Sometimes, you get what you need and not what you want.
That happened to me today as I booked in a cut with a barber. I’ve been thinking about business of late and how the product or service is actually how you feel when you walk out the door.
Having worked at a barbershop before as a barista (yep, you read that right), I knew that people get cuts to feel a sense of confidence among other positive feelings when they walk out its door.
So that’s what I thought I was booking myself in for this afternoon: confidence and perhaps some relief. Instead, I felt shock and some despair.
Why the mismatch?
It was as simple as the sentence “let me show you the back and let me know what you think.”
Um, did you create that thinning patch in the centre of my head? If so, I don’t approve and it’s terrible.
Of course, this wasn’t my actual thought at the time. It was more to the tune “what the FUCK is that?” By the way, “how does the back look?” asks the barber.
“Oh, fine,” I reply absentmindedly, having no sense of the conversation anymore.
To be fair, I set myself up for this moment years ago. And if I’m really honest, I could feel this happening early 2019. But this was the first time I’d seen it with someone else.
I had that sinking feeling. Even sick. But I knew I was just feeling this. I can ride this out. This isn’t permanent.
How I Set Myself Up For Future Failure And How To Prevent It
Years ago while at secondary school, we weren’t allowed to have our hair past our shoulders. Among many other things, this irked me, and when I travelled overseas for a couple of years from 2010, I grew out my hair.
Take that perceived high-school oppression!
It became a staple of my identity. People would often comment on its beauty and how lucky I was. Fuck me, the barber even made the same comment today while just skipping over the other little blip on the radar.
You often hear in teaching circles about the future psychological damage phrases like “you’re so smart” and “you are perfect” cause to young people. This is because it sets them up with a false sense of belief. As soon as they encounter adversity, this is at odds with the feedback the world has been giving them. If they are not well supported, they can crumble and begin a slippery descent into mediocrity. The new story becomes self-sabotage.
So the same phrases like “your hair is so beautiful” can have the same effect. But I see you this time. I’m ready for you. Well, kind of.
You see, if we build our lives on the things we accumulate, or on the physical traits we possess, then we are building on shaky foundations.
There is a wonderful parable that talks about the impermanence of reality. What is now will not be forever. The way I like to think of this is the now is really just a still frame in life’s video reel. This, too, shall pass.
If we cling to our identity, then we set ourselves up for future pain. That isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t pursue such items or ego building experiences. It’s just that we probably shouldn’t attach to them. Better still, just savour that moment and move on.
So What’s The Solution?
Now, there isn’t even really a problem here, but I’m at a decision point. What I’m really looking for is a state change, or a way to get on the offensive with this so then I can move through it.
I could use the Shane Warne strategy where I must maintain my image and identity of luscious hair. But then I’m hiding from reality. I don’t want to live like that. I’m kind of lazy. I want the easier option.
But I also don’t want to live with a hairy doughnut on my head. And I don’t want to be cleaning hair from pillows and bathrooms for the foreseeable future.
So the new question for me is how to move forward through this with grace.
I write this post because I know I will have brothers around my age (34) who have already gone through what I’m experiencing, or they will just about to be. For a few, you’ll have other worries in your life and I send you the strength and courage to battle those.
The greatest ‘worry’ in my head is having this conversation with people over the next 5-10 years of my life.
“Oh, Brent, you used to have so much hair.” This is true. So step one is to prevent 80% of those future conversation now in just one post. Yep, I’m aware of it and now you are too. Yay, we’re awesome!
When My Dad First Realised His Fate
Only last year (2019), my dad spoke of the time he realised the deforestation of his head.
He was getting out of the car and due to some rather unfortunate mirror positioning, he saw it. He said to me that his response was “oh, no!”
I would always cringe when I was side-by-side with my dad out and about while people would take jabs at my dad’s hairless head. I certainly didn’t perpetuate this in the most recent years, but I can only imagine this ‘light humour’ wouldn’t have felt fantastic for him. I look back feeling some shame not having stood up for him in those moments.
While these comments seem innocuous, do you really know the cost of your seemingly harmless mocking observation? The answer is you will never know, and I’m not here to judge you on it either. You’re probably just surprised yourself.
But I know that I want to be a source of strength and inspiration for others. I also know that mocking appearance isn’t probably going to get us there.
The Other Two Strategies To Move Through Fear
“What could be great about this?” is a question that Tony Robbins suggest we ask ourselves to equip ourselves with the resources to problem solve.
We are defined by the quality of our questions.
If I instead asked, “why is this happening to me?” then I will place myself in a state of despair, and equip myself with resources to perpetuate that state, Yuk! So instead I ask, “what could be great about this?”
I can think of two things: first, I get to write a vulnerable blog post about this experience. I hope it can be a beacon of light for others out there to know that what you feel is valid and it’s okay. It doesn’t define who you are, and I’m gonna love you regardless even if you think no-one else in the world will.
Secondly, I get to dissolve my some of my ego in the process. That part of me that was defined by the gorgeous hair guy. Thank fuck, I can let go of this and embrace a newborn person in the process. How liberating that feels.
My strategy is to do with this with grace. I don’t know how I will do that, but I’m gonna have a chat with my barber mate. Here’s another benefit because I’m accessing my existing network and connecting with a friend and their observational experience. I like that.
Aren’t You Kidding Yourself, Mate?
Lastly, I know if you saw a photo of me now, front on, you’d be saying “Brent, I think you’re overreacting just a little bit.” I would accept this. I know people with even less hair than me would love to trade places. So it’s all relative isn’t it?
What you can’t deny is this feeling. My dad felt it. I just felt it. Others have felt it, and even more will feel it.
Again, I really just wanted to put a spotlight on something that doesn’t seem to be well-coached. There doesn’t seem to be much information or guidance from ‘elders’ because, where are they in our society? Advertising companies like to play on our fears. Advanced Hair anyone?
So I like to view this as my contribution to Beyond Blue and RUOK that serves to break down some stigma and remove elephants from rooms.
So if you’re on the spectrum from fella to sheila, and you’ve just experienced this moment yourself, then know others have before you and others will after you. Reach out to me if you wanna chat about it. I’m here to listen. I can be that first port of call when you think there isn’t anybody else.
And remember, you are loved regardless of how you look.