Saturday, May 21, 2011

Handling Criticism About Hair Length

By Marie Mills

Whether it takes the form of snide comments from a stranger or a cutting remarks from a loved one, people who forego the style mainstream and wear their hair long often receive criticism about their choice. The best way to respond to these unwanted comments depends on who is saying them, and why.

When the criticism takes the form of offhanded jibes from casual acquaintances, it is seldom meant to be constructive.

Instead, it usually reflects the detractor’s own insecurities.

It may help the situation to gently call attention to the critic’s motivation by politely answering their comments with questions like: Why are you bothered by my hairstyle? Why do you think you base so much of your opinion on looks?

Another useful approach is to answer truthfully and directly.

“A coworker once told me I would look so pretty with shorter hair,” reports Jessica, who has waist-length locks. “I honestly said ‘I think you would look much better with longer hair.’ She hasn’t said anything else since.”

If all else fails, nothing beats an arsenal of snappy comments.

“When a woman says something catty about my hair I usually just wink, smile and purr, ‘Men love it,’” Jessica says.

Witty one-liners may work well for strangers but not when the comments come from close friends or relatives. Loved ones are more likely to intend their criticism to be constructive. They may not even realize that their comments are irritating and perhaps very hurtful.

“Rationally and calmly confronting your friend is the only way to deal with the situation,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Gildiner. “Let her know that no matter what she meant to do, her actions have caused you pain.”

Mothers can be especially critical of their daughters’ appearance, and it may help to try to understand what their exact problem with long hair is. Depending on their age and culture, women may think shorter hair indicates more wealth, more professionalism or more polish. Pointing out dynamic, successful looking longhaired women on television and in magazines may help alleviate these stereotypes.

Very rarely, constant criticism from a parent may indicate a deeper problem. If the endless negative comments extend to all of the child’s appearance, personal and professional choices, the trouble goes beyond hair length.

“Some (parents) are filled with self-hatred that they extend to their daughters, who they see as extensions of themselves,” says Gildiner.

No one likes to receive criticism, especially about something as personal as appearance, but understanding the origins of the comments can help in diffusing them. Always remember, the occasional taunt just makes the inevitable long hair compliments sweeter.