Happier Grey Podcast

Episode 6 - with Mahnaz Sharif

April 26, 2024 Helen Johnson Season 1 Episode 6
Episode 6 - with Mahnaz Sharif
Happier Grey Podcast
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Happier Grey Podcast
Episode 6 - with Mahnaz Sharif
Apr 26, 2024 Season 1 Episode 6
Helen Johnson

In this episode, I'm chatting to Mahnaz Sherif, who is a Coach, working to help mum's realise their business dreams.

Mahnaz decided to ditch the dye last Summer, and has a long way to go before the colour is all gone from her waist-length hair.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I'm chatting to Mahnaz Sherif, who is a Coach, working to help mum's realise their business dreams.

Mahnaz decided to ditch the dye last Summer, and has a long way to go before the colour is all gone from her waist-length hair.

Happier Grey Podcast with Mahnaz Sharif

Helen: Hello, and thanks for joining me, Helen Johnson, for the Happier Grey podcast. I'm pro-ageing and love my grey hair, but I know it can be quite intimidating to take the plunge, so each week I'll be chatting to other women who've chosen to embrace the grey in the hope of inspiring and supporting you, whether you already have silver hair, in the process of going grey, or are just considering ditching the dye.

Today I'm joined by Mahnaz Sherif. She empowers mums whose business dreams are buried in family needs. Most mums know the feeling of being sandwiched between their family needs for them and the business they want to create. Through overcoming her own challenges, Mahnaz developed the H.A.R.M.O.N.Y Blueprint crafted specially for mums to avoid the struggle with the juggle.

It's not just about business, it's about joy and real focus in both personal and professional life. Hello, good morning, and thanks for joining me.

Mahnaz: Thank you for having me, Helen, lovely to be here.

Helen: So, I found you on LinkedIn because I saw you did a post about growing out your hair.

Mahnaz: Yes, I did.

Helen: And obviously that fits perfectly with the happier grey concept. Really interested to start just by asking you, when did you first find grey hairs?

Mahnaz: Oh, what a great question. And this varies for everybody, doesn't it? I was in my 20s, early 20s. Probably had a few grey hairs before then too, if I'm honest. Because, you know, we probably do, but we just don't see them. So, yeah, my grey hair journey, if you like, definitely started. Very early in my 20s, and I kind of knew that because my mother had gone grey really early as well.

So, yeah.

Helen: Okay, and how did you feel when you found those first grey hairs?

Mahnaz: I think to begin with, especially when you're really young, it feels like, oh, this is like, definitely should not be seen. And there is this kind of natural instinct almost to hide them. Or not have them, so therefore I know a lot of people in the same position, especially when you get the first few, it's like just pull them out, you know, just get rid of them.

It seems to be the way that a lot of people go, especially when they're just like a few here or there, you can get away with that, right?

Helen: Yeah. So, when did you start dyeing your hair, would you say?

Mahnaz: I started dyeing my hair probably about the age of 24. And it was to cover my greys, although I wasn't colouring them too frequently to begin with. It was like, maybe just once every now and again when I felt like they were needing a little bit of a cover up. So, I definitely started really, really early, I know, in comparison to some people specifically for the covering of the greys rather than colouring for any other purpose.

Helen: And I'm guessing you dyed it pretty dark because your base colour looks pretty dark. 

Mahnaz: yeah, my colour, my natural hair colour is pretty dark. And, yeah, it's not the darkest black, but it's just a couple of shades down from that. So, it's very, very dark and yeah, it's quite hard, quite tricky to get it, that colour. And definitely the white shows up very well on the, on the dark hair too.

So, I think that's, another thing that maybe sometimes people having different natural colours can, not notice their colour as quickly or it doesn't become as prominent.

Helen: Okay. So, when did you start thinking about stopping dyeing your hair? 

Mahnaz: So, that's like fast forward, like 20 years of dyeing.

Helen: Yeah.

