a subject influences feelings and behaviour toward said subject. Person first language is therefore supposed to the place the inherent humanity of people with disabilities in the forefront and prevent dehumanization and disrespect.

That’s the theory anyway.

Unfortunately, language is incredibly complicated.

While there are a great many people and many organisations who believe that person first language is the way to go, a growing number of people working in disability activism find the terminology and the rationale behind it to be inaccurate, or even kind of insulting. I’m in the latter camp.

There are three potential problems with person first language.

The first is the implication that non-disabled people apparently need to be reminded that disabled folk are still human. I can’t even think of a way to describe that other than ‘highly problematic’. If you need to invent a language paradigm to remind yourself that other people aren’t less than you, I would suggest you have some deeper problems which need examining.

The second problem is that the phrasing of “person with X condition” or “person living with X condition” implies that there is something wrong with X condition. It boils down to the same ‘person with a problem’ descriptor that ‘sufferer’ has. The implication is that the condition is bad, and inherently devalues anyone who has it.

The final issue is that for many people living with these conditions, the idea that they can separate their experience as a person from their experience with their condition is not accurate. For people whose condition/s effect the way they think, feel, interact with people or have access to the world, it’s impossible to separate daily life as a general human from daily life with their specific set of circumstances. Their condition is a fundamental part of their identity and the way that they experience the world.

So what’s the alternative?

Identity first language.

Identity first language uses (you guess it) the identity or condition before the subject, as in Deaf people or autistic woman. Many people find self-identifying in this way to be quite affirming – having a terminology that feels like an ‘us’ rather than a ‘them’.

In the case of certain identities or conditions, this can be difficult when there is no grammatically correct way to use this phrasing. Alopecia is one such identity where there is no correct or formal way to use identity first language. “Alopecia person” doesn’t really fit. Hence the use of the informal or colloquial term alopecian.

I know it’s not a term for everyone, and most definitely not a term for every occasion. You won’t be finding it academic journals any time soon. It’s also not something you should be calling someone else, especially if you aren’t an alopecian. The key is in self-determining, in defining for yourself and as a community how you want to talk about your lives.

The counter example I’ve seen tossed about a few times is that we don’t call people with cancer ‘cancerians’. Absolutely right, because that would be rude. It would be rude because the term that the community has chosen for themselves is Survivors. The point is they’ve chosen the terms they want to define themselves with, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Ultimately, there is never going to be one word to accurately describe so varied and diverse a group of people as those thrown together by this random quirk of genetics. In the meanwhile, I hope you all feel welcome to join and enjoy being a part of this alopecian family. Maybe it’s not what you had thought to expect, but it can be pretty darn outstanding.

Love, Alopecia.

 

Bald Girl in the Dating World

A reflection of my journey, a bald girl in the dating world.

I am Bianca and I’m 41 and single.
Some time ago I shaved my head and started living my life as a bald woman with Alopecia. The grieving that followed that was indescribable.

Over here in my bubble I assumed I was no longer feminine, I felt ugly.

I looked in the mirror and was mortified at what was looking back at me, I no longer knew who I was. The image I had known as “me” for as long as I can remember was gone and something very different, something very confronting stared back at me. When I went out to bars and clubs, men and women stared at me, in fact whenever I left the house people stared at me.

I started to tell myself I was doomed to be alone forever, who could seriously wake up beside a bald woman and think that I was a catch, I didn’t have hair, my femininity had left the building, poof, like that I was no longer soft, I was flawed, undesirable, looked harsh and bold. Could hair really rob me of this womanly characteristic, femininity? This would have a huge impact on my dating life, for someone reasonably successful at dating I was done for, or was I?

Now this got me thinking, this could stop my life and it seriously could. I could crumble and never leave the house, become invisible and a mere shadow of who I once was. My only other choice was to saddle up and see where this lead, after all it was who I was now and not a lot was going to change that! I threw myself out there as a social experiment and started dating again as uncomfortable as that was. It really took something and I risked a lot of rejection and painful judgment but I felt the fear and did it regardless.

I was honest and positive and as I said the words over and over again, I have alopecia, it felt surreal and foreign but I kept saying it until it was apart of me. Like saying I have blonde hair or I am 156cm in height. It became a part of who I now was and it was there comfort grew. It was no longer something that I was suffering or something that was happening to me. In fact my Tinder profile reads, “All photos are recent, and yes, I shave my head, no I don’t have cancer, I have alopecia. I am at peace with who I am so if you aren’t, that’s ok, keep swiping, thanks for stopping by.

