'I love your hair. I wish I had the courage to do the same.' We had just finished a 10-day silent meditation retreat and these were the first words she said to me. This woman, who I didn't know, was tired of the endless regime of dyeing her hair every few weeks, but was scared to let her natural white hair come through.
I hear this all the time; women confiding that they'd like to do the same as me, but they're afraid.
And I understand that fear.
I noticed my first grey hairs when I was 14. I had dark, brown hair, so although there were only one or two silver strands initially, they were very noticeable. As I got older, more and more grey hairs appeared. It didn't particularly bother me, but one Christmas in my mid-twenties my mum and sister bought me some hair dye and said it was time to cover up those greys.
I accepted they were right. I was young and single and thought that having glossy, dark hair (with no unsightly greys) was the way to go.
So it started. For the next 20 years I dyed my hair every 6-8 weeks to cover up the grey roots that were becoming ever more prominent. The whole process was a complete pain, but I loved the end result. I prided myself on looking younger than my years and often received compliments telling me so.
When I met my husband eight years ago, we were both 37 and his hair was very grey. But rather than being expected to dye his hair, Mr H's look was accepted and admired. Many of my friends commented on how he was a 'silver fox'.
Mr H would question why I felt the need to dye my hair. 'Just let it go', he'd say. But to be honest, I identified so strongly with the idea of being a young woman, that the thought of allowing this very obvious sign of ageing to show terrified me.
During this time I had started my own business as a coach and hypnotherapist. My work was focused on helping women to let go of limiting beliefs and unconscious blocks, so they could be their most brilliant, unbound, authentic selves.
So here I was encouraging other women to embrace their true selves whilst all the time I was hiding behind this mask of hair dye. I began to feel more and more incongruent.
I had always thought that I would wait until I was 50 before allowing my natural hair colour to come through. I've no idea why I picked that particular age; I guess it felt far enough in the future for me not to have to confront the prospect of showing I was becoming older. But when I was 43 I made a decision to stop dying my hair. I was completely fed-up with what had now become a monthly chore.
So I went cold turkey. I stopped dyeing and allowed the grey roots to appear. It felt freeing and deeply uncomfortable at the same time. As more and more grey came through, I still had some dark hair, but when I pulled the hair back from my face, all I could see was silver. I would stand in front of the mirror, seeing this older woman looking back at me and feel panicky. My identity as a young, attractive woman fell away from me, as I became who I truly was - an older, more experienced, wiser and unbound woman who was committed to letting the mask of youth drop.
Now, two years after making that decision, my hair is fully grown out. I still have some dark hair, but it's mostly silver and grey. I definitely look older and I certainly receive less male attention than I used to.
But I receive more attention from other women. I imagined I would become invisible when my hair was grey, but actually I've become more visible in a lot of ways. I've attracted new clients and inspired others to let go of covering up their greys. And as I said at the beginning, I receive regular compliments from other women about my hair.
Sometimes I still have people asking me whether I'm really intending to leave my hair this way. And I'm happy to say 'Yes, I am'. Allowing my hair to be natural makes me feel freer, stronger, more real. And I'm glad to have said goodbye to the young girl who felt she had to look a certain way.
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