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Self care behind the chair

Years ago, I was told of a salon interview process where the candidate was required to assist for an entire day with nothing to eat and only drinking coffee. The owner of the salon wanted to test their ability to handle the working conditions that were typical on a busy day, which often meant working non-stop with no breaks to eat. 

When I heard this, I was new to the industry and remember thinking highly of whoever passed that test and got the position. I believed they had the strength, skill and poise that would guarantee happy clients and a six-figure income. I also admired what I perceived as a strong work ethic and resilience; two main ingredients for success, as I was taught by those who came before me. 

What I didn’t understand at the time was that there was a key element missing from that equation: self-care.

If you read my blog post on Living and Working with Intention, you know that I am now a fierce proponent of self-care. In that post, I shared that self-care is “the metaphorical act of putting on your oxygen tank so that you can better take care of others,” and also that self-care “allows you to take time for yourself, not out of selfishness, but rather as an act of self-love.” I also listed some practical examples of self-care that can be easily incorporated into your day. 

While many of us are facing unexpected, uncertain instability when it comes to our businesses right now, we are also being given an opportunity to reprioritize ourselves and reset and renew our self-care routines. 

Self-care is so crucial, especially during challenging times. It's what allows us to stay grounded and connected to ourselves even when the whole world feels like it's turning upside down.

I wonder if any of the below scenarios feel familiar:

  • You put the needs of your clients and business first, never stopping to ask, "What do I need right now?" 
  • You arrive early to work, rain or shine, and spend hours outside of work and thousands on continuing education, mastering your skills in order to create flawless looks. 
  • You commit additional time and energy after services to take and post photos on social media to facilitate building a full clientele. 
  • Without any breaks, you remain completely on time while battling a cold and you double book color services to maximize income. 
  • You go above and beyond by offering additional hand massages while they process rather than taking time to eat and carry on a pleasant conversation throughout the entirety of the service.

At first glance, these may not seem out of the ordinary. They commonly come with the territory of this industry. The reality is, however, these scenarios are a recipe for disaster and burnout when self-care is absent. It places the needs of our clients and our business before those of our own and the focus is always centered around money. The idea that as a beauty professional, we can push through services, ignore our physical needs for nutrition or rest, and do good work all the time in order to make a sustainable income. This is a narrative that I am eager to challenge. 

I find the motivational theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs very helpful and provides much clarity on why I am willing to challenge this. The hierarchy of needs is a pyramid of human needs in order of necessity from bottom-up. It includes physiological needs, safety, the need for love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. The theory behind this model is simply that our physiological needs must be satisfied before we are able to meet the ones higher up.

Based on this theory, we neglect our foundational need for food by skipping lunch during the day, or rest if we stay up late editing and posting photos. If we come to work when we are sick we risk our ability to attain our need for health, and we also compromise the health of our clients. This then negatively affects our ability to meet our need for a sense of connection during our day. I don’t know about you, but I can not focus and feel really dizzy when I skip a meal or don’t get enough sleep. 

When we do use our resources to meet these needs by packing leftovers from dinner or budgeting to have a sandwich delivered, we can secure our health while also caring well for our finances. By rescheduling our clients in order to recover from an illness, we honor our clients and protect our business. This then leads to respect first for ourselves, and then from our clients who reap the benefits of us caring for ourselves. We can then grow in our sense of self-esteem and strength, leading us on the road to self-actualization which includes creativity and problem-solving. 

I can relate this theory to my life in relation to one of my favorite brands, Olaplex, which works on a molecular level to repair broken disulfide bonds in hair caused by chemical, thermal, or mechanical damage.  By using this product, not only am I am protecting the integrity of compromised hair by repairing current damage, but I also ensure that we can prevent future damage. The product allows me to feel much more confident offering a service like platinum blonde highlights, knowing that both during and after the service, the hair will be well cared for. Similarly, when we integrate self-care and meet our basic and higher needs into our everyday routines, we provide insurance against depleting our energy leading to exhaustion or even burnout.

Imagine that just like a damaged hair cuticle looks rough and split apart, our own pyramid of needs can sometimes get a little beat up. What breakage is to hair, burnout is to a hairstylist. So, within this new narrative of adding self-care into our days behind the chair, it means that we are intentionally focusing on caring for ourselves first so that we can better meet the needs of our clients, setting ourselves up for financial success and also living fulfilling lives.

I genuinely value hard work and everything that this industry offers. Sometimes that requires leaning into discomfort and stretching beyond the limits that we are used to. This feels especially true right now. Whatever this looks like to you, I simply encourage that you do it with the intention that ensures that you are meeting what you need at the moment and cultivating a sense of balance while also caring for others. I wholeheartedly believe that we are capable of providing great experiences for our clients, leaving them with great hair, making good money, and feeling good while doing it. 

It just may require a little bit of self-care.

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