Yes it sparked lots of questions but it also took a very interesting turn and taught me a very deep lesson or two, self-love and self-expression. Even though I knew these things already, to really live true to them was a very different matter. I was complimented for my courage and my bravery, people were even empowered and inspired to talk to me, just to say hello. They saw in me something that many people are scared to express, a deep sense of authenticity. I ended up with friends and kind people to chat to and people who were generally interested in me as a person. The rest just kept swiping!

Yes some men are completely turned off by me having no hair that goes without saying. Some were shallow and even rude. When I think about it, it is more a preference than a personal insult and I have certain preferences just the same, everyone does. There is however a healthy dose of tact that comes with the delivery of those preferences, which some men didn’t have but most did! Men did agree that hair symbolizes femininity; they also agreed that woman hide behind their appearance and how boring that is. They also agreed it was a turn on and refreshing to see a woman in her power and confident within herself flaws and all.

Now this I found refreshing and empowering and deep within me emerged a sense of duty to stand proud and represent all the bald women. I felt like a modern day Joan of Arc perhaps, in the dating sea of shallowness. Everyone searching and yearning for someone special to grow old with, to have his or her hearts filled with joy. I represented a light of hope, someone real and flawed but standing proud nonetheless. I was someone real and tangible they could relate to, someone who understands them.

So this had me thinking, does the root really lie with my own projection or thoughts around how I feel about myself?  How society and beliefs have formed what I see as beautiful, absolutely! Are women more judgmental of each other, resulting in us being extremely harsh on ourselves? The research I did proves that men are not as confronted by it nor are they as judgmental as I first thought they would be. Women are more disturbed and mortified than men at the thought of a woman having no hair. Funny that! Its ironic society has us believe that no matter what we do we just aren’t good enough. We have been taught to fear and hate ourselves, to be in competition with others and ourselves constantly. It has been ingrained in our belief system from birth; every sense of our self is under judgment.

I believe we have become emotionally unavailable and desensitized, it’s easier to be detached; it’s safer then rejection in a confusing world of ‘perfect’. The lines are extremely blurred and with confused heads and hearts we all just want to be loved. We ultimately want connection, to feel a sense of belonging; we don’t want to be lonely in a world so that has us all so disconnected to one another. We are all trying to express ourselves and be understood in a world that portrays such a distorted version of what’s actually achievable.

So my thinking has been altered. What I once believed when I looked in the mirror, thinking I was doomed to be alone forever is so far removed from reality. Shaved head, no hair, short hair, long hair, short and curvy, tall and curvy, athletic and thin, black, white, asian, does any of it really matter except to ourselves? It is all purely our own idea of beauty, an image we measure up to. Does that mean without hair am I no longer attractive, no! In fact it has been a talking point that starts a conversation and then when they actually get to know me, it hasn’t made a squat of difference to those that are worth creating a connection with!

I would have to say it has been more in my head that I am unattractive and unlovable. And I had these exact thoughts well before I lost my hair. Society has me feel this way no matter how I present to the world. If it were not hair it would be something else, weight, height, eye colour, giggly thighs, fat arse, big ears, small breasts, large breasts, we will always find something that makes us not enough. Having no hair is just another physical realm we can grasp to that confirms it, justifies it because society tells me I’m now different and different is undesirable.

So I hope to show you that for the most part it’s how you feel about yourself. Days I feel ugly and self conscious and I walk down the street, I feel people looking at me, I’m looking for reasons to confirm my ugliness, this is how the mind works, we are looking for validation. This has me sink into a pit of misery and hide myself from the world. Days when I’m feeling empowered and beautiful, I hold my head high, I walk with purpose and I smile and make eye contact with people and the world is a beautiful damn place to exist. This has me want to be alive and be present in the world.

I’m choosing to jump in, I’m putting myself out there and smashing through the façade of what beauty is, I’m standing strong and being the difference. I am standing tall and being all the bald women out there who aren’t confident enough, who aren’t ready. I am creating a new normality, I am loving who I am at every given moment and I’m saying I am enough just as I am. Some days I feel quite the opposite but I’m choosing to redirect my thoughts to the positive because that’s where the magic happens right?

We can change who we are out there in the world by loving ourselves firstly and standing strong and proud and just showing anyway! I’m not saying we don’t have down days like any other human being but remember its all an inside job, the negative self talk, the positive self talk, confidence, the shame, the hate, the love. It’s all an inside job that takes constant reprogramming of the brain and thoughts. It’s a choice daily, and that’s choosing who you are, just as you are, every single day!

