Bald men often feel ashamed and inferior. Here’s how to cope with it.
Sitting in my secondary school biology class, listening to the teacher talk about genetics, I snapped to attention when she used male pattern baldness as an example of a dominant trait. My heart started pounding with fear - with bald men on both sides of my mother's family, I was doomed to thinning hair.
I remained anguished about the prospect of being bald for the next 20 years as my hairline retreated and my hair steadily thinned. I tried to disguise my own condition by keeping my hair clean and fluffed with a hair dryer. That hardly qualified as a treatment for baldness, but no other options seemed viable. I recoiled from the cost and the upkeep of a hairpiece. Treatments I tried didn’t seem to work very well. Hair plugs looked awful, one man I met looked as if he had been burned several times on the top of his head with a cigarette and each spot had sprouted a tuft of hair.
Then, when I was in my mid-30s, I suddenly stopped caring about being bald. I felt as though someone had flipped a switch inside me that turned off the shame I felt about losing my hair, and I never worried about it again.
But why do bald men feel shame? How did I overcome the shame, embarrassment, and dread that baldness once inspired in me? Even more importantly, how can other men achieve the same blissful indifference to their own hair loss?
Going bald: Understanding the symbolism of hair
Men often mostly dread being bald because they think they will no longer be attractive to potential sexual partners, but the horror men feel at the prospect of going bald goes beyond mere fear of not being attractive to women, according to psychotherapist Gershen Kaufman. It also involves deep shame, which he defines as the emotional response to feeling inferior.
"Just about everybody experiences extensive body shame", says Kaufman. "I don't believe I've ever met a human being who has not experienced some degree of shame about his or her body no matter how much it seems to match the ideal. There's always something wrong with the body".