Going gray is one of the natural physical changes that will occur in your body as you age. According to WebMD, every hair follicle contains pigment cells that continuously produce a chemical called melanin. Melanin gives your hair its natural color. As we age the hair follicle’s cells gradually die off and the new hair growth comes in as a more transparent shade like gray, silver, white, ash or a salt and pepper combination.
If you’ve been dying your hair for years, you know that it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to see evidence of this strip of lighter color showing at your root line.
Don’t Judge Your Feelings
As you look at yourself in the mirror and notice the gray, you may feel a mixture of emotions ranging from anger and sadness to fear, frustration, shame and resentment. Don’t judge your feelings. Whatever emotion you feel is okay. It’s all good.
You have all these emotions because your mind is spinning trying to make sense of the different thoughts about what gray hair means to you. These thoughts are called beliefs and we get them handed down to us from our families and our life experiences.
Embrace Your Gray or Dye It?
If you grew up surrounded by older women who embraced their gray and were encouraged by others to feel wonderful about themselves as they matured, it’s likely that you would feel really jazzed about embracing your gray.
But if you didn’t have that positive experience, and you grew up feeling pressured to hold onto your youth, there’s a chance that you have been choosing to dye your hair.
Living in an ageist culture where beauty is typically associated with youth, it can be really difficult being a woman facing the reality of aging.
Going Gray: Men vs. Women
Our society treats gray and silver-haired men and women differently which can lead to a lot of insecurities for women.
Gray-haired men are often considered silver foxes and distinguished. And women are met with comments and told that they are looking older, haggard and tired.
If you grew up in a family where there was a lot of emphasis on women’s appearances and authority figures told you how important it was to look beautiful and young, you learned to think of your value and self-worth as based on your appearance.
There’s a lot more to going gray than just giving up your hair dye. Ultimately it’s an affirmation and celebration of you stepping into your power. Your decision to go gray is deeply personal and should never be taken lightly or rushed. Here are a few tips that helped me to embrace my gray.
Acceptance is Power
When you’re happy and at peace with yourself, there’s no better feeling in the world. If you notice that seeing your gray hair leads to negative emotions and bad feelings, that’s a sign telling you that you’re not happy and you’re definitely not at peace with yourself.
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to embrace your gray or dye your hair. What’s most important to your happiness and peace of mind is that you accept yourself as you are. The only person’s approval you need is yours. You have to like yourself. The good news is that you are the boss. Nobody gets to tell you what to do and how to live.
Question Your Inner Critic
According to research most people have what is known as an inner critic. This is generally a negative internal dialog that seems to keep a running tally of all your weaknesses, flaws and mistakes. And best of all you can get control of it. If you really pay attention the next time your inner critic shows up, you may notice that the voice and tone of your inner critic is familiar.
The things we say and the way that we speak to ourselves in our most private moments is a result of what we have learned from the past. If you’ve been criticized and shamed by others or witnessed others being criticized for flaws you associate with yourself, you may recognize that you have developed a negative inner critic voice.
In many ways we unconsciously want to mimic our parents or those with whom we spent the most time growing up. You may even be body shaming yourself as others have shamed you. You can break the cycle and gain self-respect by first becoming aware of what your inner critic is saying.
Forgive Your Past
If you cringe when you see your gray hair in the mirror it may remind you that you’re looking more like your mother or another female authority figure in your life. It’s been my personal experience that if you don’t have a close relationship with your mother or other female authority figures from your past, and if you are holding resentment or anger than you will feel anxious and uncomfortable seeing yourself looking like them.
What’s needed for you to soften and accept yourself at this stage is forgiving the women who have hurt you. I dyed my hair for years because I didn’t want to look like my mother. Despite being a very beautiful woman, I resented my mom for never protecting me as a child.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to see my mother’s mental illness up close and that helped me to see her from a more compassionate perspective. That fresh insight of seeing my mother’s vulnerability moved me closer to embracing my aging body. Another powerful attitude shift came from the realization that I had already wasted so much time grieving over the past, yearning for the approval of loved ones who weren’t capable of those emotions. When I started to think about the generations of dysfunction in my mother’s family, I realized that, like me she was just a product of her own family’s limiting and disempowering beliefs. As I gained a better understanding of my mother’s personality, I began to appreciate and be grateful to her for the gifts she gave me. Seeing her as human and imperfect made it possible for me to accept myself as an aging woman.
