How to deal with the insecurities of female hair loss (expanded from video)

Hi there, wig lover! I was recently forwarded a link to a thread on Alopecia World by my business partner. He thought that I might want to chime in on this because he felt really bad for the girl who wrote this post.

It’s called, “I feel like wigs are dominating my life.” Here is a screen capture of that conversation, omitting her image for privacy. (This is exactly the same info you would see if you publicly searched for this post.)

I imagine ALL of us can relate to this post to various degrees. I know I can. I wanted to state something emphatically for anyone who feels this way. Here goes.

You don’t actually need a wig to be you.

You don’t.

You don’t need to be perfect one hundred percent of the time.

It’s OK. The people who love you, they love you. They love who you are and it’s not just about the hair. I own a wig store, so obviously I wear wigs most of the time. I’m a big fan of wigs. I wear all kinds of wigs. I have a lot of them in my personal collection and I change up styles and colors frequently. I enjoy it. It’s one of those things where at first I thought it was a pain in the butt. After a while, though, I really came to enjoy it. It became kind of addicting. Now, I have a lot of fun with it!

But it wasn’t like that at the beginning. I felt very similar to the way that this poster felt. I was super worried that any time the wind blew, people would know. I was convinced that people were watching my hair way more than they actually were!

I mean, when you go out in public now – post wig wear – you might pay more attention to what’s going on with other people’s hair lines. That’s only because you wear alternative hair and are aware of it. But before you had to wear alternative hair, were you always looking for people’s lace fronts? Were you always looking at their edges? Were you always looking for wefting in the back when the wind blew? Of course, not! You were probably more likely to think to yourself: “Yeah, that’s their hair. That color is really cool, OK, moving on with my day.

The next thing I’m going to tell you is very important. Though it’s going to sound harsh, it’s totally meant to be reassuring. Please give it a chance, though, before taking offense.

The first gigantic step you need to take to gain the confidence to wear alternative hair with ease is…

Get over yourself.

Do yourself a gigantic favor and get over yourself! No one is paying attention to your hair the way that you pay attention to your hair!

Now that’s easier said than done, obviously. What I usually tell people to do when they start wearing wigs for the first time is to wear them around the house for a little while before you debut them in public. That way, you can get used to the way you look with a full head of hair. If you’re not used to that – for example, let’s say you’ve got androgenic alopecia like me and your hair has been falling out gradually – it can be kind of a shock to throw hair on for the first few times. It always looks like too much hair – about one hundred percent of the time — even if it’s not! Even if it looks great to everyone else around you, it will probably still be too much for the person who’s wearing it. You’re going to be like what is going on up in here with all this hair.

Sometimes, admittedly, the wig will need thinned because they do often come with a lot of hair compared to what a person will normally grow out of their heads. However, that trend is fading. More and more manufacturers are catching on that we don’t necessarily want a ton of hair on the wigs to the point where it looks like wiggy and they’re accommodating that. The new trend is less dense wigs and it’s slowly coming around to be more of a norm. In spite of this change, though, there are simply a lot of people out there that won’t even feel comfortable in these low density styles! This is generally a sign of someone who is new to wigs or someone who has yet to accept the reality of their hair loss and they’re fighting it with every type of cognitive dissonance they can muster. You must always keep it in perspective that if you’re experiencing gradual hair loss, sometimes it’s just a shocker to go from no hair to all the hair. You’ve got to gently ease yourself into what that looks and feels like while allowing yourself the time and compassion to adjust.

Pro Tip: Wear your new hair around the house so your friends, family, and YOU can get used to it first.

When you first see yourself in the mirror with a wig on, it will start off seeming like a costume piece. Even if it’s a $1000 human hair wig, you will still feel weird. TRUST ME. But also trust that after a while, you’ll start to get used to it. You’ll start to like the way you look. It does takes some getting used to and you don’t necessarily have to do that entire process out in public.

Another thing that people like to do, especially if their hair loss is only on the top of their head, is start with toppers and then gradually work your way into wigs. I actually did that, myself. It hurt my hair a lot because I was wearing toppers that were entirely too heavy for the amount of the thinning that I have on the top of my head. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my topper video. I go over a lot!)

Sometimes you just need a baby step. Some people don’t always want to jump right into the deep end of the pool. They want to dip their toe in and adjust to the temperature first. That’s OK!

Now all of this being said, it feels like the person in this Alopecia World post has tried wigs. She may still be kind of new to them. From the profile picture that I see on Alopecia World, she looks really great in them! She looks really natural and pretty. The saddest thing is that she doesn’t feel that way — and that’s important because feels are real! They are real and just because they’re sometimes hard to put into words, just because people can’t see how you’re feeling all the time, doesn’t mean that it’s not real and significant! That is something that needs to be addressed because your emotions are important. How you feel about how you look changes so much about your outlook on life and how you interact with the world. It cannot be ignored.

Remember: Wigs are supposed to be a tool.