Mahnaz: So, I made that decision last year to properly, that's it, I'm not going to touch hair dye again, and that was at the start of summer. But I had previously thought about this at the start of lockdown, and I'm sure lots and lots of people have done this where, you know, the start of lockdown, you don't know how long you're going to be confined.

It's a great opportunity, right? The thought did occur, like, what if I just stop dyeing my hair, but I just wasn't really ready for it. So yeah, a few more years on, last year, 2023, it was June and we were about to go on holiday and I thought, I need to colour my hair, right? I need to, like, do a touch up before we go.

And then I thought, what if I didn't? What if, like, I actually left it this summer and I thought, you know, I've already not dyed my hair. And at this point I was dyeing my hair every three weeks to cover the very fast-growing hair that I have. And, yeah, it was time to touch up before we went. So, it had already been three weeks, so I was like, I'm already three weeks in, I'm going holiday, it's just a proper holiday, not seeing anybody I know, like maybe it will help me see like, could I do this?

So, I just went for it, I asked, well I didn't ask, I mentioned it to my family. I've got two boys, teenagers, and a husband, and I mentioned it to all of them, and I thought, I'm thinking of, you know, stopping this. My two kids were like the first, like, yeah mum. Yes, you have to do it. Yes, you should do it Absolutely, you know, why do you dye your hair?

Like it was no big deal. In fact, it was just so like, they were so supportive. It was, it's crazy, I only had to utter those words out of my mouth that I was thinking about doing this and they were like right behind me and the fact that they were, what would they be? 17 and 13 at that stage last year, so that was like, it filled my heart and really gave me that I was able to give myself permission, even more, knowing that I had that support there, which I think a lot of mums can feel that they've got to make this decision and do it on their own.

Which can be quite challenging, so yeah, that's kind of how it all started, I thought, you know, just that thought that happened, and I thought I could have done it earlier, but you know what, what if I did it now?

Helen: And, and what did your husband think, or did he not say anything?

Mahnaz: He was happy for me to do what I wanted, and if that's what I wanted to do, he said, yeah, give it a go, but he wasn't anything like my kids, you know. My kids were like, no, you have to do it. And then they were like, keeping an eye on my hair every week, telling me how it was going, and it was, it was looking better as it was growing.

And it was coming through, and they were like, really immersed in the whole journey, if I'm honest.

Helen: Which is good, because you've got cheerleaders.

Mahnaz: Yes, I, exactly. Definitely.

Helen: So, I can see now your hair is grey, down to about your ears? Would you say the bottom of your ears?

Mahnaz: Uh, yeah. Yes, definitely. 

Helen: And, and you have Quite long hair.

Mahnaz: I have very long ,hair. I have really long hair down to the small of my back now.

Helen:So are you just planning to just gradually grow it out, or do you think you might have a chop at some point and

Mahnaz: Yeah, I'm not sure. I do go for a trim now and again, but I don't do very often because my hair does grow very, very fast. Last time I think I got three, four inches off and that's kind of normal for me to just go and do that, but it doesn't really make a big difference on my hair, but yeah, it would make a massive difference if I got a haircut, but I, I like my long hair and I've always had long hair apart from one time when I got it chopped, I got 14 inches.

It's actually cut, and given to charity, so, and then my hair was very much, like a, kind of a bob, kind of cut, just sitting just above my shoulders. So that was drastic, and it was different and nice, but I think I still prefer having it longer, just because I've maybe always had it longer, so I'm not sure if I would go down that route, but I'm definitely just seeing how it goes, because it keeps sort of changing, doesn't it, as it grows longer, you're just not sure how the greys will, so maybe I will have to at some point make it, and that might make it more blending through, rather than having this kind of darker layer at the bottom.

Helen: But it doesn't seem to bother you. I don't think I've ever seen any pictures of you with your hair tied up or anything.

Mahnaz: No, I'm quite happy. In fact, I have more greys on the sides than I have, and if I put it back, you probably wouldn't see very many of them. You wouldn't see as many. So, I'm actually like, well, I'm doing this so everybody can see it.

