MyStory: 'I Decided To Go Bald At Least Once In My Life To Show My Support For Cancer Survivors'
Shreya Gautam witnessed her grandmother suffering from cancer when she was a child. Back then, she could not do anything for her, but she decided that one day she would shave her hair to spread awareness on cancer survivors. Even though everyone was appalled as she went bald, she felt liberated and now doesn't want to follow the societal notions of beauty.
It took me months and months of reassurance and all the guts I had to finally do something I've always wanted to do- shave my head. And I'm appalled at how everyone including myself thought it was a big deal, until I realized it really shouldn't have been. Society has indeed glorified our obsession towards our appearance.
I was in school when my grandmother got diagnosed with cancer. I knew the treatment would be painful, but it was only recently when I saw a documentary, that I understood its depth; the massive amount of physical as well as mental strength a person needs to fight this disease. As a kid I couldn't quite contribute much to nani's treatment but it was then that I decided that I'd go bald at least once in my life to show my support for those who're fighting cancer.
This lockdown has given us all some time to reflect on ourselves, and it made me realize how out of touch I was with things that really matter. Going through my school scrapbook took me back to how much donating my hair meant to me and I considered acting upon it this birthday. But guess what? The first thought that came to my head was "How are people going to react to it?"
Unfortunately, with the kind of influence social media has on our lives these days I guess it's only natural to feel this way. The concept of beauty and femininity is so vast; beauty is supposed to be defined by your definition of what you consider beautiful but instead we've been drilled with an unrealistic prototype of beauty, thanks to the many misleading representations of the same via media.
With time the kind of content we're consuming is surely moving towards a more open mindset, however, the main theme still remains true to the stereotypical image of what is perceived as the ideal Indian woman. Long hair, fair-skinned, tall, slim and obedient- as Sima aunty would gleefully agree.
Finding your own identity is absolutely not acceptable by the Indian society as that has already been laid out for you. It very soon becomes about how you have to fit in rather than find your own voice.
What is also absolutely ridiculous is how what might be liberating to one woman is taught to be unacceptable to the others. There's so much to explore and experiment with and yet we are caged to a definitive way of living our lives. I can't even begin to explain how empowering it felt to shave my head! I felt so badass and like I could do anything in the world; that now nobody and nothing can pin me down.
This was a major act of letting go and a much needed one too. We're constantly being compared; sometimes by others but most of the times by ourselves. With no hair, I'm coming to accept and love the features I'm blessed with. It's about diving deeper than the surface of how I look, into who I am.
People who're diagnosed with Cancer or Alopecia aren't given a choice about the way they look. Their body is anyway fighting a very exhaustive battle and my only hope is that they shouldn't have to fight a mental one too just because we've made these rigid beauty standards. We've got to normalize the fact that not everybody needs to look a certain way to be beautiful!
I'm not letting any magazine tell me what is attractive or any soap opera tell me what is considered feminine. It's high time we start associating the word strong to feminine because women are done being weak- we've ought to stop feeling apologetic for doing things that make us happy.
It took me a long time to realize that there will always be someone who has a problem with the way you live your life or the choices you make, but what we also need to realize is that it's their problem and they need to deal with it. As women we're almost machined to think that it's our obligation to fulfill someone's expectation of us- even if it's not who we are.
And it's honestly not worth giving up on something that could make you so happy just to please a set of people who will keep finding problems until you're completely broken. So here's the deal: we can shave our heads, have tattoos, ride bikes and still be the most loving versions of ourselves.
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