We have seen over and over again that one of the biggest struggles for women with alopecia areata is mentally dealing with their hair loss.
We asked Dr. Lila Swell, the Bald Girls Do Lunch psychological advisor, for some insights about looking different, feeling different, and how women with alopecia areata might navigate any inner disconnects between how we look and how we feel.
Here are Dr. Swell's top 10 appearance tips for women with alopecia areata:
1. People think of their appearance as being who they are.
But it’s not the real you – it’s just a part of you.
2. Losing significant amounts of hair is a loss just like the loss of any body part.
There’s a mourning process whenever there is a loss. It’s normal to go through a grieving stage. After you grieve and mourn, you realize that you are more than your hair and more than your body. And if you never had hair, you might be aware almost every day that you're different from other people — and that's a normal feeling too.
3. Recognize your inner strengths and attributes.
When you do, you gain confidence. Then what other people might think of your outer appearance doesn’t matter that much to you.
4. YOU own your attitude, and that will come through.
Over time, you discover that the words about hair loss (especially spoken by others) don’t matter nearly as much as your own attitude.
5. When your confidence grows and you feel less secretive about alopecia, others will understand this is how you feel.
They will follow your lead.
6. The meaning of physical appearance is different for each person.
Changing your attitude is not required on any set timetable. The way you view your alopecia depends to large degree on how you value personal appearance, and how much you have valued “perfection” in the past.
7. The world reflects what you think of yourself.
If you are comfortable with who you are, you’re going to project that. Social pressures about physical appearance are strong, but your beliefs in your personal strengths are a mighty counterforce. Even if you had a childhood onset of alopecia and grew up in a family that never talked about it openly, it’s never too late to start a conversation if you want to.
8. Society is not always right.
Society says things like “you can’t grow old gracefully” and that youth is to be valued. The more you recognize and value your own needs, the more you will be able to counteract social pressures.
9. It’s normal to notice when something or someone in our environment is different.
It takes time for people to get used to things that are different…especially appearances.
10. Social camaraderie with people who share your experiences helps you overcome the feeling that something is wrong with you.
The Bald Girls Do Lunch format successfully creates social environments in which no one feels strange or alone.
About Dr. Lila Swell
We are proud to have Dr. Swell as the Psychological Advisor for Bald Girls Do Lunch. When not supporting BDGL, Dr. Swell is a full-time Professor of Humanistic Psychology at Queens College (City University of New York). She is the author of Success: You Can Make it Happen!, a self-help book to help everyone -- from women with alopecia to students to business men and women -- understand they can be a success and realize how.
Dr. Swell’s advisory role with Bald Girls Do Lunch is to support and guide our community in how to become our best selves, how to live in harmony with ourselves to increase our successes every day, and how to use nonjudgmental communication to benefit ourselves and those around us.