02

Mind your own damn business and shut up!

There were a million and one reasons that kept me from leaving the house bald, but I knew: the longer I waited...

‘Everyone will look at me. They’ll probably all think I have cancer. They must think I’m super ugly.’ There were a million and one reasons that kept me from leaving the house bald, but I knew one thing for sure: the longer I waited, the more difficult it would be. You probably hope that I’m about to say it was all fine in the end. Nope… unfortunately not.

Summer 2018 was my first summer with a wig. Man it was annoying: it made me sweaty and it was incredibly itchy. At home and in the office, I couldn’t wait to take it off, and no one cared that I walked around with my bald head. Lovely! But leaving the house without a wig on - that was a totally different story. It seemed terrifying, even though it would be nice to be able to do it. Eventually I gave myself an incredibly hard ultimatum: the following Monday I would go out bald. As the day got closer, I got more and more nervous. Why did I want to do this again? Was I really doing this for myself or was I trying to act tough in front of others? Either way, I went ahead with it.

Check yourself first before you have the guts to judge someone you don’t know so openly

I didn’t feel comfortable going out bald right away, so I decided to start off with a scarf. That way, I could build it up slowly - I thought it would be easier that way. Well, let me tell you how it went… That morning I put a lot of effort into my look: tied my scarf nicely, earrings on, makeup on point, a nice outfit. ‘If I’m doing this, I’m doing it in style’, I said to the mirror. While I was waiting for the train on the platform, I lit up a cigarette and an elderly woman came towards me. ‘Have you lost your mind?’, she said disapprovingly. ‘Smoking when you have cancer? You might as well jump in front the train.’ My jaw dropped. EXCUSE ME, WHAT? Did I wake up two hours early this morning for this? I had a pretty strong reaction: ‘First of all, I just woke up, so shut up! Second of all, I don’t have cancer, so shut up! And finally, mind your own damn business and shut up!’ It wasn’t very polite of me and that’s definitely not how my parents had raised me. But hello…? I think you need to check yourself if you feel entitled to judge someone you don’t know so openly. What’s wrong with these people?

Thanks to this ‘lady’ it became even more difficult to leave the house without a wig after that. Every time I went out, I was afraid of another nasty comment thrown at my  head. I was scared that people would stare at me because they thought I was weird, ugly or pitiful. It took a lot of effort not to get hung up on one negative experience and let it go. But by then, I knew exactly why I did it: I wanted to feel free to look however I wanted to look. Why should I have to adapt to meet others’ expectations? Why would I need their approval? No one decides what I wear and no one has the right to condemn me.

I knew exactly why I did it: I wanted to feel free to look however I wanted

My therapist taught me how to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones (you can read more about this in the tip about acceptance). Why would I assume that everyone dislikes me? It’s actually entirely possible that they think I’m really strong or absolutely gorgeous, or that they love my enormous earrings. By continuing to practise this different way of thinking, I started believing in it more and more. I also learned not to make eye contact with people on the street, so I was able to avoid the looks of horror, pity or curiosity - I think I understand how celebrities must feel now, haha! Little by little, I started to feel more confident. These days I usually leave the house feeling good and very confident, but after three years, I still have days when I can feel people staring at me, and then I get incredibly insecure again for a bit. However, we all have those days. And luckily there are people who don’t even see my bald head these days. When I’d been living in my sister’s studio apartment in Amsterdam for a few months while she was abroad, she called me all indignant: ‘Jesus, Niek, why did you finish my expensive shampoo? Next time, just buy me a new bottle, this is so inconsiderate!’ I didn’t know what i heard. ‘Um, sis… I haven’t had hair in a little while, you know. So I really haven’t used that shampoo.’ There was silence for a moment and then she burst out laughing. ‘Ohh yeah… for a second there I forgot that you’re bald!’ Things like that can happen too. 🙂