As a woman, I understand the temptation to place my value on my looks, and especially on my hair. It’s funny how a woman’s hair can become her security blanket, relying on it to feel any bit of confidence in public. As long as I have my hair done, I feel ready to face the world.
So imagine the horror I felt when I realized I would lose all my hair while pregnant with my first son. When that was taken away, I didn’t know how to love myself.
Pregnant, Confused, and Bald
Halfway through the pregnancy, I began to experience intense itching on my scalp and I would scratch my head until it bled. I thought I was going insane. The itching was followed by severe hair loss. I was pulling out chunks of hair every day, multiple times a day. It seemed as if hair covered every surface of our home. My daughter would play and run back with my hair stuck on her fingers and lips. Every time I showered, I created wild, imaginative art murals with my hair on the shower wall, and afterwards collected hair balls the size of my whole palm.
My OB doctor referred me to a dermatologist. I spent over $600 on blood tests trying to figure out what was happening to me and I was actually disappointed when all of my results came back healthy and normal. I wanted something to be wrong with me, just so I could have an answer, and therefore, a cure. Every week, my hair thinned drastically. My hairline was receding and the part in my hair was splitting wide like the Red Sea. I bought all kinds of expensive steroid treatments, wigs, special shampoos, and hair products, praying that my hair would stop falling out.
Fighting the Devil’s Lies
I spent a lot of nights crying. Every time I walked past a mirror, I felt ugly and ashamed. Every night, I would look at myself and think “You’re disgusting. You look hideous. How can anyone love you when you look like that?”
It took a long time before I realized that it had been the devil whispering that in my ear all along.
I was depressed and miserable, and really angry with God. Why was this happening to me? I didn’t want to talk to Him or have a relationship with Him until my hair came back. I didn’t pray, I didn’t worship, I didn’t want anything to do with Him. All I wanted was my hair back. It got to a point where I had such little hair, I looked like Gollum from Lord of the Rings… until I mustered up the courage to shave my head. I cried and laughed in the bathtub while my husband went at it with the clippers. I felt scared, liberated, horrified, and relieved all at once.
I had finally let go of any hope of salvaging my hair and literally had to cut off what had become my false idol.
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I realize there are women who suffer much greater trials during pregnancy and that people have far worse reasons for losing their hair. I always knew that looks aren’t everything and that beauty goes beyond the physical. But I didn’t truly believe it for myself until I was forced to find the beauty in my balding head. Talk about a lesson in humility. It was the cause of many spiritual attacks and it was a daily fight to keep from hating myself.
As I struggled to keep my appearance from dictating my worth as a person, God used the people in my life to show me that I am still beautiful. My husband would rub my head and kiss me even though I didn’t want him to look at me. My daughter didn’t see me any differently; I was still her mommy who loved and provided for her. My friends reassured me that I could pull off this new look, and my family reminded me of how brave I was to sacrifice my hair for my son.
Through these people, I realized that I am loved beyond measure. They helped me to see that I am wanted most of all by Jesus. That He delights in me and who I am, despite how I look and my imperfections.
What Is Beauty?
I had to ask myself, “What is beauty?” We see plenty of beautiful people everyday in public, on television, in magazines, and the internet. But when you strip away the big hair, the makeup, the toned bodies, and pretty clothes, you realize those are not the things that make one beautiful. It may be harder to recognize but there is beauty in each of us.
I realized that beauty is joy.
It’s about not taking yourself too seriously and finding humor in your life everyday. It’s about believing that you are good and that you are loved.
Beauty is kindness and sacrifice.
It’s about the way you treat people and make them feel important and cared for. It’s about the big and little sacrifices you make that may or may not go unnoticed.
Beauty is confidence.
It’s about knowing and believing you make a difference. It’s about being kind to yourself, and being YOU in all of your uniqueness, knowing that there is no one else in the world like you.
Beauty is understanding your gifts and talents, and using them to become the best possible version of yourself while lifting up others to do the same.
My Most Beautiful Moment
During the last few weeks of the pregnancy, my hair started growing back slowly but surely. Then my son entered the world (with a full head of hair, ironically) and the second he was placed into my arms, I knew it was all worth it. I never thought I’d have such a drastic look when it came to my appearance, but I learned to like it with every passing day (no tangles and 5 minute showers are game changers).
Most of all, I learned how to love myself and see myself the way God sees me: full of dignity and beauty, worthy of his love in all of my imperfections, which are made perfect through Him. The pursuit of loving oneself is a daily journey and I pray that you will read this and know that whether you are a woman or man, young or old, with hair or no hair, you are beautiful. You are worthy. You are loved.
What characteristics do you attribute to beauty—in yourself and in others? What sort of lies tempt you to feel unworthy? What is God trying to say to you to dispel those lies? Who is one person you can reach out to this week and affirm their beauty?
Written by Maggie Kim.