Embracing Beauty with McKenna Reitz

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Written By: McKena Reitz

I stood in disbelief as I ran my fingers through my thinning hair.  Clumps of hair remained on my hands, and I felt as though my identity was slowly being ripped away from me as every stand fell from my scalp.

My hair had been my identity for my entire life, so who would I be now without it?

Little did I know that my six-year journey of hair loss would show me the true meaning of beauty. 

The journey has not been easy, as my own reflection was (and always had been) my own worst enemy. My hair loss was very sudden and shocking; I was officially bald in November of 2015, just three weeks after the diagnosis. 

When I first lost my hair, I felt so much shame and embarrassment that I refused to look at my bald head in the mirror.  I did every possible medical and holistic treatment to grow my hair back, including weekly steroid shots into my scalp for six months.

Nothing was working. Something had to drastically change because my  mind, body, and soul could not take it anymore.
 
My grace period was over, and now the work of reframing my mindset started as I began to realize that my hair loss was out of my control. What I did have control over was my attitude towards alopecia. I felt myself slowly begin to not only embrace but become empowered by my alopecia.

Alopecia is my superpower.

I need to model and represent strength for my daughters, students, and athletes. I stopped allowing alopecia to define me; rather, I began to define it. No longer was I allowing my hair loss to dictate how I felt, what I did, or how I reacted to my reflection. I learned that hair is NOT our identity. Our identity is defined by our character and how we show up on a daily basis.

It took losing every single hair on my entire body to finally understand that when my husband said to me when I first lost my hair that “it’s only hair,” it truly is only hair. Our beauty truly is defined by our character.

For those that don’t know, Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles, causing your hair to fall out.

There are three different types: areata, which is bald spots on your scalp; totalaris, which is complete hair loss on your entire head; and universalis, which is complete hair loss on your entire body. Alopecia affects 7.1 million people in the United States, and it does not discriminate against age, gender, or ethnicity.

People tell me that they wish they were as strong and as confident as I am.

I remind them that the past six years have been both the most difficult and life-changing years of my life. It is all because of my WHY.

I have two young daughters who watch my every move, and knowing that alopecia is genetic, I began to focus on my mindset towards my hair loss. It became my responsibility to teach my daughters the lesson of self-acceptance and self-love, along with accepting all of the adversity and diversity that we are surrounded by within society.

Throughout their lives, they will be faced with many challenges, some more difficult than others, and they need to know they are strong enough to get through anything.

We cannot compare our journey to anyone else’s journey as we are all at different points physically, mentally, and emotionally. Instead, we must be inspired by one another and support each other unconditionally.

For the first time in my life, hair or no hair, I love my reflection. I can finally look at myself and see beauty.  I know I am enough, and I am worth it. 

About McKenna Reitz

McKenna Reitz is aTEDx speaker who empowers men and women to reframe life’s challenges into gifts and opportunities so they can pursue their purpose with clarity and confidence. After losing all her hair due to Alopecia, McKenna uses her journey of having this autoimmune disease to help others overcome the loss in their life by resetting the mindset of their “loss” into growth and opportunities in their lives. Teaching AP Psychology and coaching varsity volleyball for the past 16 years, McKenna resides in Toledo, OH, with her husband Greg and two beautiful daughters, Karsen (9) and Maddox (6). 

You can find McKenna at:

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