How we feel about our hair dramatically affects our body image, significantly impacting our self-confidence.
For instance, do you feel more confident updating your social media status with new images after changing your hairstyle or getting a haircut? For many who frequent the nearly 80,000 hair salons in the US, the answer to this question is a definite yes.
The idea that the state of your hair affects how you feel about yourself is not just common sense; several studies have validated it.
If you find yourself feeling less confident whenever your hair isn’t in great shape, this article is for you.
We start by explaining the broad concept of body image and how it is connected to self-confidence. The article then presents conclusions from scientific studies showing that the state of your hair impacts your body image and how you feel about yourself.
Read the article to the end because we also present some tips on how you can improve your body image and self-confidence.
Factors Influencing Body Image
A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health defines body image as “the internal representation of one′s external appearance and encompasses self-perceptions related to the body and personal attitudes, including thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.”
In simpler terms, Yvette Brazier of MedicalNewsToday.com defines body image as how we see our own body and the feelings linked to this perception. Brazier adds, “Many people have concerns about their body image. These concerns often focus on weight, skin, hair, or the shape or size of a certain body part.”
Brazier also notes that right across history, people have always placed importance on the beauty of the human body. She notes that the views relating to beauty are connected to factors like popular culture, social media, the media, and society.
In this time of constantly being exposed to media images and social pressure, it’s easy for people to feel uncomfortable about their bodies, concludes Brazier. This can result in distress and ill health. If not correctly handled, body image issues can affect various aspects of life, including work and social life.
Positive and Negative Body Image
Body image can either be positive (healthy) or negative (unhealthy). According to Emma Parkhurst, an assistant professor at the Utah State University Extension, a positive image generally involves feeling confident and comfortable in your own body. She adds that a positive body image includes being aware that the way you look on the outside does not define your value or character as a human being.
On the other hand, Parkhurst suggests that a negative body image is associated with feelings of anxiety, shame, or self-consciousness about the way your body is shaped.
People with a negative self-image also tend to have a distorted sense of how they appear in the eyes of other people. This distorted sense results from comparing themselves to others.
The Connection between Body Image and Confidence
Self-confidence and body image mutually influence each other. This is because if you have a healthy perception of your body, you are likely to be more confident. Often, a healthy body image results from the confidence that you are taking good care of your body.
The opposite is true. If you don’t feel good about your body, it’s more likely that you will not take proper care of yourself. This may result in a loss of confidence.
HereToHelp.bc.ca is a mental health information provider. The organization suggests that the loss of confidence resulting from an unhealthy body image “...can mean not eating or sleeping enough, staying away from friends and family, or turning down chances to do things they would otherwise enjoy.”
How Body Image Affects Mental Health
Before we look at how your hair will affect your body image and self-confidence, let’s first look at how body image impacts mental health.
Mental Health England notes that having concerns about your body image does not constitute a mental health problem. However, it is a risk factor.
The organization has concluded that the less satisfied you are with your body, the poorer your quality of life will be. The same source suggests that people with an unhealthy body image are likely to suffer from psychological distress and are at a higher risk of unhealthy eating behaviors and eating disorders.
Bad Hair Days and Self-Confidence
Your hair is likely to be one of the first parts of your body that someone looking at you will focus on. This is probably why we use the expression “having a bad hair day” when nothing seems to be going right in our lives. It’s an indication of the significance of hair in determining whether we are feeling great or bad about ourselves in general.
Let’s look at some scientific evidence connecting bad hair days to loss of self-confidence.
People Feel Less Capable on Bad Hair Days
Several studies have validated the idea that changing your “look” (physically) can affect your self-confidence. For example, a Yale study suggested that bad hair days affect self-esteem.
Writing for the Associated Press about the Yale study, Diane Scarponi says that the research “... found that people’s self-esteem goes awry when their hair is out of place.” She adds, “They feel less smart, less capable, more embarrassed, and less sociable.”
Scarponi notes that one of the most exciting findings from the Yale study is that it debunks the widespread belief that women suffer a greater loss of self-esteem when having bad hair days than men. Instead, the study found that when their hair is not in order, men are more likely than women to feel less capable or less intelligent.
Declining Blood Pressure after a Hairdo
The website that helps simplify psychology concepts, Psych2Go.com, cites a Harvard study, which concluded that “women who felt more youthful after a cut, color or both showed a decline in blood pressure.”
Psych2Go.com reports that the study results indicate “…that something as simple as a new hair styling can ‘trick’ your body into believing it’s more youthful.”
Better to Suffer Than Have a Bad Hair Day
Zoya Gervis of the New York Post reports about a study involving 2,000 Americans focusing on understanding the extent to which participants dread bad hair days.
The study shows the surprising lengths Americans would go to avoid bad days:
- 1 in 7 would rather gain weight than be seen with an ugly hairstyle.
- Almost 3 in 10 would prefer to sit in traffic than have a bad hair day.
- 1 in 8 would endure not showering for a week if it meant they would have a nice head of hair.
- If asked to choose between experiencing root canal pain and being subjected to the emotional calamity associated with imperfect hair, 1 in 8 say they would go for the former.
- 1 in 5 will be happy to stand in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to avoid a bad head of hair.
Transforming Your Look with a New Hairstyle
Now that you know the psychology behind self-confidence, body image, and bad hair days, it’s time to call your favorite hair salon and set up an appointment.
A good hairstyle or wig can improve your perception of your body and self-confidence by drawing attention to your best features while concealing any perceived flaws that may negatively affect your body image.
Remember that as you improve your confidence by getting a new hairstyle, you should also do other things to cultivate a healthy body image.
The Cleveland Clinic has some tips to help you start that journey:
- Clearly define your strengths and weaknesses, so you are clear about areas that should be improved.
- Confront the negative thoughts you have about your body.
- Don’t just accept all assumptions regarding what a beautiful body looks like, have your own definition of beauty.
- Determine who you are and start accepting and loving that person.
- Learn to have a comfortable relationship with your body.
- Make positive affirmations about your body.
It is vital to remember that if you believe that your body could be improved, you should do whatever it takes to attain the body image you desire.
For example, if you feel uncomfortable about your weight, joining a gym, dedicating time to work out at home, or carefully planning your meals could be a great way to start. If you have thinning hair that can’t be styled the way you want, consider getting a wig.
Look at Yourself Holistically
It’s crucial to state that we are not suggesting that all you need to do to boost your self-confidence is to get a new hairstyle and do nothing else. The reality is that self-confidence is a result of many factors.
Treat yourself and others respectfully and kindly, look after your body and challenge negative thinking. You will notice how your body image and self-confidence will improve. This will not happen in one day, but the more you practice, the more it becomes a part of your being.