I wish the word ‘weakness’ didn’t have such negative connotations. Because so often, our perceived ‘weaknesses’ and insecurities are what make us special.
How boring would the world be if we all looked, acted and thought the exact same? If our hair was perfectly straight or we dressed in beige or we never showed any passion for anything?
Something I’m quite passionate about is the very thing which makes me different. A condition that I used to see as this terrible weakness… before I realized it could be my superpower!
In this article, I’ll share my own journey of turning a weakness into a strength – then offer up 3 steps you could take to do the same.
I had just turned 11 when I got my first bald patch. My mother had passed away the month before and my body responded to this trauma by attacking itself, one hair follicle at a time. Turns out I had alopecia areata – an autoimmune condition that involves losing your hair to form bald patches across the scalp.
My patches returned at various points throughout my life until, in my early twenties, carefully arranged clips and stretchy headbands could no longer conceal my glaring ‘weakness’. I was so ashamed, so angry at my body for doing this to myself. For being weak and unable to cope.
I turned to synthetic hair toppers then eventually a full – and horribly expensive – human hair wig. It gave me a little confidence at first but after a year or so I grew to hate it. I hated the jagged combs that caused me headaches, hated the fact I’d panic at every gust of wind, hated that I was hiding my true self beneath. I felt like I was lying to everyone around me and that guilt further dented my (already battered) self-esteem.
Asking my boyfriend to shave my head seemed like a drastic action…but it also seemed right. And as I watched my remaining curls pool around my feet, I felt an overwhelming sense of liberation. I could be myself. I was free.
I got mixed reactions to my bald head. Although some people were lovely, others were downright mean; pointing and laughing and hurling verbal abuse. Always an overly sensitive type, I thought those reactions would break me. But in fact, they did quite the opposite – they introduced me to an inner strength I’d kept locked away since I was a child.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t care what other people thought of me. They could have their opinions, sling their hurtful words… that was their problem.
What mattered was how I saw myself, and if I could be happy with my decision. And I was.
Nowadays I still get different reactions to my hairstyle – a floppy mohawk on an otherwise bald head. But I’ve leaned into the look and kind of love what makes me different! I don’t know what I’d do if my hair grows back and I’ve stopped hoping that someday it will.
Instead I use my experiences as an alopecian to support and empower other people with hair loss. It’s helped me turn my weakness into my strength and I’ve never been happier – even without hair!
What does this mean for you?
Well, if you’ve got something you’re insecure about, a characteristic that causes you shame, take a moment to stop and ask yourself these questions:
- Does it make you feel ugly, or ‘less’, somehow?
- Why is that?
- Do you really believe that or are you afraid of what other people might say or think?
- Why does it matter what other people say or think anyway?
- Can you find anything positive about this ‘weakness’? Anything you can learn from it?
So much of the time, our beliefs about ourselves are influenced by other people’s opinions. Which is actually a wasted exercise – because, as I’ve found, we’re often too wrapped up in ourselves – in our own insecurities – to notice what’s going on with someone else!
Many times I admitted my hair loss to people only to be met with surprise. They hadn’t noticed, they thought it was a style choice. Or to have them confess something back… they suffer from alopecia, too, and were scared to admit it before. It’s been an eye-opener for me to learn that people don’t spend half as much time thinking about us as we think they do!
So that’s one way of facing your ‘weakness’ – to realize that many people won’t notice it at all.
3 ways to make your weakness your strength
Now let’s go a step further. Not only to give your weakness less power but to transform it into something else entirely: your greatest strength. Here’s how:
1. Share it
When I posted publicly about my alopecia for the first time, I felt the biggest weight roll off my shoulders. It was like revealing my secret gave it less control, less of a hold over me. It was empowering to take charge and to simply say: “Yep, this is me. This is my thing.”
As a bonus of sharing about your weakness, you’ll probably notice that you’re not alone! Friends, colleagues even strangers may get in touch to say your words resonate with them, that they’re insecure about a similar – or even the exact same – thing.
Because you see, by bringing the shadows of our insecurities into the light… Poof! They disappear.
2. Help others to share, too
Setting up Lady Alopecia helped me find gratitude in my condition. Before that, when I’d shaved my head and told people about it, I’d been proud to connect with my inner strength. I realized there was more to me than my hair and learned to be comfortable in myself, just as I was.
But creating a platform that encouraged others to share was a big turning point in my life. I saw the power that lies in a supportive community, how much we can help each other at our very lowest points. Not even in offering advice, but in letting others know that we’ve been there, too.
We understand. They’re not alone.
If I didn’t have alopecia, I never would’ve connected with this power – to create a discourse, to give people permission to share their experiences and to show how much strength we can draw from each other.
3. Use mindfulness tools
If you’re not quite ready to share yet, that’s ok. You’ll get there and if not, that’s ok, too! Now is the time to be kind to yourself, without judgement.
Related: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up
If you’d rather keep whatever it is you see as your weakness to yourself, I’d suggest a few mindfulness tools you can try in your own time. They’ll help you change that negative narrative you might have about yourself and introduce you to a strength in you that’s always been there.
That’s an important point: strength is not something you need to seek; it’s already within you.
You just need to peel away those layers of doubt and fear and uncertainty and you’ll see it, shining bright.
This can be a very powerful practice, if you do it regularly. It might seem mechanical at first, and you mightn’t believe exactly what you’re saying, but that’s ok. Repetition is key as you change your neural pathways to think better of yourself.
Make sure whatever phrase you choose is positive and in the present tense, like it’s already happening. Here are a few sample ones:
- “I am enough”
- “I am worthy”
- “I am exactly where I need to be”
List of 3 things
At the end of the day, write down 3 things that went right for you. This focuses your mind on the positive events of the day, rather than getting tunnel vision about the one or two things that didn’t work out… which would otherwise spin around your head as you try to get to sleep!
It doesn’t matter how silly or small they seem, the slightest victories can change your impression of how your day went. Some examples:
- “I spent quality time with my partner”
- “I got to work on time”
- “I cooked a nice meal”
If you’re new to meditation, it can seem overwhelming at first. And you might not be ready to do it alone. So I’d recommend setting aside 10-15 minutes a day, at the same time if possible, to play a guided meditation.
Related: 17 Best Meditation Books
Insight Timer and the Calm app are both great tools for any level of meditator and have specific guided audio meditations around self-love, compassion and anxiety. Once you’ve enjoyed listening to guided ones for some time, you might like to try setting a 10-minute timer and just sitting in silence, allowing your thoughts to come and go without getting swept up in them.
Meditation takes practice – it’s like you’re training the brain, just like you’d build up your muscles. And once you improve its flexibility and strength, you’ll notice how much stronger you feel in yourself, too!
Final thoughts? You got this!
Remember, no matter what it is you’re insecure about, no matter what you feel makes you weaker or ‘less’ than others… that’s the very thing that makes you unique.
Our differences are special, and should be celebrated as such.
Ok, so unfortunately the whole world may not share that view yet! But you can. And you can inspire others to do the same. So get sharing, get empowering and use those mindfulness tools to connect you with that strong, beautiful person you already are.