Why People Need to Stop Telling Me Having Short Hair Is "Brave"

Photo: Paley Fairman

When I was a little kid, I used to cringe when people told me they were "proud" of me. It wasn't from a lack of confidence (I was plenty proud of myself at that age). Instead, it was simply that, even at 6 or 7, I sensed a tiny whisper of condescension in this word. I got that it was supposed to be a compliment, but when someone said they were proud of me, it almost felt like the person was implying that I'd surprised them by doing something right—getting a good grade, performing well at a violin recital—or that my achievements were "cute" but not impressive (which, at the time, was probably true). We all have words that rub us the wrong way for some reason, and to my childhood ear, there was a hint of judgment lurking under the word "proud" that I just couldn't ignore.

Of course, people tell you they're proud of you way more when you're a kid than they do when you're an adult, so I haven't heard that one in a while. (Maybe by adulthood people realize how condescending it is?) But now that I'm in my mid-20s, I've started hearing a word that irks me even more: The word "brave." Not brave in the context of going to war or battling cancer—I'm talking about the bizarrely common phenomenon of using the word "brave" to describe a haircut. As in, "Wow, you're so brave for cutting your hair short!" Or, "I could never cut my hair like that—you're so brave!" As someone who's undergone a few hair transformations in recent years, I've been called "brave" more times than I deserve.

Here's the thing, though: Changing your hairstyle is not brave, and saying that it is is not a compliment. In my opinion, we all need to stop telling people that making conscious decisions about their appearance is "brave." Let me explain…

Photo: Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so... welcome to The Flipside (as in the flipside of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society's definition of "beauty." Here, you'll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we'd love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation, too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here, on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.