The Special Truth About Going Gray - A Little Pep Talk for my Silver Sisters
by BTW Co.
A year ago
Oh you guys, as though being a human being on this judgmental planet isn't hard enough, then you go ahead and have this gray hair stuff! It can be hard, can't it? So so hard. I understand what you're going through though, I get what you're up against! And that's why I'm here today to talk about some of the emotions that might come up along the way with our gray, and to tell you, no, PROMISE you that in the end, IT'S GOING TO BE OK! In fact, better than OK! Really, trust me on this one. It all works out!
Whether you're battling your "silver wisdom streaks" or if you have none at all, most of us at some point or another come up against a challenge or an obstacle or small bump in the road. Wouldn't it be great to find some inner-strength, a special bit of self-confidence that could help you dance through your day and up over your concerns? Well, guess what? YOU ALREADY HAVE IT, RIGHT THERE INSIDE OF YOU! Read along if you'd like some nourishment for your silver soul, and even if you don't have gray hair, read along too! These ideas can be applied to most any annoying little pocket of self-doubt.
I've heard from several women who have been having some painfully similar situations as they've decided to grow out their gray hair. Basically, other people have been offering up their unsolicited advice, criticism and disapproval about their decision to go gray. What many family and friends and co-workers fail to realize is that often the choice to ditch the hair dye is not a choice at all! There are many men and women, myself included, who are forced to face the gray due to allergies to hair dye, money issues, or the conviction that covering your head in chemical dye is not a risk that you're willing to take. But choice or not, strongly negative comments when they are not requested are rarely helpful - they only cause self-doubt and a sense of sadness.
Discussion and debate are a healthy part of life, but the art of sensitivity and knowing when not to say something is perhaps even more valuable. And, besides, IT'S ONLY A HAIR COLOR! Saving our differences of opinions can do more good in times of serious matters, when people actually need your help.
I did my best to advise and to cheer these brave women in sticky situations on. They each had their own reasons for growing out their grays and each had a choir of co-workers, family or friends criticizing and questioning them in the background.
Ironically enough, I ran into my own bit of gray criticism recently, which luckily does not happen very often! I had noticed a spike in readers and became curious as to where they were visiting from. I rarely investigate my traffic sources, but once in a while it's fun to see if a larger website has picked up one of my posts, or if somebody has linked to my blog How Bourgeois. It's exciting! This time I noticed a significant proportion of my daily readers coming from a bulletin board site for moms in a large, East Coast city.
I clicked on the traffic source (this bulletin board) and looked for How Bourgeois. Sure enough, someone had posted a link to one of my more popular blog posts.
The women on the site that I visited were not trying to be mean. I really feel that way. In fact, many were being very kind, citing How Bourgeois as a point of gray inspiration (Thanks guys!). But, I don't have thick skin, and my heart was pounding with each sentence that I read. This is something you should know about me: I might exalt the virtues of BEING YOU!, and I might promote confidence, but I'm just like anybody else, there are good days and bad, but most are full of self-doubting moments. I'm human! :)
One woman on this bulletin board mentioned that my gray hair might be OK right now because I look fairly young-ISH, but that: "I'm going to look like hell at 45."
OK though, I get where she's coming from. Theoretically, the fear about graying is that it is our aging will be put up there on a public stage. (Whoa! Scary!) And, this woman is saying that as I become older, the gray, plus the additional age, in her opinion, won't be very complimentary to each other. Sure, I suppose time is not kind to some people, but man, I've seen some absolutely STUNNING white haired women in their 50's, 60's, 70's and much much older!
Beauty is not an age! Not at all.
Also, I'm not so sure that a few short years from now, I will start to look like hell. I mean, (knock on wood) I HOPE that if I continue to moisturize and take care of myself, that I will look fairly similar to 41-year-old me when I'm 45. Nobody can look exactly the same nine years later, but HELL?
