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Why I shaved my head

On the first of July, after having my usual breakfast of four egg whites and one whole egg, served with a topping of Siracha sauce and freshly blended fruit smoothie, I silently stood up, walked into the bathroom and shaved my head.

Joey Ra with his father

Me with hair

Joey Ra shaved head

Shaved egg head me. My eyebrows are now longer than my hair.

For those of you who regularly do this, you may think it's a pretty insignificant thing. But it was for me. Let me tell you why.


I really care about looking good. Those that know me from work (or London in general) know how much care I put into my appearance. Since my days at Deloitte, colleagues commented on how well-groomed I always was. My shoes were always shined. My hair styled neatly with gel. I wore a three-piece suit to work, and when I didn't I used a tie-clip (you shouldn't use a tie-clip when wearing a three-piece).

Even friends outside of work would remark how smart I always looked. When meeting at a bar after work for a drink, I'd still have my tie on.

Now, I don't think of any of the above as a bad thing. In fact, I seriously think people should raise their bars higher and try a little more to make themselves look better. Ironed shirts. Combed hair. Groomed facial and body hair. Trimmed nose hairs (please). Plucked eyebrows. But I knew it was about more than wanting to look smart and presentable. I suffered from vanity.

Not so harmless

Most of my behaviours and habits would seem harmless. A lot of them could be argued as common courtesy - not letting those around you suffer your unkempt nose hair, for example. Other habits you'd be more likely to say were more silly than anything harmful, such as adjusting my hair whenever I go to the bathroom or having a cheeky flex in front of the mirror after the gym.

broken image

Do I look pretty?

Yet the truth that I always knew is that underneath those seemingly harmless (and even good) behaviours was something more damaging. Put simply, I cared too much about my appearance. Not just my physical appearance and what I wore, but I was also careful about how I appeared to others more generally. Things like whether people see me as kind and caring. A good listener. A nice guy. A fun guy.


I'll speak frankly. I'm not a bad looking guy - now, at least.

I wasn't always my dashing self, though. I had an awkward childhood and teenage years. I was definitely no heartthrob. I was chubby and not very self-confident. At some point, things changed. I'm not sure when it happened, and I think I realised much later than when it actually happened, but I became attractive. I also started to work out, which helped too.

broken image

Fat Joey

I'll be honest. I enjoyed the attention and approval that I never got as a kid. No, I'm no Chris Evans (the fit one, not the DJ) but certainly compared to my teenage years I had transformed. As though making up for lost time, I lapped up the newfound attention like a person who hasn't eaten in days.

The psychology behind the binge after starvation is firstly, you haven't eaten in days so you need to catch up on the calories. Secondly, you're in scarcity mode - you're worried that the food will be taken away again and you'll be left hungry. In my mind, this is the case for me and my appearance. To the outside world I'm a decent looking guy but in my heart I am still the awkward fat kid. It's this insecurity that fed my continued craving for external approval.

Why now?

I came to Asia in October last year. I spent a month in Taiwan then spent the rest of the time around South East Asia.

I hope this doesn't come across as blowing my own trumpet or being big-headed - I'm trying to be real about my actual experience. The attention I was receiving was over the top. Maybe it's because I have a different look (Korean, rather than SE Asian) or maybe the perceived average is lower in Asia. Maybe people in Asia are less subtle - here people you've just met tell you to your face that you're attractive (and they're not hitting on you). Guess what that was doing to my ego. Not that I was getting big-headed, but my ego was unarguably getting stroked daily.

So I decided to shave it off. All of it. It's not so much to do with trying to look less good externally, but more of a symbolic gesture. If you have any Asian friends, you'll know that generally hairdo is a big deal for Asians. In Korea so many of my male friends will spend money on perming, straightening or colouring their hair - perhaps trying to emulate the famous K-pop idols. Now I'm not one to do fancy stuff to my hair, but I took care of it. Twice monthly haircuts to keep myself looking fresh. Carefully combed and waxed every morning. To shave it off was a big hurdle to jump over.

How do I feel now?

I like that I look like a monk. Men who went against the social norms of their day, gave up their egos in search of something higher. I guess it's how I kind of see myself, as on a journey of spiritual discovery. This was one little step further on that journey. I follow leaders that teach the shedding of the ego to discover something deeper. Something higher. I don't want to need to feed my ego. I want to be grounded in myself. I think that will make be a better version of myself.

This is why shaving my head was significant for me. Thanks for reading.

P.S. I also love that I no longer have to rearrange my hair after I take off my motorbike helmet. It's a real time-saver!

P.P.S. Shout out to Dedar for pushing me to write more