“You need to oil your hair regularly beta, why don’t you use hibiscus oil?” - I was 8-9 years old when I got this advice first

“You shouldn’t have used the hard hat while you worked on the oil rigs, that completely destroyed your hair!” - **I was 23 here

“ You seem to be taking a lot of stress, you’ve lost so much hair! ...and 33 here

In India, some of the most common ‘icebreakers’ when you visit your parents’ family/friends are around your skin color, body weight and volume/length of hair. And then people go on to give you/your parents some tips on what should be done to fix all of those. This holds true even if you have normal skin, hair and acceptable BMI. For someone like me who has dry skin that tans easily and hair that falls easily, well-wishers are always waiting to dole out home remedies.

I’ve had a fair amount of access to ‘beauty is skin deep’ philosophy, yet I am always conscious about my hair and skin. So I did some thinking on why this was the case.

First, I made a list of close family - (about 73 aunties, uncles, grandparents and their network)

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/dkMKCrZOlZLI42kWJrQBvBPqakJjcLw6g6OqpMUQOCTtCkhUuzd0GkCiSHNEr6QQdOh_uw4EcZ3z8pqGIHmnyuEYvUgyqlGZKn0WmoVNT1xEj6FHbkkU5XBZzti3IJVIBFDBDd-M

Over the course of the last 25 years, on an average, I’ve visited/spoke to each of these people atleast 1.5 times a year - so that’s 2500+ conversations filled with comments and home remedies about hair and skin from people that mean well but not necessarily those I’m comfortable with.

25 years x 73 people x 1.5 conversations a year x 5 mins per conversation = 200 + hours of hair talk

Assuming an average of 5 mins per conversation, I’ve listened to 200+ hours of what I need to do to have flawless skin and hair. And this doesn’t include the media exposure from SunSilk commercials or Rapunzel’s long locks or the time I’ve spent each day in front of the mirror wondering if my hair looks fine - even if it's just for a quick minute here and there. If I were to add all this time, it may sum up to the number of hours a person needs to learn a language. And I did, my brain has learnt a new language - that of being conscious about my hair and skin.

Hair means different things to different people - it can be a means of self-expression, a layer for keeping your head warm or a source of confidence. For me, it was a source of my confidence. Ideally, fear of losing confidence should be much worse than fear of losing hair, but it meant the same to me. I wanted to conquer that fear, so I started with a simple question

What is the worst that can happen to your hair? Premature baldness.

Great, let's get rid of all the hair and see what happens to my confidence. Will my confidence die instantly or will there be a gradual decay with time before it hits a rock bottom and goes back up again or will it remain unaffected?

Coming up with this idea was quite easy, in fact it has been on my bucket list for almost a decade. Every time I thought about shaving my head, I’d tell myself that I’d shave my head the day I got a six pack (well, I needed something else to make up for the loss of confidence ) or I’d push it by a few days/months cause there was an important meeting that I need to take my confident self to.

All along the way, I made excuses because I hadn’t worked on any strategy to deconstruct my anxiety and fears. This time around, I set a target date - Aug 15th and worked on a few strategies. Here's a framework for conquering your fears

Photoshopped a new bold bald look using some old pics and looked at them every now and then. Instead of my bald head, I caught myself staring more at the background in the picture, being grateful for having the chance to be in that place, looking at my smile and recollecting the reasons for those smiles.

Now that I was fine with looking bald, the next step was to think through the process of going back to a hair-do, the regular 'lawn mowing' that will be needed . I looked up some YouTube videos on '365 days from a shaved head' and it didn't seem bad at all, with some help from my husband and a good trimmer, I can social distance myself from the salons.

I imagined myself in different meetings with different people. Lived the anxiety in my mind, accepted it, took a few deep breaths and moved on. End result - When I feel it next time, it won’t be an unfamiliar anxiety. I’ll know exactly what to do to feel better - take a few deep breaths! I’ve conditioned my brain and it now knows how to respond.

I shared the target date with a few close friends and family so I’d be more accountable. I didn’t talk to close family/friends who’d talk me out of this, I wasn’t fully confident if I’d do this and I didn’t want other people to give me more reasons.

On Aug 15th, I dilly dallied the whole day if I should do it now or push it by a week. I had three new meetings in that week (excuse alert!), it was almost 5pm and I still wasn’t feeling confident.