Helen: Okay, and so how have your friends reacted?

Mahnaz: I have had such incredible support. But really, I think the biggest thing is that I had to give myself permission to do this, and until I was ready, I couldn't verbalise or say it, and people couldn't see it, and all the things, and so my kind of closest friends have been so supportive, they're just like, it looks amazing, and they're just, I don't even have to ask them, and they're just so supportive of what I'm doing.

And then, I work online so I tend to see more people on Zooms than I do anywhere else. And we have quite a small family too, although we have done visits to see them, Christmas it was, when we went down south to my family, who live further away, so we only get to see them usually once a year.

So, it's been kind of different, but like some people who are very close are very forthcoming with their comments and very much they want to know why you've done it and like really supportive because, let's face it, there are more people I would say definitely going grey and doing this kind of embracing their natural colour, but I think for people to see it and, directly in your family is very different, and I think they understand why I'm doing it. So, I guess that's the main thing, they understand that I, you know, it's something that's important to me. However, yeah, there will be only some people who will be forthcoming and making, comments about it in a positive way to encourage and support, which I guess is usually, because maybe people are not quite sure what to say.

I think that's always the case, but really, I think, I mean, especially if anybody's listening, you know, it's kind of like it doesn't matter what they think, does it?

Helen: No, I think as long as you're comfortable with your choice,

Mahnaz: Yeah, exactly. Totally.

Helen: then it would be nice if they were too, but if they're not, then. 

Mahnaz: It's a nice to have. It's not a necessity. Yeah, definitely.

Helen: Okay. And would you say going grey, you've changed anything else in terms of your style or your health and fitness regime or anything like that? 

Mahnaz: No, I wouldn't say that it's brought anything extra on, if anything, this has enhanced what I had already, if that makes sense. So, it seems, now looking back, it feels like it would be the next step in, you know, being more natural. Because, you know, I've always been on a journey, looking back, of embracing more natural things.

I've used natural skincare, natural products at home. less chemicals and non-toxic products. And in fact, my very first business that I set up was actually to help people to, use alternative products that were healthier and healthier for us and non-toxic and, you know, just made of real good ingredients where the focus was on ourselves being good for us, but also for our environment, too, which is obviously, a secondary thing because, you know, soaps and things that we use, ultimately, you know, they're going down the drain and going into the system.

So, I've been on this journey all along anyway, and then when I left my corporate job, I was still dyeing my hair every three weeks with chemical dyes. And that was early six, seven years ago I left. And that, the first thing I did was, I switched to natural dyes.

Because I was like, I am at home and I can definitely gift myself this time to whatever it takes, I'm just going to use natural dyes now. And if it means it takes me, you know, four, five hours start to finish to dye my hair every three weeks, then, like, I've been working so constantly and not having time to be able to do that.

And I want to do that now because I don't want the chemical dyes. I felt like I didn't have a choice before that because of time constraints and a busy family. So then natural dyes and then after natural dyes, no dyes.

Helen: That’s a logical journey. 

Mahnaz: Absolutely, isn't it?

Helen: Yeah. So, if someone was thinking about stopping dyeing their hair, what would you say to them? 

Mahnaz: I would say that if it's something really important to them, understanding why they want to do it is really important because I think the permission really needs to come from within, and we need to understand why we want to do something and what our drivers are, and sometimes we're just not clear enough.

And I feel like that was me. You know, I wasn't so clear. Otherwise, I would have just put my foot down and made that decision at the start of lockdown. But I didn't. I thought, okay, I'll do it someday. Just pushed it forward. I guess just like really being understanding of why that's important to you, what it would mean to you, why you want to do it.

And that's not just selfish reasons of being more healthy and just for us. I think there could be lots of reasons like, you know, for me, for example, I am of South Asian background, born and brought up in Scotland. But there aren't very many British Asian women, even anywhere, that I've seen who are embracing greys.

