The psychology of chopping off our own hair
I remember cutting my own hair for the first time when I felt like my life was going downhill. With scissors in one hand and a few inches of my hair in the other, I sharply inhaled, held my breath, and chopped it off roughly before giving it a final trim. A completely refreshing experience, I must say. It felt as if a few ounces of hair took a great load off my mind; I could finally smile at myself in the mirror. I’m not exaggerating – I was empowered and relieved from giving myself a haircut. And it is fascinating to see how often the decisions to cut our hair are tied to our emotional yearnings and identity, rather than purely improving our appearances.
Why our hair? And why at home? Cutting our hair ourselves means taking action, and it feels good because there is a sense of accomplishment that goes with it, as stated by psychologist Suzanne Degges-white. Additionally, we don’t have to wait to see the results. This change to our appearance provides immediate relief, which is badly needed during emotional times, or when we have a deep longing to present and prove ourselves in any situation, for any reason. Hence, it can make you feel powerful, and in fact, it is usually chosen by people around me, as well as people I see in the media, as a coping mechanism or simply a way to feel refreshed during emotional times and to mark some kinds of occasions in their life.
Cutting our hair can be associated with something “new” in life. Some chop off their hair because they intensely crave something new. The pandemic brought about a sober time; people were trapped inside the four walls of their bedrooms, and as such, the desire to “make changes” became insatiable then more than ever. Many friends of mine gave themselves haircuts at home every now and then, feeding their constant aspiration to break out of the unsatisfactory situation – repeating the same activities every day. Keeping the thought to make a complete restart in mind, people also cut their hair at the beginning of new journeys. While rebooting anything is more complex and requires much more effort than that, “we sometimes convince ourselves that things will be different now that we have this new look,” says Liz Hughes, a licensed professional counselor based in Houston.
People also cut their hair when they sense a loss of control towards life and/or their identities. An action that returns instant gratification like changing our hair offers a feeling that we seize the initiative to do something to the situation, thus, gain back our control. Accordingly, Liz Hughes proposes that drastic hair changes favorably produce a sense of personality reclaim in people who just got out of relationships feeling like they have lost themselves.
Haircuts can also pertain to identity presentations, in terms of culture and gender. According to Dr. Lauren Appio, a psychologist and career coach in Manhattan, “changing a hairstyle may reflect our desire to affirm our connection to our communities, or, alternatively, to challenge cultural or societal norms related to appearance and presentation”, since hairstyle is a signifier of gender and culture. In relation to this, I had a chance to witness one of my friends shave her head, in an attempt to challenge the societal expectations about a “normative” woman.
And the interpretations of haircuts don’t stop there.
Chopping off your hair at home may become a unique experience. Besides, our hair grows back again. This is the reason why many people choose to cut their hair during emotional instabilities. Nonetheless, I think it is important to keep in mind that cutting our hair doesn’t completely eradicate our negative emotions and shouldn’t be seen as an ultimate solution to them. Also, it is essential to do some research and have a back-up plan for your hair, otherwise, giving yourself a haircut may result in a disaster that adds up to your distress!