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It’s just hair. Something I’ve been told my entire life that I always thought was ridiculous. Obviously, it’s not just hair; it’s my literal security, safety net, and what makes me feel most confident. Okay, sure, that sounds dramatic but it’s true.

I always grew up putting a lot of effort into my hair — an effort that definitely destroyed it in the long run, but effort nonetheless. (I’m looking at you, middle school Avery using the wand at 400 degrees with no heat protectant, every day) I had this thought that if my hair looked good, the rest of my appearance didn’t matter.

I grew too obsessed with my hair, always wanting it to be absolutely perfect, bleaching it constantly, and styling it every day. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with putting effort into yourself, but once my hair determined whether I felt even an ounce of confidence, it had gotten a little out of hand. 

All that bleaching and heat eventually caught up to me and I had to cut my hair. Cutting my hair was basically the end of the world. I was so distraught. How could I feel good about myself with short hair? 

I wish I could go back to my past self and slap her. The unhealthy attachment with my hair was rooted in so much internalized misogyny. 

Bitch Slap Slapping GIF by absurdnoise - Find & Share on GIPHY
Present me slapping past me

I grew up idolizing these celebrities and models and the one thing they all had in common was this long, bouncy, beautiful hair. I had made this direct correlation in my mind that long hair was what made someone attractive. 

This mindset of long hair making someone beautiful felt like it only resonated with me. I started seeing more people make the chop and rock the short hair and I was always in awe — they looked amazing. I couldn’t understand why it felt like short hair only looked ugly on me. It took a lot of diving into my feelings and realizing that I had just been too obsessed with this “idea” of what a woman should look like. A lot of that stemmed from the fact that I got the most male attention when my hair was long, and so I started to think that receiving attention from men was what made me beautiful.

For years, I was trying to grow through that feeling of negativity with my short hair. Reminding myself that (as cliche as it sounds) what’s on the inside is what truly matters and if your inside is beautiful, you will be beautiful too. I also have stopped caring entirely about the male gaze. I want a person who will love me for me.

Many of the negative lenses I viewed myself through were fogged up by internalized misogynistic ideals, something we all have probably felt at some point. I have seen so much growth in myself over the year. I realized that I love my short hair; I love how easy it is to manage and I have learned it’s what makes me feel the most like myself. 

Maybe my hair won’t stay short forever, but I love where I am now with my appearance. Obviously, that doesn’t mean I’m a super confident person because I wouldn’t label myself that way, but overcoming my feelings of being too obsessed with the male gaze has given me a sense of confidence like never before.

Avery is a student at the University of Central Florida majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Nonprofit Management and a certificate in Leadership & Gender Studies. Avery is passionate about all things mental health and iced green tea. When she isn't writing, you can find her reading someone's birth chart, starting the newest YA novel, crying over Harry Styles, and daydreaming about moving to New York City.
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