Like too many people, I've worried about what others think about me my entire life. For me it's always been extreme. Hell, I would stop wearing brown shoes if I heard someone on the street say that they're ugly. It's all part of my deep obsession with being liked by other people. After years of therapy, I'm definitely getting better but I'm not quite there yet.
One issue that I'm yet to tackle is my hair.
I officially noticed that my hairline was receding when I was 18. At the time, I had a medium-length, shag style that pretty much covered it up. As a teenage boy just starting college, this was a dramatic blow to my self-esteem. For the first 2 years or so, the receding hairline remained unnoticed by anyone but me (of course I couldn't stop thinking about it). I tried to kid myself by saying that maybe I wouldn't lose any more, but deep down I knew it was only a matter of time before the secret was out. As my college years went by, I really had to pay attention to how I got my hair cut or styled to "hide" it. When I was 21, I started noticing that not only was my hairline receding, but just about all the hair on the mid-top of my head was thinning out (that classic male pattern baldness, where only the sides and back of the head have thick hair). Still, my medium-length hair was enough to keep it MOSTLY hidden, but if you looked close you couldn't definitely see it.
I had heard about how buzzing your head is one of the best options if you're losing your hair, and I WANTED to do that. Of course, I cared way too much about what others would think. What would my parents think? The rest of my family? My friends? I wanted to try it, just to see how it would look, but I was just simply too worried. It's one of those things where if I knew I wouldn't see anyone that I knew for a month, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
The haircuts I was getting got shorter and shorter, because the medium-look just wasn't working anymore. Finally, by the time I was 23, I had had enough, and I buzzed my hair down to about a 2-3 with a trimmer. It was very strange at first, and I didn't know what to think. Keep in mind, I'm also a musician who performs at cafes and bars once in a while, so I was very afraid of losing that "sensitive guy" look.
The months went by. I grew more and more used to the look, and I liked the idea of having control of the buzzer. My friends didn't really say anything about it. I'm not sure if it was because they thought it looked ugly, or if that initial shock value was already gone because of ***** (I had put up a new profile pic shortly after I did it, just for that reason). Either way, I wasn't exactly getting compliments. Personally, I thought it looked better. Not "good", but better. Still, the look was growing on me (no pun intended).
It wasn't until my uncle saw me during a family vacation for the first time that things took a turn for the worse. He's a pretty old-fashioned person, and has more of the "more hair is better no matter what" view on balding. He immediately started asking me why I did it, and half-jokingly asked if I was a "skinhead" or part of the "KKK". He didn't let it go either. For the rest of the vacation he would keep asking why I did it, and gave me advice on how I can grow it out. Holy hell, he made me feel terrible. My self esteem had never been lower in my entire life. I was a 23 year old man and I wanted to crawl in a hole.
I became paranoid. Do people think I'm a skinhead? Do I look hideous? Is my head shaped weird? Would I look better if I just grew it out again? Maybe I can still cover it up.....
At that point I stopped buzzing it and tried to let it grow again. I still had enough hair to get by with a shorter look, but I never REALLY liked how it looked, and I knew that it would just get worse and worse. But all I could think of were those jokes my uncle made, or that bit by George Carlin about how bald white guys look terrible.
Anyway, I'm writing this because I'm 24 now, and I recently went back to the buzz look, but I'm still completely terrified about what people think (especially my uncle). How can I do this? I know the next time I see him he's going to give me more *****. I know that no-one in my family is going to give me compliments. I know that my friends probably don't think it looks good. I can't handle any of that.
I keep trying to tell myself that it's not a big deal. I am otherwise in good health and I am extremely fortunate for so much. That helps, but it's only temporary.