Silver Hair

Silver Hair, Limiting Beliefs, and the Power of Imagination

About four years ago, I let my hair go silver and grey.

If you had told me in my thirties that I would do this, I would have been terrified.

But surprisingly, letting my hair go silver has been one of the most joyful decisions I have ever made.

It has helped me feel more confident, free, young, and playful.

Letting my hair go silver also helps me develop my sense of fashion and style.

And it helps me care for the environment because I avoid throwing away hair product trash in land fill.

This helps me feel like I am living in line with my most cherished values.

This is how it’s going.

Here’s how it started.

Now, I firmly believe that folks need to do what they think is best with their hair.

If anyone had tried to pressure me to let my hair go silver and grey before I was ready, it probably would have delayed my decision.

We all need to come to such decisions in our time.

Often our intuition and imagination lead us in the right direction if we give them space.

And this points leads me to the power of imagination, which I have been thinking a lot about lately.

I wrote a post on imagination yesterday here: Ash Perrin and the Power of Imagination.

In it, I shared this quote of Perrin’s:

“We are limited only by the idea we have of ourselves.”

Drawing and painting by Shelly P. Johnson.

Now, on first consideration, we might be tempted to say something like, Well, clearly there are things besides my imagination which limit me.

Like gravity and the government.

But I don’t think Ash Perrin has forgotten that things like this do indeed limit us.

Rather, I think he  means things like this:

We get to decide how we view ourselves within the natural limits the world gives us.

And we get to decide the next step we take.

We get to decide to use our imagination or not.

And we get to decide what kind of person we want become.

We get to decide the habits we cultivate to become that person.

And we get to decide to accept or reject the messages people tell us about ourselves.

We get to decide the messages we tell ourselves.

And we get to decide to keep playing.

You can read more about this (as well as Perrin’s work bringing play and imagination to refugee children) here: Ash Perrin and the Power of Imagination.

This reminds me of the idea of limiting beliefs.

People probably mean a lot of things when they discuss limiting beliefs.

However, I think limiting beliefs are those beliefs that squash the power of our imagination.

We all have imagination, and when we are little, our imagination is especially powerful.

That’s because we haven’t learned phrases like “I can’t do that”, “That’s impossible”, “That will never work”.

In addition, people generally avoid saying things like this to little kids. Rather, we encourage kids to dream and try out their dreams.

For example, if a little girl says, “I want to build a castle in my room and be a unicorn”, we try to figure out how to make her dreams come true, even if it’s in small ways.

So, when we are young, our default setting is to imagine, to pursue our imagination, and to allow people around us to help us.

But when we get older, we receive a lot more criticism about our imagination.

And we start to learn phrases like the ones I mentioned above: “That’s impossible” and “That will never work.” We say things like, “I have to do this all on my own.”

Now, of course, part of growing up is learning how to live out our imagination in a world with certain constraints.

For example, we have to learn to live out our imagination in conjunction with our responsibilities.

And we must learn to live out our imagination with other people who have imagination.

For instance, if I am in the middle of teaching my philosophy classes, it is probably not the appropriate time to build a sandcastle on my desk.

I certainly must take my responsibilities as a teacher seriously and respect my students. So, unless we as a whole class can use imagination together to build the sandcastle, it’s not appropriate.

So, as we grow older, we need to learn guidelines for using our imagination effectively.

But unfortunately, when we encounter such guidelines as we age, sometimes we get the message that our imagination is, in itself, bad.

And to make matters worse, some adults do in fact believe that imagination is bad.

So, their default setting is to say things like, “This is the real world” or “Don’t be naïve” whenever they encounter imagination.

As such, people believe the world as it right now is the only way the world can be.

So their imagination shuts down, and they regularly think a lot of limiting beliefs like, “We can’t”, “Things will never change”, “It’s impossible.”

And that’s ironic because in many ways, the world in its current form is mostly the product of people’s imagination.

That is, we developed a lot of things in our current world by people saying, “What if?” and “I bet we can.”

Of course, we didn’t imagine some things–like the sun or gravity.

However, there are various other things in our world like cars, airplanes, neighborhoods, fashion trends, and our current political party structure.

These are the products of people’s imagination.

They imagined how the world could or should be and then set out to create that world through writing, inventing, building, and discussing.

Now this may all seem very unrelated to silver hair, but here is the connection.

Somewhere along the way, some people decided that silver and grey hair is bad, ugly, and a sign that your best days are behind you.

So everyone got very fearful about silver and grey hair. And they started dying their hair.

Then we started generating all this trash, expense, and anxiety around people hiding their natural hair color.

All this is strange given that for thousands and thousands of years, many cultures have viewed silver and grey hair as a sign of wisdom and even power.

However, increasingly a lot men and women—women especially—started using their imagination and asking interesting questions.

They asked things like this:

What if letting your hair go silver and grey is in fact fun?

And what if silver and grey hair is beautiful?

What if getting older means you become more wise and powerful, and your changing hair color signals that?

And what if we refused to stop feeling ashamed of natural processes like ageing?

As people imagined what it would like to normalize silver and grey hair, they have done it.

And now there are whole communities online of people (women especially) posting openly about loving their grey and silver hair journey.

Here are some women I like to follow on Instagram:




Communities like this remind me of the quote I mentioned earlier: “We are limited only by the idea we have of ourselves.”

Letting my hair go silver has brought home this truth to me in unexpected and delightful ways.

It has reminded me that if I can imagine a better way to live my life, I can probably find a way to make my imagination come true.

And I believe this about you, too.

Right now, you probably imagine ways you can make your life and the world more peaceful, effective, kind, loving, joyful, restful, beautiful, just, and fair.

And of course we must use our imagination skillfully with others. But your imaginings are a gift to yourself and the world.


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