I’m going gray. Actually, I’ve been going gray for almost 10 years now. I’m only recently ready to come to grips with that fact enough to truly accept it, to accept that this is who I am.
What’s been keeping me from the truth? Vanity? Yes. But what’s underneath that vanity? A need to be loved by others? Yes. By men? Yes. By women too? Yes. But in all brutal honesty, ESPECIALLY by men. For whatever reason, I’ve allowed the opinion of men determine my sense of self-worth. This opinion of others has been a powerful influence over me my whole life.
In the meantime, where has my opinion of myself ranked among all of those outside influences? At the bottom. Rock bottom.
The more gray I get, the worse my opinion of myself becomes. So what do I do in response? I increase the frequency of coloring my hair, soaking it with toxic chemicals not every 5 weeks (like I did for several years), not every 4 weeks (like I did for a few years more after that), but every 3 weeks (like I have to now), all the while picking up the pace on the I’m-afraid-to-get-old hamster wheel I insist on expending my mental energy on.
So, why do I do it? Why am I so afraid of looking at myself in a mirror and seeing gray?
Beyond what is obvious to me–that I’ve been accustomed to thinking that I will be less loved if I look less than perfect in someone else’s eyes–what else is it that keeps me from accepting my authentic graying self?
Is it simply getting old that scares me? If so, what is so horrible about getting older? In America, getting older is a curse. But, in most other countries, it is a gift that one should be so blessed as to live a long life. Likewise, it is a gift that the community respectfully and eagerly sponges life wisdom from its elders, knowing they are blessed in being able to do so. Quite honestly, I hope I’m lucky enough to live a long, rewarding life, and if I do, I’m quite sure I’ll be good and ready to go when it’s time to go, instead of being afraid of what lies on the other side.
So, what else is at the core of this resistance to accept myself as I truly am? What is so scary about being authentically me? Is it something I should feel embarrassed about? Is going gray a wicked, gender-specific curse? Why do I look at my husband and think him even MORE handsome since he went completely gray a few years ago, but look at myself in the mirror and think it makes me look LESS than? Fact is, I don’t even know what my real hair would look like on me right now. And it hit me today that I finally want to know.
I want to see a REAL me in the mirror. I want to see an AUTHENTIC me in the mirror, not somebody hiding behind a box of chemicals, not somebody hiding from what ought to be a beautiful, natural aging process. I want to feel as wonderful about myself as my husband feels about himself. I want to see the gentle cues from my body that remind me my time here on earth is limited. I want to embrace that it’s okay that I won’t be here forever. It’s only the chemicals in a box that are tricking me into thinking I somehow will. It’s the chemicals in a box that temporarily shield me from the truth. It’s the chemicals in a box that I insist on buying every month that will ultimately leave me shocked, depressed, and ill prepared when the reality of my mortality smacks me in the face sooner than I want it to, sooner than I will it to.
While I avoid the truth, I’ll be careless with my time, spending it on things that really don’t matter in the long run–including obsessing over and rejecting what my body looks like on the outside, rather than focusing on and embracing what it looks like on the inside. The measure of my self-worth will never be what somebody on the outside imposes upon me. It will be what I impose upon me.
When I fully accept and love the gradually graying me I will see in the mirror this coming year–the AUTHENTIC me–I will know my true worth, once and for all. That acceptance and love will be reflected back at me in the smiling eyes I know await me there.
It’ll be refreshing to meet her–this AUTHENTIC me. I really think I’m gonna like her.
Be kind to yourself.