Confidence Tricks

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Amy Poehler is never wrong

Last week I watched Victoria Derbyshire host a debate on the EU referendum on BBC1. Fielding questions from the audience and refereeing between the panel on live television, it was hard to believe that she had finished treatment for breast cancer barely 24 hours before. Wearing her wig, she projected authority, self-confidence and poise. It was so inspiring to see.

It added a different dimension to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: how can you project self-confidence and a presence to others when you are struggling to feel comfortable with your appearance?

When I was battling to cover up hair loss, I was painfully self-conscious, convinced that not only was it apparent to everyone how damaged and odd-looking my hair was but that they could also see through to how I was feeling inside. When I got a hair replacement system, I thought this would improve but if anything I felt worse. Anxious about my real hairline showing through and the bumps caused by my hair growing underneath the system, I was convinced everyone would think I was ill. Now that I have hair extensions, I feel the least self-conscious I have in years. But not feeling self-conscious isn’t the same as feeling self-confident.

The truth though is that most people are so focused on their own issues they are unlikely to really be paying attention to my appearance. And as long as my sense of myself is defined by others and what they may or may not be thinking about me, I won’t be able to either project or feel confidence because real self-confidence comes from the inside.

It doesn’t matter whether I have hair loss, bad skin or any other body image issue: all are linked to the same central theme. If I feel broken on the inside I assume it shows on the outside. Fixing how I feel about myself is what really matters – the rest is just window dressing. Conquer that and who knows – I may even make it onto TV…or at least reveal my face on this blog!

The business of bad hair: getting to the root of the problem

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Having spent a long time hiding away, scared to show my hair in public, it’s taken me a long time to build up the courage to start this blog.

What eventually motivated me to take the plunge was how annoyed I felt at the amount of money and time that I’d wasted trying to fix my hair loss – with very varying results.

A big part of that was my own reluctance to go and get the proper help (it took me FOUR YEARS to finally make an appointment with a dermatologist!) but I also got a lot of bad advice along the way, and I want to stop others from falling into that trap.

For four years, the extent of my hair loss had varied but in the months leading up to the appointment, it was so bad that I mostly avoided seeing anyone other than family and very close friends. My hair was so brittle it would fall away in my hands and it came out in clumps when I dried it. My hair was very uneven, with most of my hair loss on one side of my head, and some sections less than an inch in length.

The most important – and the most difficult – step for me was definitely making an appointment with my GP and getting a referral to a specialist. While in my particular case that didn’t actually lead directly to a diagnosis, it gave me the confidence to start looking into what I could do to fix the results of my hair loss, which by then was too extensive to disguise using clips or even head scarves.

It was a hard thing to do but ultimately the thought of sitting in the doctor’s surgery with my hair uncovered was much harder than the reality. Doctors are trained to be sensitive and personally, I found that seeing a female doctor meant that she already understood that this wasn’t just vanity but a problem that had gradually taken over my life.

The doctor referred me to a dermatologist who specialised in hair loss. Seeing her was definitely more challenging than seeing the doctor: hearing that she had no idea what the cause of my hair loss was really shocked me and made me feel like I was abnormal.

Ultimately though, and with the encouragement of my family, it gave me the confidence to follow her advice and visit a hairdresser who specialised in hair loss solutions.

That was seven months ago and since then, albeit after a lot of setbacks and complications, my hair is finally starting to grow back and I’m working on rebuilding some of the self-confidence I lost over the last five years.

So, if any of this resonates with anyone reading this, I would say don’t follow the path I took and get help now! Although that help may be imperfect, it is out there, and confronting the problem and seeking solutions is so much more empowering than hiding away like I did.

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