WHETHER ABOUT HAIR LOSS OR ANYTHING ELSE IN LIFE, WE TELL OURSELVES STORIES … AND THEN WE BELIEVE THEM.
I have a friend named Steven whom I have known for 30 years. We met in college, and he was nearly bald at the time. He never mentioned it in passing, in any jokes that one might expect someone to offer up. He never hid from it — no weird comb-over or excessive use of a baseball cap. No one else ever talked about, either. He had plenty of girlfriends. Bottom line, it was a non-issue for him and for anyone else in his life.
Doug (not his real name) is another friend. He started losing his hair during law school, and nearly 30 years later he still finds himself impacted by the trauma of his hair loss and everything he attached to the experience. Thanks to hair transplant surgery, including scalp reduction, he now sports a reasonable amount of hair, which he can’t stop fixing and fussing over to assure himself that nobody can see that he “had work done.”
Here they are, having lost their hair at roughly the same point in their lives — one who shares his shiny head with others without question, the other now sporting surgically restored hair and still traumatized. What makes these two men so vastly different?
I see this in my practice all the time, and it is not about hair or money or any other topic that people decide is the reason for their upset. It is about the story — the unique dynamic and spin that each person puts on any cause or situation to essentially make sense of it, no matter how bizarre or strange one might find their logic. The story we tell ourselves is, more often than not, not true. But it does make for good story.
Steven’s story is quite simple and without a lot of fanfare or drama. “I started losing my hair when I was 19, and I have never thought much about it since then.”
Doug’s is slightly more involved, and, to be direct, more closely resembles a one-hour dramatic TV show, less anyone actually succumbing to a physical death. “I was struggling through law school and desperately trying to hide that fact from classmates and teachers. Then I started losing my hair and now had something else to hide. It was all pretty overwhelming. Though I finally made it through school and passed the bar, to this day, even with my new hair, I wonder if the other attorneys in my firm can tell it’s really not my original hair. Much of my life feels like a secret, and I still feel like I am hiding. But from what?”
Two men. Two very different stories. Separated by their own capacity to imagine themselves and project how others see them.
When it comes to hair loss, we all become masters of spin
When I see clients who are quick to judge others and themselves — which is most people — I ask them to start the judgment statement with the following:
“The story I tell myself is …”
From that point they can say anything they want, because eventually what they will begin to bring to the surface are the decisions they have made about themselves, their situations and their life experiences to validate or make sense of their very existence on the planet.
The story I tell myself is that being bald is weak and makes me less than someone with a full head of hair.
The story I tell myself is that you won’t like me if you see the real me and know that I am hiding a secret.
The stories are vast and deep. And the great majority of them are simply true because you believe them. None of them would hold up in court, despite your skills as a self-prosecuting attorney or the circumstantial evidence you have been gathering over the years to make them so.
The key in all of this is for you, me and everyone else who may be unhappy about the circumstances and situations in their lives to do the following:
- Expose the story. What are you telling yourself and others about you that just is not adding up? Hint: Look for those areas in your life where you are most unhappy.
- Write the story down. Something happens when you get it out of your head, put it down on paper and see it sitting on the paper by its lonely self.
- Ask yourself, Is this true? And I don’t mean as a way to further the drama. Be real with yourself.
- Explore what the story is really exposing. For most it is a core issue of lovability, enoughness, a flaw that we are afraid may be true.
- Forgive yourself for those judgments. You worked with what you had or were given by others. Accept it as a means to be able to move forward.
- Reframe the belief in a way that reveals your authentic nature, one that allows your greatness to shine through.
Now, run out and live your life larger than you ever imagined. This new story is indeed you. Don’t be selfish — share it!