If there’s one thing Janine Pipkin has learned in the past year, it’s that there is growth in jumping out of your comfort zone.
In January, Janine, a talent sourcing manager who has worked at Best Buy for five years, decided that after dealing with hair loss from alopecia for the last 15 years she was going to “bare it all.” She shaved her head and posted about it on social media.
Her LinkedIn post, which has more than 13,330 reactions and 1,675 comments, has been inspirational to her personal network and beyond. For those with alopecia and others battling invisible illnesses, it provided comfort and encouragement for what can sometimes be an isolating experience.
“I knew alopecia was common, but I didn’t realize people would be so triggered by my post, in a good way,” Janine said. “A lot of people deal with silent conditions that aren’t visible to the common eye, and I think that’s what triggered all of this. It was more than me being bald on camera, it was also about my willingness to share what was going on with me that no one would have known unless I told them.”
Janine experienced mild hair loss at a young age, but it wasn’t until 2006 that she felt her condition was becoming more noticeable. In 2007, she was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss throughout the body. During this time, she began to experiment with different hair styles and eventually started wearing wigs. But it wasn’t until this year that Janine decided to opt for a new style and shaved her head.
“I feel like I just have another option, and this is just another hair style,” said Janine. “Now, it’s not the wig or nothing. That is the most freeing thing about actually going ahead and shaving.”
‘It isn’t about the hair’
For Janine, a recent trip to the beach lead her on a journey outside her comfort zone. For beach trips, Janine usually packs a short, wet-and-wavy wig, but to prevent damage to the wig, she could never fully enjoy the beach and water with no limitations.
“The beach is my favorite place in the world, and usually when I go, I will still wear a wig,” said Janine. “I decided this year that I was going to shave my head and see how I look, how that feels. What better place to try it than away from home where nobody knows you and no one would know anything different.”
After her trip, Janine resumed working from home for Best Buy, where she looks for great talent to add to teams across the company. The encouragement and affirmation Janine got from family and friends during the beach trip gave her the push to try her hair style at work. And she used the LinkedIn post as an opportunity to share her story ahead of debuting her new look with her Best Buy team.
“Although I never wanted it to, it was limiting me. I should never feel like I can’t be my whole self or feel like I had to be a certain way in order to be accepted,” Janine said. “That was the biggest takeaway for me: you don’t have to live in a comfort zone, you don’t have to feel like you are in a box. It might be scary at first, but people will still welcome you because everyone is going through something, and most of the things you don’t know about.”
When it comes to her viral LinkedIn post, Janine just hopes her message will continue to resonate and encourage more people. She said one of the most rewarding parts of the process has been reading the comments and messages she has received from people with alopecia or other conditions that pulled inspiration and felt like, “Yup, I can do this!”
“It isn’t about the hair,” she said, “but more about the vulnerability and the willingness to share and be different in a place where people feel like they have to fit in.”