September 27 2013

My name is Louise Kinross and a funny thing happened when I suddenly lost my hair at age 38 to alopecia—an autoimmune disorder that only affects the hair. In spite of the fact that I have a son with a genetic condition and a facial difference, and I work at Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre—where I have the privilege of working with children with disabilities—I didn’t feel I could pull off being visibly “different” myself. It wasn’t just my scalp hair; I lost all my hair, including my eyebrows and eyelashes, and that was difficult.

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September 27 2013

For a week after my hair loss became noticeable, I wore a wig. It was my 7-year-old daughter, Lucy, who put things in perspective and gave me the sense that maybe I could be okay—just as I was. When I walked into her schoolyard sporting my new wig, numerous parents raved about my hair (not realizing it wasn’t mine!).Then Lucy saw me from the other side of the school and screamed at the top of her lungs: “Mom, I don’t like your wig! It makes you look …DIFFERENT!”

So much for keeping things under wraps. Lucy could see right through me and she could see that I wasn’t being true to myself. I looked at my son, and the children with disabilities at my work, and I kept thinking “These kids don’t have the luxury of hiding their differences.” I felt like a hypocrite saying I valued differences and then covering my own.

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September 27 2013

So one day, I just went for it and I shaved off my remaining hair. Then was up all night wondering if I really could go out in the world like that. Still from that day forth I’ve tried to remember what’s really important and embrace the new me.

I guess, the best advice I can give is to simply throw your shoulders back, walk with confidence, make eye contact with people and smile. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel comfortable with your difference inside—in time, you will. In the meantime, you’re giving others the message that you’re 100 percent comfortable with this thing—and they can be too.

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September 27 2013

The first day I went to work bald, I walked up to some colleagues who didn’t recognize me, looked right at them, smiled and said, “Do you like my haircut?” People would typically start laughing and that was an opening to explain what had happened and reassure them I didn’t have cancer. Making good-humoured jokes about your difference breaks the ice and lets them know they don’t have to tiptoe around the issue. Sometimes it can also loosen you from the grip of your own anxiety.

I find it also helps to find others who share your difference and can assure you that in time, you too will adapt and feel good about yourself. They’ll give you some much needed perspective.

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September 27 2013

Difference can be freeing because it forces you to hang up your social “mask.” I can’t walk around projecting an image of having everything together and in control any more, which means I can be more genuine and honest with who I really am. People will come up to me and strike up conversations in public places in a way that they never would have before. I have met so many people and had so many rich experiences that I would have missed out on if I still had hair. I think that’s because I’m not afraid to show my vulnerability now and we can all relate to that can’t we?

And remember, beauty really isn’t about the surface—it’s about a spirit, an energy, a way of interacting with the world. We are so much more than our wrapping. I don’t think I ever really believed that for myself before, but now I know it’s true.

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