They will NOT instantly solve underlying self-esteem or identity issues!

Wigs are supposed to be a way for you to cope with your hair loss. They’re supposed to help you feel a little bit more normal.

They’re also really helpful for helping you “pass” in society so that people don’t stare at you or assume you’re ill all the time.

Unfortunately, a lot of other people are not very evolved.

So not everyone is super evolved. If you go out in public with a shaved head or you’ve lost all of your hair, people can sometimes be a little cruel about that. Even if they’re not cruel, they may become a bit pesky, asking you a bunch of personal questions about your health or lifestyle that they should generally keep to themselves. (Just keep I mind that if people are being rude to you like that, it is NOT rude to deny them the satisfaction of an answer!) You just look like any other person when you have normal hair. People see you, not the hair (or lack thereof). It doesn’t look like some kind of big attention-grabbing red flag. No one will accuse you of unintentional political statements or assume your visible scalp as a signifier of poor underlying health if you conceal it.

That being said, I have gone out in public with a shaved head. I felt very comfortable, especially in the summertime, but people can be rude. I’m telling you that from firsthand experience.

Anxiety is a b*tch.

It really is! The reason why anxiety can get such a hold on you is because the unknown is often scarier than the known. You’ll freak yourself out with all these possibilities of what could happen if the wind blows or your cap slips or — oh no! — what if people detect that I’m wearing a wig? What are they going to think about me?

Confidence is the key to being comfortable with yourself and your alternative hair!

BlondieLocks actually made a really great video about how confidence is really the only thing you need to wear a wig. It’s so true!

That confidence isn’t something you can just flip on like a switch, though!

Confidence is a skill that is acquired through steady practice!

YOU are the person who controls this. This is NOT something defined by the outside world. It is not defined by your kids, your friends, your online interactions. I mean, if you hear a compliment but don’t believe it, it will roll right off of you like water on a duck.

Confidence comes in baby steps that you control. Every day.

Make conscientious choices that will build this up like a muscle!

A good analogy that I like to think of is about my adventures in roller skating. This is another skill that doesn’t come naturally for most people. I’ll take my friends skating with me once in a while. They probably haven’t roller skated since twenty or more years ago. Because of this, they ALL clutch the wall. They don’t just use it as a guide. Oh no, they white knuckle that wall, clinging to it tenaciously because they’re terrified of falling. I tell them to fall! Just fall. Get it out of your system! Let your body fall, especially if you’re not going fast, and then you’re not going to be scared of falling. You’ll let go of the wall and skate. You might actually have fun that way! Sometimes you just need to do it.

This is true for roller skating, life, and wig wear. It’s true for anything that causes you anxiety (barring life-threatening stuff). Don’t wait until you become good at something before you actually do it. You’ll never get anything done that way.

Don’t wait until you feel comfortable before you act on things that will make you happy.

That comfort usually comes with confidence – and that confidence only comes with time and lots of practice. Therefore, the comfort in most difficult things in life will only come AFTER you’ve already started your journey of a thousand steps, not before! Keep this in mind as a motivational tool. When that little voice in your head says the WORD “can’t”, respond with ACTIONS that say, “we’ll just see about that!”

All of this is well and good, but some of you may get hung up on where to start. This vital part of the process is often where a lot of people get stalled. There is so much anxiety about doing the right things that a lot of folks just don’t do anything at all.

Just like depression, anxiety can also be paralyzing.

So, allow me to help you find your first steps to minimize the pressure!

You need to get the anxiety out of the room so you can find a way to make peace with your body.

Your body is not the enemy. Just because it’s not cooperating, just because it doesn’t look the way that society tells you it should, that doesn’t mean that it’s the enemy. This is really difficult to keep in mind, especially if you’ve got cancer or another underlying illness. It’s a difficult thing to remember that the composite of YOU is a beautiful thing when parts of it are the problem.

Your first goal should be to stop body shaming yourself. Seriously.

Look inside yourself to see where that impulse is coming from and you might be surprised to hear a chorus of imaginary voices or echoes of ghosts from the past that do not have anything to do with your present life. A lot of people use these internalized narratives as a way to hold themselves back. It’s a self-preservation instinct. We do it to avoid having these embarrassing and hurtful things happen in real life, so we do it to ourselves in a weird distortion of proactive behavior. There’s a fine line between self-protection and self-abuse in this regard, though. If those narratives are fueled by anxiety, they can get very dark, very quickly.

Strive for a judgement-free, neutral way of viewing yourself.

This is especially helpful if you think swinging that pendulum into full-blown positive self-esteem is too much to ask at the moment. Neutral is often easier.

When those self-criticisms come into your mind, diligently ask yourself, “Is this coming from me? Is this really necessary?” If not, assume it’s a lie and let it go.