Another comment was from a woman who kindly said that I looked pretty with the gray, but that: "If I saw her in person, all I would want to do is yell out how much younger and prettier she would look with brown hair."
Technically, some of this is correct. I think. I probably would look younger with my brown hair. Maybe? Or actually....maybe not! When I reached a point where I had been dyeing my hair for over ten years, it ended up being a very matte, lifeless shade of brown. Not much shine because it was so dry and damaged.
Here, you be the judge. Did I really look SO much younger when I had brown hair? And by the way, these pictures were taken about five or six years ago.
Before growing out my gray:
Here I am with Noah. I was still dying my hair at this point. It left my hair frizzy and matte from the decade plus of hair dye.
And here I am now! A good five or six years later! I don't think I look recognizably older. I think I look a little less exhausted from chasing a tiny child around! The point being, gray hair does not have to just age you. It really doesn't!
Heck! I couldn't even have imagined what my gray hair would look like once it was grown out! I was even worried about it myself! Could you or can you imagine exactly how you will look in the end!? Most likely not. So when your co-workers gang up on you, or your family begs and pleads, know that part of this is their lack of IMAGINATION! ;)
Then, you just go right ahead and tell them that this whole growing out your gray business is WAY more difficult on you than them, and hey should give a girl some support! Then show them a few "gray inspiration" boards on Pinterest so they can finally see just how nice a person's gray can look! That's part of the problem: we really don't have many white-haired role models in our media and popular culture. You can't totally blame people too much for not having good impressions of what white hair can be.
I really can't stress enough what a positive difference it can make to have your friends and family on board with you. It's everything. If you have a bunch of Negative Nellie's on your hands and growing out your hair is a must for you, I'd even go as far as to ask them to "fake it 'til you make it," by doing their best to hold back the negative comments until you've gotten through the difficult process. Then, once everything is said and done, if they don't like the way your hair looks, but you do.....well then, it's FINE! At least at that point you'll probably be more self-assured and you will know if the whole gray thing is RIGHT for YOU! Who knows, your family and friends might even come to like your new look!
So, now that we've gotten the unsolicited advice part out of the way, let's talk about SOLICITED advice. A whole new animal.......
Women love approval. Stop asking for approval!
Approval is important to many women. I know it is for me! Whether a conscious desire or something that we seek out without even realizing it, approval from those who we value the most is a very strong and important force.
When I decided to stop using hair dye, I felt at first like I had to apologize to those around me, that I had to qualify what I was doing........
"I'm sorry Jon, I must look like an older lady." "Mom, do I look unkempt!?" And what must have been a steady stream of self-deprecation to my friends: "I look terrible!" "Am I embarrassing to be seen with?"
I would offer up long-winded explanations of "why" I chose to stop dying my hair to those who would listen. Heck, I would even qualify it to myself!
And then you know what happens?...........one day you just kind of get worn out from talking about it some much. Or, you might grow tired of the different comments and suggestions that the talking brings up. Hopefully also, right around that time, you're starting to kind of LIKE your gray hair! It has probably grown long enough at this point that you're getting out of that "skunk stripe" phase, or you're able to pull your hair back in cute clips, or it's just a neat color!
Then find your own little voice deep inside. It stops doubting and begins to say nicer things like: "You know, the gray is kind of ok!" "This isn't SO bad." And you realize that you really do not need other people's approval. Especially when it comes to a decision about your hair. Because, remember.......... it's just HAIR! ;)
Acceptance is what you do for yourself. You don't need somebody else to do it for you.
Remember this. It'll save you some heartache. You just have to love yourself first, right!?
So that's what I have for you my silver sisters! One of the most surprising things for me about this journey has been just how LITTLE it has to do with hair and how MUCH it's about the inner me!
Go forward in your day, in this white hair adventure, forward in your life, knowing that what matters much more than the color of our skin or the color of our HAIR, is the color of our HEARTS. You might think you've been sent down this path to grow your locks, but really what will grow even more is that little glow inside of you.
Be well my friends! Life is good!