When I first cut my hair, I was liberated. I felt naked in the way that you can only feel when your hair is all gone and you no longer feel it on your ears/neck/back. I had made it disappear. Sure, there was still hair there, however it was less like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta and more like Emma Watson after she finished the Harry Potter films.

That morning, I woke up, sleepy-eyed. And as per usual, I stumbled into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my hair before school. At first, I was frightened by my own reflection. Half asleep, I had forgotten what I had done. I had forgotten how only 14 hours before I had watched my hair fall onto lino as the hairdresser made small talk. I expected to look in the mirror and see my familiar caramel-colored curls, hanging from in my head in tendrils.

Instead I saw nothing. I saw nothing in the same way you look at the car window in the middle of a road trip and see nothing. Yet, in the same way I saw everything. Willow Smith said in an interview that the first time she felt truly beautiful was the first time she shaved her head because she could really, properly see her face. She could see how she looked like her parents. She could see how she looked like her brother.

Like Willow Smith, I saw everything for the first time. I wasn’t ugly. I wasn’t gawky. I wasn’t one of the boys. I saw my dark brown eyes and my wide smile. My ears that laid perfectly flat. My strong jawline. I was Mulan before the battle. I was Joan of Arc, strong and powerful.

The day after I cut my hair was the first time that I looked in the mirror and my reflection said, “Welcome, this is your face.” 

—By Rhianne C., 20, Australia