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Old Friends & Old Anxiety: Going Bald to My High School Reunion

I recently (pre-covid) went to my 20 year high school reunion.  While I was excited about the prospect of connecting with some old friends and catching up on family and careers, I started to let some feelings of doubt and self-consciousness creep into my psyche.  It was like I had that feeling in a dream where I showed up to school completely naked.  That no one had changed from high school and all the same grudges, embarrassing moments, and rejections were still there.   

Hold on.  Why is this happening?  Why am I feeling this way? What is going on with my mental state?  As I analyzed it, I realized it was because I was bald and completely different from my high school picture.  In high school, I had thick brown hair that was beautiful, shiny, and healthy.  Now, I was completely shaved with a greying beard no less.   I was ashamed of the way I looked, and I hadn’t felt that way in a long time.

It was amazing to me that after all these years and all the experiences that have brought me confidence, pride, and joy; I was regressing to fear, anger, and anxiety.  All the  feelings I had when I started to lose my hair.  One event, one comment, one false narrative that could be planted in my head began degrading my confidence.

Luckily I have some good friends that were also going to attend and pushed me to go.  But, in the back of my mind I was thinking through what am I going to say when someone calls out the fact that I am bald?  How will I respond, what funny comment or deprecating thing can I say to release the awkward tension?

As fate would have it, the first person I came across was an old friend that was a woman and she was bald!  I thought to myself — “Wow! How brave of her.”  And, I was afraid of showing up because I lost my hair naturally.  It immediately melted away all my fears,  as I was inspired by what appeared to be her confidence and bravery.  But I was on the other side of the table, what was I going to say to her?  I know exactly what people say to me about being bald.  So, I just treated her like I would anyone else.  The same happened to me through the night.  The bald discussion never happened, it never came up once.  It was a wonderful night and I highly recommend attending your high school reunions if you haven’t.

Overall, I am sure you may have come across some of these hiccups in your bald journey, even when you are well past acceptance and have built confidence around your bald lifestyle.  It is important to know that even when you are at acceptance, you are still human, vulnerable, and self-conscious.   

So what do I do when this comes up?  Here is what helped me:

  1. Be self-aware and realize when these false narratives creep into your mind.  Fight these narratives with affirmations.

  2. Realize that it's not about you.  Your worries are mostly coming from what you think others will say or might have said.  Most of that is coming from their own insecurities and everyone has insecurities.  

  3. Be kind to yourself.  No need to let a comment or upcoming event bring you down.  Stay positive and draw on the things that make you confident.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or IG at @petrusricci and @petearicci.