For years, I have wanted to add some vibrant color into my now graying hair. I have resisted for years and years. Why? How many plastic surgeons do you know with blue hair? I worried about what my colleagues might say, but I worried more about what my patients might say if my image did not match that of how a plastic surgeon is supposed to look.
Over the summer, a social media campaign was launched, #ilooklikeasurgeon. This campaign was designed to attract young physicians in training into surgery by showing them, via this hashtag, what women surgeons look like at work and play. I was delighted to see other young(er) women that looked more like me doing surgery, relaxing with their kids, or participating in the sports they loved. The image of older, distinguished male surgeons in suits slowly began to fade away. While this campaign wasn’t directed at me, it opened my eyes. Rather than try to fit a mold of what I thought a respectable surgeon was supposed to look like, I finally realized that what I was “supposed” to look like was… me. Fast forward a few months, and I am finally sitting in the stylist’s chair bleaching out sections of my dark hair and adding (at last!) bright blue.
I tell my patients all the time you have to do what is right for you. Nobody else can dictate the size and shape of your breasts or the appearance of your face or body. When I started to listen to myself, and do what was right for me, I heard my voice change. Confidence replaced shyness. Discussions with patients and colleagues were now conducted with authority. While the message didn’t change, it was no longer muted. I think my blue hair brought out the true me.
I have had nothing but positive reactions to this change. Patients have called me gutsy and cool and awesome. I am universally met with smiles and not sneers. And frankly, I forget it is there most of the time. But what I continue to notice, even with my hair in a scrub cap, is the confidence I feel doing my work. I don’t have to make any excuses, and I don’t just look like a surgeon, I am a surgeon. With blue hair.
Until I try purple.