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What My Haircuts Have Taught Me About Self-Confidence and Beauty Standards

This past summer I got the shortest haircut I’ve ever gotten. My hairstyle was something in between a pixie cut and a bob, and not only did I love it, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on my past self and my struggles with self-confidence and beauty standards. 

One aspect of the female beauty standard I noticed was this unspoken expectation for women to have long hair. Yes, the conversation surrounding hair focused a lot on the reality that there are so many different hair types beyond just straight hair, but what about hair length? 

I think we, as a society, have normalized the relationship hair length has with femininity and beauty. We see it in ads that bombard our feed, on virtually every platform. Long luscious hair resting on the shoulders of beautiful women selling anything from perfume to leggings. Don’t get me wrong, long hair is beautiful. But how often do we see women with short hair expressed with the same level of femininity?

hair cut long hair
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

When you think about it, hair length seems to come down to individuals deciding on how they want to style their hair. But these choices, like many choices we make, are not necessarily free from the influence of others. How often have you heard the many variations of the phrase “I want to try a short haircut, but short hair doesn’t suit me”? I’ve heard it numerous times. But is it really because a short hairstyle won’t suit them, or because of a beauty standard that tells us that long hair is what makes a girl pretty? At one point, I also believed this standard to be true.

My hair was at its longest when I was in middle school. At that time, I was also the most self-conscious. I tried so hard to make myself look good for others, and a huge part of that was my hair. All the girls had long hair, and so did I. 

Ironically, my hair was an absolute mess. I had to brush my hair at least twice a day just to prevent nests from forming, and my split ends were atrocious, but I simply refused to cut my hair. As shallow as it sounds, I worried about what others would say if I had shorter hair. I thought boys wouldn’t spare a look in my direction because my short hair would make me look less feminine. 

Thankfully, through a combination of making supportive friends and starting to love myself, I learned the importance of self-confidence. My growth is most apparent in the way my hair has gotten shorter and shorter with each haircut. 

Through these haircuts, I realized the hidden beauty standards held to women that sneak under our radar, and I came to the conclusion that the beauty standards others place on me are not my responsibility, especially when it comes to something as superficial as hair length. 

If I had the opportunity to talk with my middle school self, I would tell her that physical beauty is not a measure of worth, and to cut her damn hair because the split ends are not worth the trouble. 

And to you, the reader, if you want to get that pixie cut, get it. Bangs? Go for it. Do what makes you feel good. And if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, that hair will grow back eventually. 

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Emily is a third-year at UC Davis, pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communications and Cinema & Digital Media. She is currently Design Director for VITA at UC Davis and Digital Media Director for Her Campus UCD. She enjoys thrifting and getting coffee with friends.
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