I'd venture to say that I have a healthy dose of self-esteem. I'm not one to shy away from the camera or mind public displays of embarrassment. But there is one woman whose confidence has me beat. Meet my 11-month-old daughter, Eloise. Squishy belly, chunky thighs, oblivious to the compliments she receives or the boogers in her cute button nose Eloise. She is happy. Unlike most women my age, her happiness is not influenced (in good or bad ways) by her reflection, but instead how she feels when she is expressing herself (which currently consists of clapping, climbing, and Downward Dogging).
If I could bottle this up — her blissful naivete and self-assurance — I would. Every time the world tries to conform, define, or confuse her with unrealistic and contradictory beauty standards, I will give her a dose of her own inspiring confidence. But what happens when I'm the one who is sending her the mixed messages?
Fairly recently I dyed my hair blond. I know, so wild. But I've always been an all-natural kind of babe. I've been "waking up like this" since '85 and #MakeUpFree before it was a hashtag. For 30 years I've donned my natural hair color (brunette), natural breasts, natural everything like a badge of honor. I own my postbaby body as much as I did my prebaby body and am not ashamed to flaunt it on Instagram. I believed that being comfortable in my own skin gave me way more confidence than any foundation or balayage can.
And as a mother, I want my daughter to own, value, and love herself for every beauty mark and every trouble spot, fearlessly and unapologetically. But as a woman, much like my hair color, my perspective on what confidence means has changed.
As I walked out of the hair salon and posted my obligatory "new hair, who dis" selfie, I couldn't help but think that my makeover contradicts what I appreciate most about my daughter's innocence. One of my daughter's greatest gifts is her ignorance-is-bliss lifestyle. She hasn't yet been barraged by the media's standards of beauty. She hasn't yet been overloaded with contradictory images of what's hot and what's not or assaulted with unsolicited opinions about her looks. She hasn't yet been convinced that she is simply not good enough, just as she is. But, eventually, she will be.
She hasn't yet been convinced that she is simply not good enough, just as she is. But, eventually, she will be.
Until then, it's my job to prolong and shelter her from the inevitable unwelcome rite of passage into womanhood. Yet here I am, voluntarily changing my look that truthfully was inspired by season six Jemima Kirke, and it subsequently left me feeling more confident, more empowered, and sexier than ever before.
Perhaps the question is not "does dyeing my hair make me a bad role mo(m)del?" but rather, "what led me to abandon my beauty belief system and opt for a new look in the first place?" For as far back as I can remember, I demanded the same hairstyle — cut as little as possible, with as few layers as possible, and don't even bother blow-drying it. This time around, my trusty friend and stylist asked, "Why the sudden change of heart?" "Cause f*ck it," I replied.
I sat in anticipation of taking out that last foil and the final snip, snip. When all was said, cut, and dyed, I actually yelped, "MY SOUL IS SINGING!" I finally looked on the outside how I felt on the inside. Truth is, dyeing my hair was much less a conscious beauty evolution and much more a consequence of an internal revolution.
For the past year, I have come last. I didn't realize the beating that my authentic self has taken by putting everyone's needs in front of mine. From growing a human to being the sole income provider when my husband lost his jobs, from sacrificing our babymoon to pay for unexpected but very necessary doctors' bills to postponing going back to work until we found suitable (affordable) child care, each life decision that has come our way has been resolved by putting my needs on the back burner.
In hindsight, the effect on my spirit was evident in my postpartum hair and tired eyes. Attending my hair appointment was the first time in over a year, that Jen came first — not mom, not wife, Jen. And I f*cking missed her.
I emerged out of this past year braver and stronger than the woman with long brown hair. I'm no longer scared of a little change — change is the catalyst that set me on my new path (hi, new job!). I'm no longer scared of a little color — now I see life in a whole new dimension. I'm no longer concerned about what message dyeing my hair sends to my daughter — my confidence speaks volumes more than any hairstyle. Confidence is not staying comfortable with who we are, but having the courage to express, like Eloise does, who we are becoming — and sometimes that may mean a balayage.