No Hair, No Problem

Letting go of what we think defines us

Words by Nicholas Hallows

For many men it’s their worst nightmare. One day you notice your hairline is receding or beginning to thin at the crown. You put it down to bad lighting and try to ignore it. After all, everyone’s hair thins a bit as they age, doesn’t it?

Sometime later, you catch a glimpse of your reflection—or even worse, a pupil of yours kindly tells you you’re going bald as you lean over to help them with their work—and the truth is undeniable. There’s nothing quite like the raw honesty of children.

You then spend months umming and ahhing over whether to shave it off or not. You try various hairstyles and hats but begin to feel like you’re hiding something shameful from the rest of the world. You take numerous selfies holding your hair back, trying to imagine what you’d look like with no hair at all. You spend hours staring into the bathroom mirror, debating whether you should continue fighting a losing battle or if it’s time to say enough is enough and reach for the clippers.

This was me, realizing my thinning crown was becoming critical at the same time as discovering minimalism. I never imagined the philosophy of living a meaningful life with less would also help with my hair loss, but the merits of minimalism have surprised me in many ways over the past few years.

When you realize you are not your stuff, you also realize you are not your hair. We often use our things—book collections, cars, clothing—to create an image of ourselves to display to the rest of the world. We think it is our identity. But we are more than our stuff, we are more than the clothes we wear, and we are more than the hair on our head.

Minimalism asks the question: who am I without my stuff? I was now asking the same question about my hair. And, as I asked, I began to see that just as my stuff didn’t define me, neither did the wispy golden locks clinging desperately to my scalp.

But worrying about going bald was still monopolizing too much of my time and energy. Just as all my possessions, hidden away in the attic for years, had weighed on my mind, now the anxiety of balding was doing the same. Something needed to be done to clear this mental clutter.

If minimalism has one core strength, it’s that it trains you in letting go. This muscle stretches beyond just our things. Gradually, as I became better at letting possessions go, I became better at letting emotional clutter go too. Now it was time to let go of my anxiety (and my expectations of my future self as a silver fox) by relinquishing my hair. And because I’d been exercising my letting go muscle, I finally had the strength to do it.
I’d be lying if I said that when I shaved my head my vanity and anxiety vanished with my hair. It took me a while to get used to my new look—maybe even a year to accept it completely. But once I did, I felt a lot lighter and life felt simpler.

What’s more, a shaved head fits perfectly with minimalism. I don’t need any hair products, don’t spend any time styling my hair, don’t worry about bad hair days, and never have to pay for a haircut again. I glide my razor over my head every day or two and I’m done in a few minutes. I now spend so little time on my hair—or fretting about it—that I have more time to spend on the important things, like perfecting my writing instead of perfecting my side parting.

I used to think that going bald would be the worst thing to happen to me. However, I realized that – like many things in life—balding is only a problem if we make it one. If we can let go of our expectations and accept what is, we see much of our discomfort is imaginary and needs not occupy our time. If only I hadn’t clung to my hair so tightly, I would have realised sooner that my head, just like my life, is better with less.

Nicholas Hallows

Nicholas writes at Escaping Excess, a blog about minimalism, mindfulness, and veganism. He was once a primary school teacher who specialized in language and literacy, and he is a certified proofreader and editor. Nicholas is from the UK but now lives in Kuala Lumpur, where he spends his time writing, running, and sweating.

Website
Escaping Excess
Twitter
@NicholasHallows

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