Why I Decided to Cut My Hair

“I promise, this time I’m going to grow my hair out!”

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. I was convinced that I was going to have the long locks of a Bollywood star come this time next year. But then I had a mental health crash.

Stress is an old friend to University students. We all have assignments that seem never-ending or upcoming exams that we haven’t started studying for. These experiences are what we see as ‘normal’ and an expected part of studying at UCT. I wouldn’t say that I was under any inordinate amount of stress when I had a burnout, but it happened. For the first time in many years, I was facing a mental health problem that was persistent and at times mentally debilitating. Mind you, this was mid-term. There was no time to realistically face my demons or take a break. I needed to keep working until the end, and then I would take the holiday I needed to fix my life.

I had started to find a new routine to help me get through my issues, and while I sometimes struggled to persevere through assignments, I finished them. I had started losing weight from not being able to eat for psychological reasons, but I mostly fixed that problem and found that I hadn’t lost an unhealthy amount of weight - I enjoyed my new size, as long as I was eating. I was also on medication that helped me on darker days when my body struggled to cope.

Despite my hard work to stay positive and keep going until vac, one thing kept me from being content: my hair.

Your hair can make or break your day. I was hit with the curly-haired stick, so this alone makes maintaining my hair an understaffed three-woman mission. When your curly hair gets longer, it knots more easily and falls out in larger quantities. It also just refuses to cooperate when you really need it to. For months I was unsure of whether I should cut my hair because of the promise I had made to myself to grow it out. But every day was a nightmare with frizz or limp curls or it just existing on my head.

So I cut it.

A close-up of a woman's face with curled hair, smiling to the side

I felt the weight of my hair leave my chest (my head hair, that is). Having a bob has left me feeling lighter internally, and I’m much happier with it even on ‘bad’ days. My hair feels healthier, and so do I. I think I have a better understanding of the relationship between heartbreak and haircuts now – your locks set the tone for your attitude in general. Of course, all this information had, until now, just been swimming in my head, unable to convey my motivation accurately.

Immediately after my haircut, I bumped into friends who, firstly, said I looked better with short hair, and secondly asked why I decided to cut it.

“I just needed to. I needed a change”.

While I’m sure that outwardly, changing my appearance has had a positive change in my attitude towards my self-image, there was a deeper need to change the things that bothered me. I ignored and just tolerated my hair because I thought it was part of the journey to Bollywood locks. It turned out that what I needed was a different direction entirely.