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Shades of Self Esteem


This true story first appeared in "Manic Moms Newsletter," June/July 1995

By Kimn Gollnick

LIKE A HELIUM BALLOON that has lost it's lift, my self image dropped during major life changes of pregnancy, childbirth, and staying home to raise young children. My body changed. My emotions ran from ecstatic to depressed and back again. My wardrobe evolved from suits and dresses to polyester-cotton knits, for comfort and spit-up.

But that's not all. My battered self-esteem suffered another sucker punch when a fluke of family genetics caused my naturally Scandinavian-blond hair to darken.

I couldn't believe it. It happened during my first pregnancy, at the age of 28. By 30 the transformation was complete. My hair wasn't blond, but it wasn 't brown, either. I struggled with my identity, which for all of my adult life to that point had been, well, as a blonde. But what was I now?

I even had to get a new driver's license (I got tired of the strange looks by store clerks because I no longer looked like my photo I.D.). When I joked about it to my still-blonde sisters, I discovered that they had been lightening their hair for years. I began to look suspiciously at every woman with light hair. I struggled with the "L" word. Should I lighten my hair?

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Being an individualist--yet suffering from an identity crisis--I rebelled. I had it dyed dark brown. I didn't anticipate my toddler's reaction. When he saw me, he waved his arms upward and implored in his sweet baby voice, "Take off dat hat, Mommy!"

By evening, I wanted it off, too. The change was too great for my minuscule self-esteem to handle. But not wanting to over-process my previously virgin hair, I simply avoided mirrors for the next six months. I decided to treat this like an experiment.

It paid off. As a brunette, I didn't attract attention or compliments, but people thought I was smart. Actually, I am smart, but now I was getting credit for it.

Today my hair is back to its natural state, a sort of auburn color, pretty enough to prompt strangers to ask, "What color do you call that?" At least, I trust they think it's pretty. Actually, it wasn't a they, it was one man, and he came to my house to spray bugs. The chemicals could have affected his eyesight, but I can't deny I felt flattered, even if he was only an expert in pesticides.

And I discovered that the conflict of my identity was not mine alone. While grocery shopping with my golden-haired toddler, he pointed to a cartoon woman on the back of a cereal box and asked, "Is that Mommy?"

She had brown hair. Worse, she looked like the plain icon of a stereotypical housewife. Augh! Did my little boy think I looked like that?

Right then, I decided I should not depend on what others think of me--particularly two-year-olds looking at cereal boxes. After all, the Bible says we are made in the image of God. What could be better? So I revel in my children's smiles and enjoy the time I spend with them and my husband. Love, family, friends and God; that is what's important.

A few weeks later my new-found self-esteem got a surprise boost. Near the checkout stand at the grocery store my son saw a glamorous woman on the cover of Cosmopolitan, sexy and blonde. He asked, "Is that you, Mommy?"

© Kimn Swenson Gollnick
You can contact Kimn at gollnick@gte.net. Visit her site, "The Write Place, Inspiration for Writers on the Web" at KIMN.net.

 

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