What you think you become after all and I am so much more than the hair on my head or the giggly bits that move too much when I run and that won’t stop me from running. I am the heart that I have and every part of the journey that I have walked. It may take me longer to find my twin flame but I’m learning how important it is to truly love myself first and foremost on this path and that’s invaluable. It is what makes me a more desirable and richer person in the process.

If you are out there, bald and dating, rise and be proud because you have something very unique to offer, you have nothing to hide behind, come forth with pure personality and essence. You already have a life partner within yourself. Rise my beauty and let your bald head shine!! You are gorgeous, whole and rich just as you are.

From a bald girl in the dating world.

5 Ways to Increase Confidence and Self Esteem

For people living with Alopecia Areata, confidence and self-esteem can be severely impacted by their condition. AAAF’s Support Ambassador extraordinaire Stef is here to help, with her five tips to increase confidence and self-esteem.

  1. Pretend to be Wonder Woman

Did you know, pretending to be Wonder Woman can actually make you feel more powerful? Now, I’m not giving you permission to hit the streets in a leotard prepared to fight crime. Cue sighs of disappointment. Standing like Wonder Woman, with your feet shoulder width a part and your fists on your hips, actually changes your body chemistry so that you feel more confident. No wonder she kicked so much ass.

‘The Wonder Woman’ is one of five ‘Power Positions’ introduced by Amy Cuddy in her TedTalk, ‘your body language shapes who you are.’ Posing for just two minutes in one of these positions can lead to big changes in your life. When Dr Cuddy (is anyone have a House flashback?) and her team were researching this concept, they conducted an experiment where participants would pose in either a high or low power position and then go into a stressful job interview. At the end of the process, the interviewers, who had no idea which applicants did what pose, were asked who they would hire. They wanted the high power posers.

It seems that Amy Cuddy has stumbled upon a secret super power.

You really can fake it until you make it. The next time you feel like you need a bit of a confidence boost, try one of these positions. Maybe then you’ll feel like a super hero too.

  1. Treat yourself like your best friend

So one of my friends called me up and was like, ‘Stef, I feel fat, useless and unattractive today.’ Do you know what I told her? ‘You are fat, useless and unattractive, so it’s no wonder you feel like that.’ Did I actually? No! Of course not.

When your friend is having a bad day you comfort them and remind them of all the reasons why they’re amazing. So instead of kicking yourself when you’re down, imagine what you’d say to a friend in the same situation.

  1. Emotional First Aid

Sometimes we need to put ointment and bandages on our psychological wounds before they metastasize into something which oozes and smells. That’s basically the contention of Guy Winch’s book, ‘Emotional First Aid.’ Instead of me doing a sneaky copy and paste of the self-esteem section and then getting sued for plagiarism, I’ll share my favourite strategy. It’s kind of like putting a princess band-aid on a scraped knee. Seeing Snow White’s face smiling up at you just makes you feel better.

On one sheet of paper, write down all of your important achievements, attributes and qualities. I want you to write down at least 10 and before you tell me that’s too many, imagine the princess band-aid. Snow White believes in you. You got this. Inevitably our brains are going to be a huge killjoy and remind us of all the reasons why we suck. Write these things on another piece of paper. Choose one thing from the positive list and write a paragraph on why it’s important to you and what role you hope it will play in your life. Now for the really fun part. Take the piece of paper with all the negative things on it and bin it, shred it, burn it or turn it into a make shift basketball. You don’t need to focus on these things. Every couple of days, repeat this process until all the items have been checked off.

  1. Understand that your thoughts aren’t reality

Erkhart Tolle once said, ‘life isn’t as serious as your mind makes it out to be.’ Our brains can be like that person who goes to a comedy festival and doesn’t laugh once. What we need to understand is that our thoughts aren’t always true or an accurate representation of reality. When something enters your head, it’s is not God whispering in your ear. You can tell it to eff off or just laugh at the ridiculousness of the thought. Or better yet, sing the unhelpful thought. It’s a lot harder to take something seriously when it’s being sung to the playschool theme song.

  1. Do something you’ve been putting off for a while

When jobs I haven’t done start following me around like a line of little ducklings, I do the adult, mature thing- convince myself that if I ignore them long enough, they will eventually go away. They don’t. Worse still, I start berating myself for being lazy, unmotivated, unorganised etc every time I put them off another day. As time passes, the prospect of completing these tasks seems more and more awful, until you’d rather clean the bathroom with your tongue than complete that overdue assignment. Not really, but still. Give one of the ducklings you’ve been avoiding some love and I promise you’ll feel better.