Baldness And Other Developmentally Normal, but Difficult, Issues
Emotional and physical development does not stop with becoming an adult. Individual growth is a life-long process that presents numerous challenges and demands ongoing change. Many developmental theorists refer to times of change as developmental crises. The word crisis implies that we often experience difficulty as we move from one emotional or physical stage of our life to another. For example a key psychological and spiritual task for adolescents is to become more independent. In middle age, one of the important developmental tasks is learning how to live creatively, i.e. to love well, live well and play well. Also, in midlife, many physical signs of getting older (including losing one’s hair) are seen as threats and as diminishing our stature or power in society.
A significant issue in facing hair loss, or any of the normal life changes, is your view of what you consider to be your ideal self. There is often a large discrepancy between who you would like to be and who you really are. This gap is the source of low self-esteem. Constant media images show you how you should look, what objects you should have and the style of life you supposedly need to be happy. It is not only women that are plagued by advertising and the “Barbie doll myth”. Men are becoming increasingly targeted as consumers and are also measuring their value in terms of physical appearance. In addition, many people believe that the quantity and quality of their possessions, their income and/or their status define their value as a person. Your self-esteem is at the core of how you respond to any or all of these issues.
Self-esteem is a measure of how much you value yourself. Your parents and the other important people in your life placed an initial value on you as a child through their words and their behaviours. As an adult, it is now up to you to determine your value. You must take charge of your self-esteem and if it isn’t what you would like it to be don’t look outside of yourself for someone or something to make it better.
In life you always have choices. You can focus on what you don’t have and be miserable and be critical of yourself, or you can be thankful for what you do have, appreciate your strengths, and enjoy life while you learn from every difficult experience. Your way of looking at the world and yourself emerges from your upbringing and your own life experience. You can change your way of looking at the world and how you view yourself.
If there is a huge gap between who you are and what you want to be, do something about it. You can either change who you are or you can change your expectations of yourself. If you have hair loss, you can focus on how much extra time you have in your life. Rather than needing haircuts, combs, hairdryers and all the associated products and procedures you can prepare your head for the day each morning by spending ten seconds with a washcloth. If having hair is really important to you, you can spend the time and money to seek cosmetic treatments.
No one is totally happy with all aspects of themselves and their life. If you are happy, just wait a few weeks and something will change. Life is a series of transitions and an ongoing process of growth and change. Each of these challenges provides you with an opportunity to close the gap and to value and become more satisfied with the person you are. Sometimes you will have to change yourself and/or your expectations, and sometimes you will have to find ways to accept the reality that is in front of you. Let your goal be to value yourself in this moment, with all your strengths and flaws. Make the choice to find the best of you inside rather than looking outside and chasing unrealistic expectations to build your self-esteem.
Dr. Stephen Carter