Letting Go: External Changes“When some girls go through a breakup, they’re inspired to cut or dye their hair,” my professor said in a lecture for his “Psychology of Personality” course.

When experiencing any significant change, whether it’s a breakup or embarking on a new life chapter, we may crave external transformation. It will not resolve the issues at hand; however, it can reflect inner growth and progress. There’s a certain catharsis to physical alterations.

Jezebel’s 2010 article attempts to trace the origins of post-breakup haircuts — females who are determined to chop their locks in a symbolic act of renewal. According to this post, “The Parent Trap” was the first film to showcase the bold, breakup hairdo: “Maggie McKendrick’s 1961 crop meets all our criteria: it comes as a direct result of a breakup” and “is inspired by feistiness and independence.”

Another article in The Times Of India reiterates the notion that different hair, clothing and other modifications assist in new beginnings.

“In my opinion, shopping is the perfect key to begin the process of ‘moving on’ after a breakup,” one 22-year-old female said. “I decided to start afresh and a new wardrobe was the perfect way to mark a new beginning in my life. I bought myself my first actual cocktail dress, which was a turquoise blue in color. It felt amazing.”

Dr. Margaret Paul’s piece on YourTango explains that the external changes that follow a breakup signify the overall desire for change.

“When we break up a relationship, we want to change something because something hasn’t worked,” she said. “Our culture is very focused on externals, especially on looks, so it makes sense that the first thing we want to change is our looks — weight, hair, makeup, clothing. We want to convince ourselves that changing something external will make a difference next time around.”

However, Paul also stresses that these external changes alone will not magically eradicate deep-seated problems. She suggests that self-examination and introspection are necessary in order to truly start healing.

“Loving yourself, through externals such as new clothes and a new hair style is great, but learning to really love yourself — by taking responsibility for your own feelings of worth and safety — is what will make you feel wonderful, she noted. “You will recover fully from the breakup and avoid repeating the problems in your next relationship.”

External changes will not mend inner turmoil. But new hair, makeup, clothing, tattoos, piercings or even body weight can parallel inner growth.