The word “confidence” is a term that has a nuanced meaning, which varies from person to person. Yet, the core idea of confidence is centered upon individuality and control, and how one’s unique strengths and beliefs may allow them to be positive toward themselves. Nowadays, there are many ways to bring down one’s self-esteem, such as by comparing appearances and lifestyles or talking down oneself and their qualities. I’ve struggled with confidence throughout my teenage years due to my experience with trichotillomania, and the sensation of feeling out of control of my own life.
Trichotillomania is a hair-pulling disorder that is associated with an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is described as an irresistible urge to pull one’s hair out, usually from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, and other regions of the body with hair. While this may be seen as a habit, it can also be fueled by stressors such as anxiety, sadness, or even boredom. The act of pulling out hair is usually done to bring forth relief and temporarily help with the stressors that are experienced. This disorder may also come and go and sporadically span throughout numerous days, weeks, or years.
I have dealt with trichotillomania ever since I was a child, but the disorder significantly impacted my well-being as I entered my teenage years. With the significant stress and anxiety brought forth by my familial and academic environment, I had managed to internalize that conflict for many years due to the belief that I was confident and in control of my life. Yet, as my well-being gradually slipped away, I felt as if every action and every thought I expressed had no impact. My life was not going the way that I had meticulously planned for it to, and I did not recognize myself. Thus, I began pulling strands of hair in order to feel a sense of relief. However, my physical appearance continued to make me insecure, and thus led to a continuous cycle of temporary relief due to deepened insecurity.
With time, I have learned how to control my hair-pulling. I have listed tips below that demonstrate external/physical and internal ways to feel in control of trichotillomania, which ultimately led me to be more confident in myself.
Ways to be physically confident:
1. Play with an object/fidget toy
Occupying yourself with something to play with is a good way to stray away from the urge of picking your hair. Whenever you feel bored, anxious, or stressed out, use a small object to twiddle, twist, or press! I usually use an eraser due to its smooth texture, which I would have in my hand during class to relieve my stress. However, you can use whatever works for you! The goal of this is to make you feel in control of your actions whenever you encounter stressors.
2. Tie up your hair
I have observed that whenever I tie up my hair in a ponytail or braid it, the hairstyle restrains me from excessively picking at my hair because I would not want to ruin it. By doing this, it allows you to be conscious of whenever you have an urge, and thus allows you to feel more confident in yourself.
3. Write out your feelings
When you have an urge, write out how you feel and your current circumstance in a designated journal or paper. As you write, you may feel less stressed as you are replacing your potential physical hair-pulling into one that is through writing. When you want to go back and reflect, read through your physical writing and document or be proud of how you were able to overcome the compulsion during that time!
4. Photo document your progress
While this may not be suited for everyone as it may be too uncomfortable, take photos of yourself in order to see the growth of your hair. I usually do this whenever I want to look back on how I have been doing, and it definitely makes me feel as if my physical growth is a representation of my internal one.
Ways to be internally confident:
1. Establish a minor, yet accomplishable, long-term goal
One of the ways that I have felt confident in my sense of control was through the use of goals. By establishing a goal, I have set up a responsibility that allows me to feel like I am making an impact within my life, despite encountering certain compulsions that sometimes feel uncontrollable. My most valued goal is to treat life one day at a time and to not over-evaluate my mistakes. This allows me to lessen my stress, which ultimately decreases my urge to play with my hair.
2. Focus on deep breaths
I found out that focusing on your breathing whenever you have the urge to pull greatly helps with releasing internalized tension and anxiety. Google has a great 1-minute breathing exercise tool that you can search up and follow along whenever you encounter stressors. This will ultimately make you feel internally better by decreasing the sensations that you had, and making you feel capable of having a solution for it.
3. Try to meditate
Meditation is a great solution that allows you to feel connected with your inner and outer self, while allowing you to resist your urges within a certain mindset. YouTube has great videos showing meditation techniques that may be categorized by time or music based on your preferences. By doing this daily, you may feel as if you can gradually resist the urge to pick your hair.
It is incredibly understandable if you do not feel comfortable talking to your peers or family members about your experience with trichotillomania. As of this day, I can admit that I am not completely confident as well. Yet, it is important to be aware of the resources and help that you can get if you need it, especially through the helplines that I have listed below:
International OCD Foundation Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 in the US or Canada, 85258 in the UK, and 50808 in Ireland in order to speak to a counsellor 24/7. This is also applicable to COVID, depression, anxiety, and many more concerns, which can be viewed on the www.crisistextline.org website.
The CALM Lifeline: Call 0-800-58-58-58 or visit www.thecalmzone.net to learn more about OCD. This is a nationwide lifeline based in the UK.
SAMHSA Helpline: Text 1-800-662-4347 to communicate with a counsellor that will aid you with support and guidance whenever you are encountering incredibly difficult conflicts with your mental health.
I hope that these tips will help you as they did for me. While developing confidence takes time, its meaning and perception are completely dependent on how you define it to be! Make sure to take your time and truly believe in yourselves throughout any stressful times.