I Didn’t Truly Feel Beautiful Until I Grew Out My Natural Hair
I always joke about how going natural saved my life. But, behind my smile, I’m dead serious.
About three years ago, I was at the tail end of an awful situationship, terribly tangled with someone too damaged to love me properly. I allowed him to wring out the last drops of my self-esteem and self-worth until I was clawing my way out of a depressive self-hating spiral. Like most women hiding the scars of a broken heart, I covered up how much I hated the way I felt and looked by throwing all my energy into my work and retail therapy that was damaging my credit. It was a mindf**k of the highest level; a psychological paradox. I was supposed to be this confident career woman, but more so, I was someone who no longer appreciated my beauty inside and out.
Before I was old enough to date, I felt pretty. As a little girl, my dad showered me with enough compliments for me to believe that my parents’ DNA had created something special. As I got older, however, your typical mean kids and the presence of blue-eyed beauty standards chiseled deep cracks into my belief that I was truly beautiful. Fast forward to a damaging relationship, and in the end, I was barely hanging on to the faith I used to have in my features.
And that’s probably why I waited so long to go natural. I no longer liked the way I looked so I thought losing my hair would only make things worse. But I wanted to grow out my hair from my super-short pixie and finally free myself from years of damaged, stringy, relaxed tresses. And once my ex stripped me of my self-respect, I desperately needed also to strip away the ill feelings I had toward myself every time I glanced in the mirror.
And it was my natural hair journey that catapulted me into a stratosphere of self-love.
Most natural-haired women will tell you their journey was an awakening, an intimate relationship with themselves. Re-learning my hair unlocked every deep issue I had with myself and why I felt unpretty. An amalgamation of those self-hating feelings and a sorry relationship came pouring out as I learned every inch of my locks: How to set my mane in flexi-rod sets, taking the time to twist out my hair before bed, realizing my hair loves olive oil over coconut. I healed myself with every co-wash.
When I stepped out in my teeny weeny afro for the first time, I was timid about my looks. The short, soft style was a complete departure from my comfort zone, but I was no longer scared to love all of myself, even if I wasn’t exactly sure I could pull off my look like, say, a Lupita. Today, my natural hair is helping me work on my insecurities. My kinky coif (or my blowout) stands as a reminder of my work to love myself enough to feel beautiful no matter what.
I’m embarrassed by how unpretty I felt for so many years and ashamed that a man was the catalyst for my journey. But you live, and you learn, right? Nowadays, women like Teyonah Parris and Ashley Blaine – natural-haired, confident, chocolate-skinned sistas – remind me that my type of hair and skin complexion are never not beautiful. Even if my hair is pulled back into a ponytail, I still feel untouchable in the beauty department, as any woman should. So now more than ever, I find myself taking a criminal amount of selfies to the point that my friends have gotten used to my constant need to “find good lighting.” I’m not compiling the next selfie book, à la Kim K, but I’ll admit it: I love looking at the natural-haired goddess I am today. My unwavering confidence about how I look finally allows me to look back at my reflection with full-hearted love, and that’s better than any feeling, whether I’m fresh from the salon or not.