Again, this takes practice. You need to do this EVERY time you think this way, until abandoning the self-criticism about your appearance becomes second nature. This is a time-consuming, often frustrating process…but it works. It will feel silly, especially at first. But who cares? You’re not doing it out loud! No one will know that you’re doing it. And, after all, isn’t being mean to yourself for no good reason even sillier?!

You may not be able to do this on your own. That is normal and completely OK!

When things get really complicated, that’s when it might be time to call in the big guns. It might be time to talk to a licensed therapist. That is not admitting defeat. You are not a weaker person for needing the help. Psychologists would go out of business overnight if it weren’t a completely normal thing to ask them for help sorting your thoughts!

If you have difficulties giving yourself permission to be imperfect, let me give that to you. You’re allowed to have these anxieties. You’re allowed to have these insecurities. It’s completely normal. (I will show you just how normal this is later in this blog post!)

A wig is not a good substitute for a therapist.

I love wigs. They’re pretty much my whole life. Unlike this Alopecia World poster, though, I consider this a great thing! I have a lot of fun with it. However, a wig can’t listen and can’t talk back to you. It can’t offer up viable solutions about how you can better adjust to your self-concept issues. A wig is basically just the little mascot that you wear on your head. It’s there to help like a safety blanket but it’s not really a cure-all. There are some people who will feel uncomfortable no matter how great they look in their alternative hair, like this particular poster. She looks amazing from what I can tell. But how you feel about how you look is so important.

Sometimes throwing money at the problem in the form of buying more hair isn’t enough.

Sometimes, you just need to talk to somebody who understands what you’re going through. Know you’re not alone. Know that what you’re going through is normal. This is so normal!

Millions of women in the United States experience some kind of hair loss.

There are just as many women with hair loss as there are men.

Just as many! It’s just that women hide it better because they feel pressured to do so! Men don’t have to hide it. They don’t have that compelling social pressure, so it’s more of an option for them. Women experience intense social pressure to look “pretty”, which is why you don’t see a lot of bald women walking around. (It’s kind of an act of courage.) Just because you don’t see women around who look like they are are going through the same things you’re going through, they are! Lots of them are in the same boat as you! For every one man you see with the chrome dome, there is a woman out there somewhere too!

50% of all women in the USA will experience some kind of hair loss by age 50.

40% of all people in the USA with profound hair loss are female.

These stats are a pretty solid indication of how average we all are! I consider 50% of any group to be the definition of normality. If knowing all of this doesn’t give you some kind of comfort, then you really should try to talk to somebody about it. No one deserves to sit with that amount of anxiety and insecurity about something this common. That anxiety is something you shouldn’t have to live with. Wig wear is something, that with a little bit of help, you should be able to learn to cope with, embrace, and even enjoy.

Comparing ourselves to everyone else is a killer.

You shouldn’t do it. Why? Because it’s a just another lie! You shouldn’t compare yourself to all the people around you that you think have really long, awesome hair because you’ve got to imagine that a good proportion of them are probably wearing extensions or wigs too! As I mentioned above, statistically about half the women you know wear some kind of helper hair or experience hair loss.

Instead of focusing on what you lost, focus on what you have. And what you have, my dear, are options. Oodles of them. More than you probably realize! You have the opportunity to look however you like. You are no longer constrained by the limitations of your biological hair. I don’t know about you, but I loved playing dress up as a kid. Now I have the best excuse in the universe to play dress up any time I feel like it!

While it may be some time before you come around to feeling like that, it happens for almost everyone! It just takes a little practice and before you know it, you’ll be excited to explore these options. It won’t seem like such a chore. It may even become fun!

For now, though, let’s continue to aim for those baby steps.

A good goal to aim for: Learn how to live with your new reality.

It will never feel the same as the old reality but it can still be good. It can still be fun. You can still feel pretty. You can still be YOU.

You can be YOU without a wig.

 

 

This article was written by Heather Hershey, the owner of CysterWigs.com. Expanded from the CysterWigs YouTube video you can see here:

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4 Comments

  1. January 28, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    Oh this is all so true..soo good..so well said..just what I needed..thank you thank you!

  2. May 13, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    I love how honest and true your post is- lovely read – im sure women would love this.

  3. MaryAnn Silverman
    May 25, 2017 / 2:44 am

    Heather, you are such a pleasant girl to listen to. You know instinctively how most of us are feeling. I am very comfortable with listening to your critique of wigs. I never realized how many women are in my world of hair loss. It’s been liberating. I purchased a wig and when it was delivered I tried it on and I thought it looked silly, so I sent it back. I purchased another Jon Renau “ignite”, I like it very much. Still wearing it daily in my home, to get up the courage to wear it out. I could go on and on, but I will only say, Thank You Heather.

    • May 25, 2017 / 2:48 pm

      Hi there MaryAnn! This is Gina from CysterWigs. Thank you for commenting! I’ll send a little note to Heather so she can see your kind words! We are so glad that Heather’s videos have helped you. You are not alone in this MaryAnn and I hope you’ll be able to feel like you again soon! ***HUGS***

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