Dramatically changing your appearance when going through a difficult or stressful life transition is a classic trope of teen movies that is mirrored in the real world. Whether that transition is a break-up, moving to a different place, or exam stress, most people have attempted to alter their looks while experiencing emotional instability. Yet do superficial changes translate to real changes in our mood and outlook?
One of the most common changes people resort to is changing their hair. Hair is easy to cut and dye, and makes a bold statement of an overall dramatic change. It matters in relation to our general sense of attractiveness, which is undoubtedly connected to our self-esteem. After all, getting a confidence boost after leaving the hairdressers’ is something we have all experienced. Confidence and control are strongly associated with one another.
In periods of great emotional stress, it is very easy to lose control of a situation and end up feeling lost. Deciding to change your hair colour or get a tattoo or piercing temporarily brings back the feeling of ownership over your life and decisions. It is empowering, and a fundamental means of self-expression.
However, while we might be able to cope with moderate stressors with the help of some scissors and a makeover, sometimes physical changes are just a quick fix. It can be used as a wall of denial and often creates or conceals more significant problems. It’s incredibly important to be on the lookout for signs of unhealthy behaviour like that, especially if the change is dramatic and out-of-character.
A drastic haircut, a new tattoo or a lip piercing doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is going through a hard time. Sometimes, changing up our appearance is just for fun. However, using the new makeover as a way to deflect from anxiety and negative emotions is just a Band-Aid on a deep wound. It all depends on whether the stressful situation is temporary or perhaps something that runs a little deeper. A quick change to your appearance can be a helpful pick-me-up but should never be used as a way to hide from mental health struggles.
[Maria Kostoulia – she/her – @emkinq]
[Photo credit: For Love and Lemons]