The Road to Self Love
Embracing my Natural Hair.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve always been in love with my natural hair. When I was growing up, every black girl around me by the age of 5 had a relaxer, and I had to endure painful Saturdays washing and braiding up my hair for the weeks to come. If my fro wasn’t braided up, it would be parted in multiple sections, adorned with bows, barrettes and some good ol’ hair bobbles. I hated it. Little did I know that this was a form of protective styling, and looking back I wish I was more grateful. I would cry and beg my mother to let me get a relaxer, and she would refuse while saying, “You will appreciate your strong, thick hair one day”.
I felt ugly and hated the way I looked. I tried to find some joy in getting my hair styled when I would go to the salon to get braids installed or even for a quick blow-out, but I would often leave feeling defeated by hairstylists who would tell me that my hair is too coarse and unmanageable. Many stylists and family members refused to do my hair unless a hot comb had gone through my fro to “lighten” its density and thickness. In my one and only attempt in getting a ‘Dominican blow-out’, I can recall being turned away mid-styling because my thick hair “broke” the comb attachment of the stylist’s blowdryer. I was forced to leave the salon with my hair half done in embarrassment. This led me to believing that no matter what, my hair would be impossible to style unless I did something to alter my curls to a looser state.
The hate speech directed to my hair soon seeped into my mind. I felt that women whose craft and beauty I admired were not willing to invest into my crown the same way they were for my looser-curled/straight haired friends. Because my hair is an extension of me, I thought, “If my hair is not worth the time, then I must not be worth the investment”, and I started to devalue my beauty at a very young age.
By the age of 13, I grew weary of the “childish” styles my mother would do for me, and my traumatic experiences at salons forced me to start styling my hair on my own. Little did I know that this milestone marked the moment I took my first step into the journey of self-love. My first style was my first accomplished puff, which was probably lopsided now that I think about it. I focused on the front of my hair, but neglected detangling the centre my hair, which resulted in breakage. To redeem myself, I learned how to do mini-twists which was my first successful low-manipulation style.
I thought I was doing pretty well for myself until one day I was exposed to the online natural hair community, which challenged me to take my hair journey to the next level. At this point, I had no idea what a wash n’ go was, and thought spritzing my hair with water was just nonsense. I truly believed leave-in conditioner was for white people, and was I terrified of shrinkage. My favourite aunt who once was committed to her creamy crack relaxer, decided to indulge in the natural hair life once more and held my hand as we experimented with my first wash n go. I was shocked that I ACTUALLY had curls once the water and conditioner mixture lathered my strands. After my first wash n go, I began to try different products and styles, and started taking better care of my hair. Detangling, LOC Method, and deep conditioning became my best friends.
I spent hours not only admiring natural hair Youtubers, but held on to their inspiring stories of how they came to love their true beautiful selves just from beginning their hair journey. After implementing a few basic techniques myself, I found that there is something therapeutic about spending time with yourself, tending to and nurturing your kinky strands. The more time you spend caring for this natural extension of you, the more you come to appreciate its uniqueness and complexities. There are plenty of queens out there with curly crowns, but no one truly has a crown like yours. It is through holding on to that mindset that I began to confidently try new things with my hair and present the real me to the world, whether it is accepted or not.
My decision to place one foot forward in my journey of both self love and healthier hair sparked a ripple effect, and soon close friends of mine decided to begin their own journeys. This created a sisterhood where women can support each other as they celebrate the natural essence of who they are. The online natural hair community is even more powerful because of its ability to reach people from all over the world. I’ve been so in love with the effects that come with celebrating black hair and beauty that “Love, A Natural” was birthed.
With that being said, here are a few things that I would like to remind every girl and woman reading this and contemplating going natural:
You do not have to 'go natural’ to feel/be beautiful. God made you in His image, so by default you are the most gorgeous being to ever walk this planet. If you do however, decide to begin this hair journey remember that shrinkage is magical, haters will always have something negative to say, but you were MADE to stand out. Crowns are not just handed out to just ANYONE, you know? Enjoy getting to rediscover YOU. The kindest thing to do is to be patient with yourself in the process.
The journey of self love is one that is continuous, fulfilling, and infectious. Love on yourself and watch how you can show others how to love themselves too,