Five years ago, I made a decision to stop letting society and my peers dictate what I deemed to be beautiful. I became so obsessed with fitting in with my peers that I would perm, cut, dye and even wear a weave to keep my hair the perfect amount of straight. When I visited my hairstylist, I voiced my concerns about what I needed to do to help my thinning hair become healthier. I expected her to tell me to chop it off and start again, but she simply said to put hair extensions in. So I went home and did exactly what she told me to do.
I bought my hair, had a friend braid and apply my extensions thinking this was the answer to my problem. After wearing my hair extensions for a month, I decided to remove them to make room for some new ones. It was then that I looked in the mirror and realized it was time for a change. Without giving it a second thought, I grabbed the scissors, ran to my boyfriend, and told him to cut it all off. At first he looked at me completely confused thinking I’d lost my mind. Again I repeated, cut it all off before I change my mind.
As soon as the scissors hit the first strand of my damaged hair, I bent down, picked it up, and sobbed a little. I didn’t cry because my hair was gone: I cried because I didn’t think I could handle the judgment from my peers the next time they saw me. Strangely though, the more my damaged hair hit the floor, the more a feeling of liberation and freedom began to build within me. For the first time in ages, I felt as though I was living the true meaning of what it meant to be my natural, authentic self. In that moment I had no hair to hide behind and it was truly empowering.
I gathered my damaged hair from the kitchen floor, put in in a plastic bag and tossed it in the trash, never to be seen again. I remember walking out of the house that night to purchase as many natural hair products I could get my hands on because I thought I looked like a boy! For as long as I could remember, I had always had hair that reached past my shoulders. Not any more. I didn’t quite fully realize it, but that night as I looked into the mirror, I was redefining what it meant to love myself.
Monday morning came and along with it the judgment, stares and laughter from people that I had been foolish to entrust the value of my worth to. Was I upset? No. I couldn’t blame them for being closed-minded and uneducated as to what it meant to be a black woman with natural hair. In fact, a part of me felt sorry for them. My short, curly hair made them uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable and emotionally drained that I felt maintaining straight hair for all those years, just to keep up with “socially acceptable” standards. Looking back, the laughter and stares I received that day didn’t tear me down: it increased the confidence that I was gaining in owning who I was.
I never looked back. As soon as I was done with school, I went home, pulled out my laptop, and researched all of the products I could use on my curly tresses. Once I found what products worked, I was able to figure out what hairstyles worked as well. Over time, the judgments and stares I initially endured turned to compliments, and a lot of the black women around me started to own their natural hair as well.
Five years ago, I decided to stop being a sellout and to start buying in. I learned how to love myself and to change the standards of what it means to be “socially acceptable”. There is no greater value than loving the most authentic version of yourself.
What will you own today?