Some say the best way to get over a breakup is to go no-contact; in order to keep ourselves from returning to unhealthy relationships, we must create as much distance as possible between us and the other party. Now, I can’t say this is an easy task when real emotions get involved, but what I know for sure is that I just ended a 10-year relationship with my flat iron, and no contact is working like a charm. So, how did I do it?
The four laws of behavior change
Last summer, I set my usual driving playlists aside to make room for a few audiobooks. Of the bunch, Atomic Habits by James Clear reigned superior. According to Clear, “The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.” When the goal is to break a bad habit, one can invert these rules. Make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it hard, and make it unsatisfying. As I tackled my detox from heat tools, these rules were my foundation for change.
Step one: I made my flat iron invisible
For years, the object of my concern lived in my most frequented desk drawer. It was a constant reminder of my dissatisfaction with my natural hair and served as a band-aid solution for my insecurities. I couldn’t live without it. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until I buried my flat iron under a pile of junk in my closet that I began to see the light at the end of a decade-long self-esteem battle. Once I made my flat iron invisible, the act of retrieving it carried far more weight. I reminded myself that going through the trouble of digging it out would indicate a lack of respect for my own authority. What am I if I can’t follow my own rules? Surely enough, after a week or two of making my enemy invisible, its hold on me began to lessen.
Step two: understanding the cons of heat tools
The cool thing about love is it is unwavering. The not-so-cool thing about it is that it can prevent people from walking away when things are unacceptable. For me, a love for improved confidence kept me in a nasty cycle of hair damage for years, even when I knew it was only hurting the health of my hair in the long run. So, I tried out Clear’s Second Law of Behavior Change, inversely. I made straightening my hair unattractive. To do this, I shifted my focus from the outcome to the action. The outcome is arguably less frizzy hair and the illusion of confidence. The action, however, is intentionally burning a part of my being in order to stifle what God (or whomever) gave me. Repeated haircuts and a loss of my formerly defined curl pattern were among the numerous consequences. Our locks were simply not built to endure 400-degree temperatures.
Step Three: Throw it out (or keep it hidden)
James Clear advises that in order to break a bad habit, we must make it hard. Well, I took it one step further and made it entirely impossible. As I packed up to begin the spring semester at UMass Amherst, I left my once beloved hot tool behind. However, it wasn’t the easiest decision. I wrestled with a few what-if circumstances to try and justify its real estate in my duffel bag. What if I want to feel polished for a career event? What if my Her Campus chapter has a formal? What if I regret this decision and I have to buy a new one? Each attempted justification solidified exactly why I must leave it behind. Curly hair is polished. The waves in my hair deserve to come with me to formal events. I came to realize that all of my reservations were rooted in fear. So, in the closet, it stays.
Step four: reshaping what makes me feel confident
Leaving my flat iron at home certainly helped me to honor my goals, but know that solely minimizing exposure to your vices isn’t nearly enough to make a new way of life stick. The elimination of a bad habit – or formation of a good one – requires a genuine change in desire. The old habit must become unsatisfying. For me, this means reshaping what makes me feel confident. Burning my hair to smithereens only felt satisfying because it was a familiar solution to a bad hair day. I needed a new solution. And lately, I’ve been feeling really cool in a slicked-back ponytail.
Sorry, flat iron! I’m loving the no-contact method. You’re hot, but not the type of tool I need in my life.
With love, Kat