What Cutting My Hair Taught Me About My Career

My mom jokes that I was two years old before I had a full head of hair. While all the girls had long, flowing locks, growing up I struggled for years for mine to reach shoulder-length. Being an athlete only strengthened my desire to fit in with the pretty girls. The first time I took a big chop to my locks was after college graduation. The next - after I got married. And then again when I became a mom.

It's funny to me that I didn't realize it at the time, but changing my look has always been spurred by a major life change.

Hair before the chop
Hair before the chop

As silly as it seems, I didn't take these decisions lightly. I was very happy to blend into the "medium-length hair with a bit of natural wave" crowd. Being different scares the bejeezus out of me. That's for other people, not me. Even though I'm an extrovert, being singled out makes me tremble. And getting compliments? Yeah, no thanks. In the past you could count on me to always downplay those.

So what on earth does this have to do with my career?

Blending in and taking the safe route is actually how I lived 99% of my life until this year. You could say this is a manifestation of my risk averse personality. I like things calculated, well planned. So when my career started going haywire I was careful not to make any knee-jerk decisions.

I was defeated but too scared to make changes. I didn't want to ruin my chances for future jobs.

"Just hang in there," my family told me. "Things will get better. You have to think about where this job will get you in a few years."

As I looked around I saw plenty of other people doing this - wading through the crap for the promise of an easier time on the other side. If others can do it, I should be able to too, I thought.

That's pretty much what we girls tell ourselves when growing our hair out, right? Struggle now for the benefits later. It might be painful as hell (hello, have you tried growing out bangs before?), but we're not the first and won't be the last to go through it.

What I realize now is that inner voice telling me to stay the course, blend in, even though it felt so wrong is what keeps so many women from taking chances. We get caught up in that awful vulnerability trap.

Thinking about what could go wrong if we make a drastic decision keeps us from chasing our dreams.

I finally realized: the decisions I make today don't have to determine my future. I can always change my mind! Careers change and hair grows.

Hair after the chop
Hair after the chop

So I chopped it again BIG TIME. I wasn't the first to do it - JLaw and Kaley Cuoco totally inspired me - but it did shock a lot of people. After years of feeling like my inner spark was camouflaged by my outer appearance, I now could breathe easier. I loved the compliments and learned to take them with grace.

Around the same time I decided to ditch a dead-end job that made me feel inadequate in order to pursue my current path.

Once I started practicing the act of making decisions that felt RISKY but RIGHT, I found myself more confident, present, and authentic.

Today I'm focused on the here and now. I'm less resentful of others' success because I trust they're where they are as a result of scary leaps of faith and hard work. I still plan like crazy but rather than thinking ten steps ahead, I'm focused on what I can control in the present.

Before I head out for a trim, tell me: what is one risk you've taken lately that seemed impossible beforehand?