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Why I Want Everyone to See My 'Coming Out' Photo

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Women are defined by their looks on a daily basis. Comments made in daily conversations pass judgment as if people were talking about the weather…

“She wears too much makeup!”

“Her shorts are way too short. She’s too old to wear Daisy Dukes.”

“Have you seen her hair? I knew blond wouldn’t look good on her.”

Growing up in a society that places so much emphasis on our looks makes girls acutely aware of their appearance. And at the age of 15, this became extraordinarily clear to me. I was diagnosed with alopecia areata three years prior, when we found a couple bald spots on the back of my head. Easily disguised, these spots would come and go without notice but never affect my day-to-day life. In 2005, that would all change. On break from school for Easter holiday, my hair began to simply fall away. It began in the shower when I noticed an abnormal amount of hair fall out when shampooing. Within a week, I had lost 90 percent of my hair. A couple weeks later, while over at a friend’s house (and a bit of liquid encouragement for Mom), we talked them into shaving off the rest of my hair to rid myself of the little strands that reminded me what once was. Our wonderful and creative friends filmed that process, which has since become a bit of an anthem.

This is where my story begins again. Filming the toll alopecia had on me, my family and our friends gave me a positive place from which to share my story. Celebrating beauty and freeing myself from hair built my emotional foundation. It gave me enough strength to love myself and inspired me to share that experience with people who haven’t been able to love themselves in years. Fifteen years old and bald isn’t something people see every day — and that was OK. Embracing my uniqueness not only helped me, but it helped others accept my differences, too.

That has become my life theme. Helping others has helped me. It inspired me to create the above picture as a form of “coming out” from wigs, stereotypes and assumptions. By setting your own definitions of beauty and acceptance, you also set a new standard for society. It draws people’s attention away from the external ideas of beauty, which encourages new reflections:

“She looks awesome without hair, her face is beautiful.”

“I wish I could rock a look like that.”

“You prove that hair is very little to the makeup of a woman.”

What makes up a woman is who she is on the inside, regardless of how she looks. Beauty starts from within, owning your “abnormality” starts the discussion of acceptance — and starts the change within society.

To my fellow alopecians struggling with acceptance and self-love: you are never alone.

As William James said, “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” Alopecia can feel like you’re on an island surrounded by people with hair, little understanding and loads of sympathy. But the sympathy doesn’t make you feel better; it worsens the situation. Take the proverbial leap and swim away from the island. You’ll be amazed to see who comes through and who fades to black. I’m so thankful alopecia gave me the truest friends in the world.

Sometime’s it’s easier to hide behind makeup and glue on eyelashes and wigs, but then no one will know your journey. Love begins with you. Learn to love your most minor details and people will love you the same way.

Everyone struggles with self-love. It’s one of life’s most difficult challenges. But by loving and embracing what makes you “you,” it gives you something others don’t: self-love and acceptance. Give yourself a little self-love every day:

“Wow, I look really good in this outfit today.”

“I love this color on me. It brings out my happy side.”

“My makeup is perfect today. I love feeling sexy.”

It’s never too late to start. Life is short — better love every second of it!

Originally published: September 25, 2015
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