Seek Out Role Models or Mentors
You can find role models everywhere you look. They don’t have to be celebrities or have a list of accomplishments. Keep your sights on finding real people who are relatable to you. Look for women who have already achieved the goal you’re setting for yourself. You would be surprised how willing people are to share their gifts and secrets with you. All you have to do is ask.
In the process of writing my book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In: The Juicy Woman’s Guide to Making Peace with Food and Friends with Your Body,” I interviewed many women. Many of these connections came as a result of reading Plus Model Magazine.
Plus Model Magazine is an online magazine filled with inspirational stories and photos of beautiful, full-figured women. This was
mind-blowing to me to read about larger women who were confident and loved their bigger bodies. Reading Plus Model Magazine opened up my world and I became aware of a whole other side of reality. Beauty was not defined by a size.
My intention in writing my book was to share my experience of empowerment with other women teaching them how they, too could move beyond adversity and depression by taking the journey from body hatred and self-loathing to self-love.
As I learned, self-love is essential to your happiness. Without a sense of liking, respecting and being at peace with yourself, you will always find ways of sabotaging your health, happiness, relationships, finances and every other aspect of your life.
My interviews for my book exposed me to new empowering ways of thinking about being a plus size woman. I shared my insights and the lessons in my book.
A few years after accepting myself as a plus size woman, I noticed my first signs of aging; under eye dark circles and thinning hair. I went back and re-read my book and followed the same path that I took to accept my body size. Shortly after I had turned myself in a completely new direction and I was more confident embracing my changing appearance.
For me, reading my book has become my way of life. It reminds me how to live as an empowered woman no matter what challenge I face. I live by my own book.
I used the same steps to embrace my gray hair as I did when I learned how to accept and love my bigger body and make peace with my aging face.
No matter what you’re dealing with, my advice is to seek out role models of others who can inspire you by their stories of overcoming the challenge you are facing.
YouTube is always my go-to for seeking out role models. About 4 years ago when I first felt those pangs of discomfort around aging, I started to search for women on YouTube who embraced their gray hair. That’s when I found Monique Parent. Monique is a professional actor and YouTuber whose videos taught me how to accept my age.
I watched Monique’s videos and was inspired to go gray at my own pace. It took me about 2 years of gradually transitioning the color of my hair dye to more closely matching my natural ashy gray tone.
At one point I switched to Madison Reade, a vegan hair dye company subscription service. I enlisted the help of one of their color experts to find the color that was closest to my natural hair shade.
After seeing the photos of my roots in sunlight my color expert recommended I use the Bologna Blonde shade. I purchased a subscription and received a delivery of Bologna Blonde hair dye every 6 weeks.
My plan was to gradually change shades until I reached the color closest to my natural gray. After about a year I switched to Pisa Blonde.
Pisa blonde was very close to my natural gray color. As I continued to watch Monique’s videos I felt more and more excited about embracing my natural gray.
In January of 2020 my life was going through a lot of transition with a big move. I knew it was coming time to receive a new shipment of my hair dye. Coloring my hair was the last thing on my mind. I called Madison Reade and moved my next shipment to a month later.
A month later when Fedex delivered the package of hair dye from Madison Reade. I wasn’t excited. I didn’t have any sense of anticipation or urgency to run and dye my hair.
In fact I didn’t even want to do it. That’s when I knew I was done with dyeing. Later that day when my husband came into my office I told him of my decision to go gray.
He said, “Honey, whatever you want to do is fine by me.” I told him that was nice but I didn’t need his approval. And even if he wasn’t okay with my decision, I was still going to go gray.
I told him what mattered was that I was ready to embrace my gray and step into this older, wiser version of myself. And even though my gray hair had been growing out considerably as shown in the photo here, I consider that was the first day that I actually embraced my gray.
Sadly my beloved husband Angel passed away this past April. He died of a sudden heart attack leaving me a widow and putting an abrupt end to our 31 year history together.
I will always love and deeply miss him. He brought so many blessings to my life. But as the consummate survivor I am, I’m ready for this next chapter and eager to step into my power by pioneering new discussions with women on the beauty and boldness of embracing aging.
Where are you on your journey of embracing your gray? Remember the decision to go gray is a deeply personal one and it can never be rushed.
If you’re ready to begin your own journey of stepping into your power, and rising above adversity then come join me on Facebook. Click on the link to get started: https://www.facebook.com/groups/431432387054837/