03/01/2013 01:58 pm ET

'Making The Cut'

This is a teen-written article from our friends at Teenink.com.

By NicoleG, Woburn, MA

As I sat in the passenger seat of my mother's car, stroking my long hair, I wondered if I was making a mistake. I turned to my mom and said, “I think I've changed my mind. Maybe we should go home.” She reminded me that I had already made the commitment, and assured me that it was not a big deal. But in my 12-year-old mind, it was the biggest deal in the world.

Although I was the one who had decided to do this, I was so conflicted by thoughts of unknown repercussions that I was getting cold feet. It was a simple, ordinary task, and yet I was convinced that it would drastically change my life.

Of course, it was only hair; it would grow back. On the other hand, I had never before parted with my thick, wavy locks. I guess I was afraid to cut my hair because I thought I would lose a part of who I was. But we arrived at the hair salon nonetheless, and I nervously walked in with my mother. I knew it was time for a change, and I figured it was now or never.

Growing up, I was known for having the longest hair of anyone I knew. I always took pride in this fact. I thought that it was what made me unique –- as if it were my trademark. Then in middle school I read an article in the newspaper about a girl who had cut her hair and donated it to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair due to illness. It seemed like a simple way to help someone in need, and I knew I wanted to contribute. Yet, I was terrified to chop off the hair that I had spent my whole life growing, that I felt defined who I was. I was afraid that people would treat me differently because I would look different, and I would lose that special quality that made me different.

Despite these fears, I sat in the chair and stared at my reflection. I ran my fingers through my hair one last time as I secured it with an elastic, desperately trying to savor the feeling before it was gone forever. Before I even knew what happened, the hairdresser was handing me fifteen inches of hair that took her two seconds to remove. Initially, I was too shocked to even react. As the woman proceeded to fix and style my hair, it felt almost surreal. However, I took comfort in knowing that my actions would positively impact another child's life.

Finally, I looked in the mirror and examined my transformation. I had expected to not even recognize myself. But to my surprise, the girl staring back at me was the one I had known all along.

I was right to think that this event would change me, but it changed me in a way that I had not expected. I found that while I had changed my outward appearance, it did not change how I felt about myself. It helped me realize that we are defined not by how we look, but by our decisions and actions. I also realized that we do not need physical attributes to help us stand out in this world, because we already come equipped with unique thoughts and personalities that make everyone an individual.

So, with this new insight, I went back to school with my new short hair.