The moment everything changed...
I remember exactly where I was when this exchange between myself and my then 6 year old daughter happened.
I sat, head in hands on a bench by a window in our house, one set of twins standing in front of me, one set of twins half strewn across my body, listening.
One of my 6 year old twins was crying because I had said something about being ready to go outside the house without my wig, specifically to their school to pick them up. I’d been wearing a wig for the past 4-5 months ( which most people didn’t know) because I’d lost most of my hair to alopecia. I’d wrestled with myself for months and months over wearing a wig over what was left or shaving it off completely and dealing with whatever came after that. In the end I’d made the decision to shave it, which unleashed an avalanche of emotions in the process.
Fear - Over people seeing more of my face, over feeling like I couldn’t possibly look feminine, womanly, attractive, or the universally agreed upon version of beautiful, over what people would say about me and to me or both, over how this would affect my children, over what my husband would think or feel and if that would change things between us
Anger- At feeling so shallow for thinking these things when there are people with “ real problems” in the world, at all the medical professionals that only pointed me towards options that included hiding my head, or pursuing treatments to grow it back, at not knowing exactly what to do with complete clarity to deal with this the moment it happened,
And finally a rebellious resilience that sent me reaching for the clippers and ended in me staring breathless at myself for the first time BALD……and triumphant.
Shaving my head was the first big hurdle to stepping into this in a positive and powerful way for me. It was me dipping my big toe into my own big bad pool of bold and unexpected inner power. It was me walking the walk that I had been talking and teaching for years to my students.
Would I feel this strong, empowered and bold when I left the bubble of my house? When someone stared at me for the first time? Would I be able to respond with a smile or look people in the eye easily? I really wanted to, and shaving my head was definitely a step in that direction but it also existed on a spectrum. On one side was the voice of my 15 year old self freaking the F out, reminding me of all I’d been teased for and the lack of feminine features I was already dealing with. On the other side was my wise, warrior woman 38 year old self reminding me of all the things I’d done that were way harder and that this would just be one more thing to feel into, learn to feel at home in and build me into more of who I wanted to be.
Until the moment my daughter looked at me with tears in her eyes and fear in your face and said “ mom, you can’t go to school without your wig. You don’t look like the other moms!” , I didn’t believe I could either for the exact same reason she was sharing with me.
And my response to her in the moment came swift and clear and was the utmost truth the moment I spoke it.
“Sweetheart, I’m not trying to. I’m only trying to be me and sometimes it’s easy to know what that is and what it looks like and sometimes it’s a little more challenging I know right now in this moment I don’t want to wear a wig anymore, I don’t want to try to fit in, or look like anyone except me and I hope that if you don’t hear anything else I say you hear and understand that you never ever have to change or hide any part of who you are or what you look like so other people will accept or like you. Our job isn’t to change ourselves to fit into the world. Our job is to BE OURSELVES and in doing so, be a part of changing the world for the better. “
In the end the woman I am now put to bed forever the 15 year old I used to be and showed her it would be ok first, and then wayyy more than o.k.
My daughter stared at me for a long time and then quietly said, “ I understand.”
It’s a strange feeling to want to belong, be accepted and recognized as being a part of the world we move through while simultaneously longing for freedom from that wanting. It’s a powerful feeling to not NEED to feel that way to feel good about who we are or our worthiness. Every time I went without a wig, it strengthened my conviction and belief in myself and my choice to do so. It distanced me further and further from what I used to believe I had to be, look like, present myself as and created incredible opportunities for how to help my children avoid these things as they grow and face a world telling them there is right way to be a boy or a girl. When did that become more important than teaching people how to be the right kind of HUMAN?”
It also brought to light how we as people like to categorize and see only certain things about others. I am wayyyyy more than a bald woman, a mom of two sets of twins, an athlete, a teacher, and any other label I’ve previously held or choose to place on myself now.
We all are an intersection of amazing talents, abilities, experiences and beliefs and when we choose to SEE each other as stories waiting to be told, incredible adventures waiting to be shared and above all else HUMANS, who are all worthy, valuable and belonging to the world we live in together, we will cease to JUDGE each other and instead reach to CONNECT and SUPPORT one another FIRST.
These experiences are part of the reason I was so honored to partner with GirlGaze, Dove and Getty Images on Project #ShowUS. It’s one small thing I can do to live the message that the respect we deserve as people and the value we hold isn’t based on how we look, or whether or not we fit the “norm” in any way, shape or form. Our worth and value as humans isn’t negotiable or based on anything outside of what we think of ourselves.
When you remember who you really are and how powerful that is, then choose to live, speak and move through the world as that person, everything changes. Is today that day for you?
You can see the full ShowUs collection of Getty Images by clicking here.
You can watch the Dove ShowUs video by clicking here.
If you are interested in learning more about me, need help supporting someone with alopecia or want to know more about my speaking, workshops or partnering with me, I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, through my Facebook page - Luciana Naldi or on instagram ( @lucianatwinmama)
Thanks for reading!