17/08/2012 09:24 | By Eve Menezes Cunningham, Contributor, MSN Her

Miley's new haircut: what does it all mean?

Miley Cyrus has hit the headlines this week after making a dramatic change to her looks: chopping her long hair off and dying it blonde. It's an unusual decision in the run-up to her wedding and some fear she may be following in Britney's footsteps after her dramatic head shave. Psychology expert Eva Menezes Cunningham looks at the reasons why we all sometimes want a dramatic change in our appearance.


Miley Cyrus (© Miley Cyrus, Twitter)

Whether it's a new haircut, moving home, ending a relationship or quitting a job, sometimes we all need a change. While I love Miley's new crop, and think she looks a little like Angelina Jolie, I think she was brave to part with her trademark mane when image is such a major part of her work.

"Big haircuts are never undertaken lightly or casually," says Phillip Hodson, Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk). "They are very significant statements about your appearance and identity. It's a message to the world. You're holding up a big banner saying, 'I need you to understand that you have to respond to me differently.'

"It's a declaration of independence. They may have broken up with someone or they may be revealing new talents. Before a wedding, it could be a case of casting out all other men: 'This is now my man. I take this very seriously. This is a transformation.'

"It might be a way of signalling self-confidence that you can do what you want with your hair and your body," adds Linda Aspey, a therapist and executive coach who works with female leaders (www.coachingforleaders.co.uk). '"You may not all like it and that's OK. I don't need everybody's approval to be happy in myself.'

"It can mean all sorts of things. One person might be fed up with her old identity and old self, wanting to shed an outer layer. Another might have changed priorities, and where she used to spend hours on her hair, no longer has the time. She might have had feedback from someone or seen a picture of a fabulous looking person in a magazine and thought, 'I want to look like that.'

"Weddings often prompt women to go for an image overhaul. You want to look your absolute best for that day. The photographs will live on forever. It might also be end of an era, of being a singleton."

I told Linda about my own biggest hair disaster (cropping my long hair and, rather than looking like Halle Berry or Winona Ryder, I ended up resembling a boy). But even though it looked awful, I was glad to be rid of it.

"Sometimes it needs to be drastic to feel that you've done something significant," says Linda. "Sometimes the benefit is in taking the risk itself." For less dramatic changes, she suggests changing your makeup.

"But it's useful to have a sense of perspective. Hair will grow back. If you absolutely have to, you can cover it up." Linda warns against getting caught up in the heightened emotions surrounding weddings, saying, "Talk to your friends first before making a dramatic change and sleep on it for a couple of nights.

"I hear slight alarm bells, particularly if someone's had the same style for a very long time," says Jane Redfern, Managing Director at Daniel Field. "Less dramatic ways include hair colour change, going a bit warmer, darker or blonder. Natural Colours can be used easily as a semi-permanent or permanent change without damaging the hair.

"If someone has had the same hair style for 10 or 15 years, you see the hairstyle before you see them," says Errol Douglas MBE. He suggests talking to several different hairdressers asking what they would recommend for your face and deciding from that rather than taking in a photograph of someone else. "Don't just think about having it done or cut half of it off. Let yourself benefit from the hairdresser's experience and knowledge of trends as well as what will suit you."

Love your hair but hate your job, relationship or home?

These changes are easier to manage more gradually. Break big changes into small steps like updating your CV, taking your partner out on a date to see if you can reconnect or researching couples' counsellors. List the things you're most unhappy with. What do they have in common? What about the things you still like? Might redecorating revive your love for your home or is it time to check out some other places to get an idea of your options? What do you wish you could change? How might you talk to your boss or partner about the changes you need?

Write a script of how you'd like the conversation to go to help yourself get some clarity around it. Imagine yourself a year from now. How would you like things to be different? How will you feel if they stay the same?

What do you think of Miley's new look? Tell us here.

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