My mum has often said that I am brave. Looking back, there are plenty of explanations as to why she would think that. However, I have never seen myself as brave – in any situation.
Bravery to me means fighting a battle for your country or fighting a battle of a life-threathening illness. It can also be seen when taking a risk such as bungee jumping or skydiving. None of which has happened to me.
I think many fellow alopecians will confirm that they have been told uncountable times that they are brave. I once asked someone who – with their head tilted to the side nodding sympathetically – expressed that I was brave, why they thought so. She said, “because you could wear a wig but you are choosing not to”.
Last night, I instagramed that I was going out to perform for the first time in many years. Another lifetime ago I used to be a entertainment manager on a holiday park which involved me singing, dancing and presenting on stage – quite a glamorous job some might say. I enjoy being on stage, it is a place I feel most at home. However, over the years, when one gets older, changes shape a little 😳 and becomes more self conscious, being on stage is not as attractive.
Losing my hair has changed my attitude. I can use the stage as a platform to raise awareness of alopecia and that means not hiding behind my usual hangups. So I took a last minute job that was offered to me after the original act pulled out. This was it, it may only be a small campsite with a few people in the audience but it is a start.
My main concerns were: How would they see me? Would the children be frightened of the bald woman on stage? Would the adult guests be put off by a bald entertainer? Would the staff behind the bar feel awkward and not know what to say?
My answer to all these questions? I wouldn’t know until I got there. I can’t help what people think. I told myself: it doesn’t matter – this is what you want.
And guess what? The evening was a success! I embraced the halloween spirit by joining in with the kids having tattoos and had my own bat tattoos as eyebrows. This broke the ice for the children and adults. By doing this it sent out the message that I wasn’t put off by being bald so there is no need for them to be.
Understandably, the kids started off looking at my head, they probably had a million questions to ask – as would the adult have too. But this simple and unplanned act of silliness broke down the ‘elephant in the room’ without me standing up and saying “hello my name is Rachel and I have alopecia”.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”
~ Mark Twain
I still stand by I am not brave but I will acknowledge that I have courage. Courage to feel the fear and do it anyway. It usually works out for the best. So my recommendation? Go for it!
Incidentally, I thought it was ironic that in both cases courage and bravery present the noun ‘boldness’. I know this is a different spelling but it tickled me nonetheless.
One of my favourite commentators, Brené Brown, talks about the importance of ‘courage over comfort’. She acknowledges that this approach can be hard, but argues that it is worth it. She explains in her book Daring Greatly that ‘vulnerability is the core, the heart, the centre, of meaningful human experiences’. It can take courage to be vulnerable, because our culture often mistakes vulnerability for weakness. But in reality, the opposite is true.
As Rachel discovered, the thoughts, images and questions we have in our head about possible outcomes often prove to be exaggerated or unfounded. We can limit ourselves unnecessarily with assumptions and negative self-talk. Rachel and I often say to ourselves ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ and then give ourselves permission to give whatever it is a try. If you look at everything in life as a learning experience, there’s nothing to lose.
Experiment with finding the good in every experience. Even if an event seems to be a threat or a problem, adopt a vision through which it can empower you
~ Alan Cohen, A Deep Breath of Life