So, it's kind of becomes like a cultural thing. It becomes like, well, why are we not seeing these? And you see the ones that you do see, they are like doing the similar to yourself. You know, they are showing their silvers and they're doing this whole silver sisters and grey hair journey. And that's fantastic, but there's not enough of them because there's still other people who are doing it.

They're not in anybody's family. So, like, I guess empowering other women to see that they have a choice, like, they have a choice. And you know, why it's important to them and personally, I know my mum never had a choice. She was 64 when she passed away and, unfortunately, she was diagnosed with cancer and had like a long kind of journey towards the end, which was not very nice. 

But her whole journey, her whole life, she always, I cannot remember a time where she wasn't colouring her hair, and that's from when I was growing up, so I know she started going grey very young, and there's this cultural kind of expectation, I guess, from other people, where it's just expected , there is no other way, nobody who's showing us a different way and so, I don't think it was even an option or a thought in a lot of people's minds. And even, like I said, in my mother's life. 

So, for me, I'm like, well, I want it to be different. I want it to be, to be a difference in every generation. So that they are empowered to make that choice themselves and they see different norms. Different things being normal, you know, that's another way to look at the grey hairs because it is about embracing ourselves, but then it's what people see and take from it and when they haven't been exposed to anybody who has taken on that fear and that, you know, everybody has those thoughts and it's always easier to not do things than do them.

But, you know, we can give other people that choice and ultimately help them to see that there is a choice to be made.

Helen: Okay, well, that's kind of similar to me in that I have a 17 year-old daughter and one of the reasons that I chose to go grey was because I was thinking, what sort of example am I setting for my child if I am pretending that I'm not ageing, because there's nothing wrong with aging. It's a privilege. So, I would want her to accept that.

And it's also one of the reasons I started Happier Grey, because I think a lot of people, when they think about going grey, they don't have anyone in their immediate circle who's been through the process and they expect a lot of negativity. Because when you see in the press, there's an awful lot of things around if you let your hair go grey, you're letting yourself go and all of those sorts of stories and you kind of think, well, how normal is that reaction going to be?

And in my experience, I've not had that at all. Everyone's been really complimentary and just really positive. So, it's just not the experience that you maybe expect it's going to be.

Mahnaz: Yeah, I totally resonate with that, what you're saying, Helen, and definitely, like, doing that for our kids, like, for me, I have two boys, but I think it's equally as important for them to see that women have a choice, because one day, you know, when they have somebody in their life, they're going to be supportive.

Like, it's not the first time they come across the situation or the talk about grey hairs, and it shouldn't be. And men get to, you know, age gracefully with their greys, and they look distinguished. So, why can't we? You know, we certainly can, and I think something you mentioned just there is, I totally resonate with 100 percent like, growing old is a privilege.

And if somebody looks at my grey hairs and decides what age I am, then that's them deciding, like, I know the age I am, it doesn't change anything and it doesn't make me older or younger or, you know. It doesn't matter what they think, it's actually none of my business. You know, it's like, it's simply, I have, I've told myself that before I started that it really doesn't matter.

You know, other people's opinions, they shouldn't have so much of a control on us, but they're subliminal messages and I think you make a great point because it's advertising, it's TV, it's all these things, it's films, it's cinema, whatever we are exposed to, we just get given this idea that we have to, there's this, you know, stereotypical image of if we don't look this way, then we are not X, Y, and Z. And that's not fair, like we are living in the modern day where we get to create our own norms, and I think embracing ourselves, as we are and this is what God intended, like, we have grey hairs when they come through. We don't control that just like nobody can control if they have a birthmark or you know anything else, so why should it matter, but we haven't thought about this before have we Helen, so it's only a certain stage of life that the penny drops and you know that that means it's the right time.

Helen: Cool. Well, I think that's a really good note to finish on because obviously we both agree. So, thank you so much for joining me today and, I wish you well with the rest of your grey hair journey.

Mahnaz: Thank you very much, Helen. It's been great to talk to you.

Helen: Thanks so much for joining me for this week's show. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. I'll be back again next week, but in the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram at happier. grey. Have a great week.