Hair Dye Doesn’t Do It

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by Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.
Take a trip back to your young adulthood. Were you someone who wanted to stand out or fit in? Both? Maybe you took a winding path in the pursuit of discovering yourself or defining yourself. Whatever the route, it got you where you are today. But now that you’re older, have you thought about what sets you apart? I’m going to argue that, while we need to fit in, the ability to celebrate our uniqueness plays into staying motivated and inspired. Here’s why.People are social creatures, by nature and necessity. Human beings have expressed tribal mentalities since the dawn of time. And yet, there is something appealing about being different – not so different that you can’t fit in when need be, but different enough to make others take pause and think.

When I was a teen, I did this by wearing black. My mother hated it. Then one day, I decided to dye my hair darker brown. Except it came out black. So now I was looking pretty radical compared to my former self. I went into class and this girl with a black mohawk saluted me, hand covered in a spiky glove. “I like your hair,” she said. I smiled. Yet, I was a bit uneasy. Did I want to be what was then known as “punk”? Did I want to stand out like she did? Was I ready for that?

The short answer was, no. My boyfriend said he didn’t like the black, so I changed it back. Yes, I caved. But since I was already on the fence about it, I didn’t think it made too much of a difference.

Looking back, I wonder what might have happened if I had delved further into my punk side. As I type right now, I am looking at the rings on each of my fingers. I’m thinking about the four earrings in each ear, the funky headband and the lacy boho top. My look is still a little different, but what’s more important is how I live my life and my values. In fact, it’s no one thing that sets me apart. It’s more the unique combination.

So what about you? Are you ready to use this introspection as a tool for motivating and inspiring yourself to go further than you thought you could? Give it a try.

  1. Write down ten traits that you feel make up you. These can be anything from how you dress to what you profess.
  2. Of these, choose three that are the most important, that have the most depth.
  3. Of these three, choose two that you most appreciate about yourself.
  4. Each day, do one thing to develop each of those traits.
  5. Mark off each day that you do your development activity. See how long you can maintain the practice.
  6. At the end of a month, look at the changes you’ve made and how you’ve developed in those areas of choice.
  7. Pat yourself on the back.

Here’s the why. When you identify the unique things about yourself that you love enough to invest time and energy into, you grow in those areas. Every day, you become stronger. And that makes you feel good. The more you feel good, the more rewarded you feel, the more time and energy you put into developing those traits. And before long, you’ll see yourself excelling, going beyond even your own expectations. You’ll see the combination of those traits morphing in ways you didn’t expect, and you’ll be celebrating that. And you won’t stop because you’ll be inspired to keep going.

The funny thing is, we do this kind of thing all the time, but we don’t notice it because we usually do it for pure enjoyment. For example, you might love to take photos. So you buy a nice camera and you practice. Before long, you become an expert. That’s great. But what I’m suggesting is that you choose something deeper than a hobby or job, something beyond the obvious. It might not even be something you enjoy. Ah. Now I’ve created work for you, right? It’s okay. You’ll discover the work is worth it, especially the more you reward yourself by feeling good and recognizing the unique combination that makes up you.

We hear a lot about getting back in touch with “the real you,” about being authentic, about releasing the inner child screaming to get out. These are all important, but it’s equally important to discern what parts of the “real you” are truly what you want to invest in. Discover them. Develop them. Love them. And watch as the inspired miracle of you grows larger than life.

Did you dye your hair,

thinking it would change you?

Forget what you see in the mirror.

The image shatters too easily.

Fix your eyes on what’s behind

the shiny surface.

Feel your stomach as you inhale.

See how each deep breath

expands the chest?

They gift us life.

Making us mighty.

Until next time,


This article is part of a series taken from my book, Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World. Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved. Learn more at

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