It was more than a year before I began to see myself in my natural hair.
It wasn’t so much about the whole stereo type vibe around natural Hair, but more about my self-image. I felt self-conscious about my weight for such a long time I did not realize my hair made such a strong contribution to how I believed I showed up in this world. I was lost without my long, straight hair, y’all.
The transition from relaxed to natural hair was tumultuous, and I probably changed my mind three times about my real curl pattern. In an article, Hey, it happens: When you don’t feel S*xy with your natural hair, Charming Ball writes about the concept of self-love and reaching a state of self-acceptance;
”And while it is true, the primary motivation of any of our choices, including aesthetics, should come from a place of love of one’s self, it is also true that from very early on (some say as young as two, when children manifest self-consciousness, pride and embarrassment), we learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others. So, short of being some total self-aware zen master, it takes most of us some time to reach self-acceptance.”
Not too long ago I decided to do a length check by getting my hair flat ironed. I had never received so many compliments from my co-workers, mostly those who were not of African or Caribbean descent. That bothered me for an entire week, and I’m embarrassed to say I even contemplated flat ironing my hair for work and leaving the curls for weekends and vacations.
Crazier than thoughts of reverting back to straight hair was the many friends and family members who I encouraged to begin the journey, that would be mortified. Mind you, the thought of ending the natural hair journey discomfort was quite calming, but more painful would be dealing with the effects of damaged or unhealthy hair. I somehow was granted a new measure of strength to embrace my journey.
I knew that going natural was not just about a style. Going natural, or rather Returning to natural, for me, was about maintaining the health of my hair and embracing what God had given me. The Up North Naturals line helps me with this. There were 4 key questions that I had to ask myself if I stood a chance in the next stages of my natural hair journey:
1. Can you embrace curly hair?
2. Are you willing to research and learn more about how to take care of your natural hair?
3. List all of the beautiful things about yourself? (inside & out)
4. Can you be vulnerable enough to wear your natural hair in public?.
I was not able to answer ‘yes’ to every question at first, but over the course of a few months things changed. Doing the research allowed me to see other women like me who were at the same stage. Some had the same struggles, while others found ways to overcome. I learned from these women.
A turning point for me was when I was able to find a hairstyle that I liked. I have two sisters and they both have long curly hair, and somehow their hair falls into a natural style. My hair grows like an afro and I needed to have a different look that I could relate to and embrace. Once I was comfortable with my hairstyle, and began to experience a natural way for a great curly hair day, it boosted my confidence. I then began looking at other things like clothing, jewellery and makeup as part of my overall look. Natural hair journey or not when you feel good about the way you look it shows and for many translates into beauty and strength.
In spite of the high number of women transitioning to natural hair it really is not about the hair for them either. It’s about embracing who you are and exercising a right that may not have been acceptable decades ago. I think we should consider leaving out the words ‘natural hair’ and just call it ‘the journey’. It’s a great opportunity that we have to see ourselves a little differently as we strive to impact and show up the way God intended us to in this world.
This is how I learned to see myself in my natural hair.
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Karen Millington is a Naturalista residing in Toronto, Ontario Canada. A natural encourager, among other things, she writes to inspire others. Find her @i_inspireme on Instagram.
Kienya Booker resides in North Preston, Nova Scotia Canada. Follow her for more of her natural hair styles @kienyabooker on Instagram.