As I think about my journey to go back to myself and wear my hair natural, I think, first, about the decision to do so. For me, it was a decision that came with ease because it was inspired by a revelation; a revelation that I needed a change in my life. At that time, I was going through a spiritual transformation and a new understanding about who I am. I was beginning to dig deeper into what it means to be a child of God and was going beyond the traditional approach to religion. I was becoming closer to God and closer to myself. I was beginning to understand my purpose in life and started taking steps to walk in purpose.
So, as I sat on my sofa one evening in December 2008, and read online articles about transitioning, I immediately identified with the entire process. It was the same process that I was going through, although my process was about my spirit. So, it became apparent to me that this journey would not only make my hair healthier, but it would also serve as a physical, outward show of my inward change. My hair would become symbolic with my spirit, personality, and character. As it changed and transformed, so would I. I was so excited. I was ready to go through the process and learn the lessons I needed to learn along the way. And soon thereafter, I would also recognize that this process would serve as preparation for some drastic changes and decisions in my life. My hair journey provided me with New Growth that would save my life.
I would like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) along the way:
1. I AM WHO I AM, and who I am is BEAUTIFUL!
I, like many other women, suffered from low self-esteem as a child, adolescent and young woman. Despite others’ affirmation about how great of a person I was or how pretty I was, I never thought I was pretty enough, thin enough, and I longed to look like someone else. Throughout my adolescence and college years, I continuously struggled with low self-esteem because I was always trying to measure up to some standard of beauty. I was never totally comfortable with whom I was as a woman and person. Many times, my personal view of myself and my confidence in my physical appearance was directly connected to my hair. When I was wearing relaxers, I felt better about myself after a “fresh perm” and my hair was straight, thick and cut in, what I called, “fluffy layers.” However, my entire attitude would shift when I wasn’t feeling confident about my hair. I would loathe the in-between times when my “new growth” was coming in but it was too soon to get a touch-up.
Now, as I rock my natural styles (twist-outs, braid-outs, soft curly fros, cornrows, pony puffs, and twists, etc.) I have a new found confidence. My view of myself is no longer based on society’s standard of beauty. Of course, I still have things about myself that I would like to change, but I now have a new attitude about why and how to change those things.
2. I AM A STRONG WOMAN.
One definition of strength is the power to resist force; the power of resisting attack.
My decision to go back to my natural hair was to build the physical strength of my hair but also to build strength within me. Hair is always strongest in its natural state so that even when it has to endure heat, chlorine from the pool, braiding and other techniques, the strands are stronger and will be able to endure.
During the period of my transition into natural, I had to endure one of the most difficult times of my life; a divorce. I wasn’t even 30 years old and had been married for five years when suddenly I was faced with a decision to end my marriage. All of the events surrounding that challenge caused me to endure hardship, pain, emotional distress, embarrassment, and ridicule. Yet, I was able to endure. I had been prepared, through my hair journey for it. We have to go through a lot of challenges in life; broken relationships, problem children, issues with our supervisors and on our jobs, but it is strength that keeps us from losing our minds when we’re going through things. When we’re confident about whom we are; we definitely become stronger. We can look in the mirror and know that we have the strength and power to resist and endure the attacks and forces that come against us. My decision was one that was made as a preparation for the attack against my spirit, my character and my joy. My hair would become a vessel through which God would give me strength to endure the hardships, suffering and trials that I had to face at that time and in the future.
3. I AM BOLD AND COURAGEOUS.
Isn’t it funny that it actually takes courage to be your true self? Sometimes we are required to step outside of our comfort zones, be courageous and actually present our true self to the world. We stand the chance of being judged, ridiculed, condemned and even misunderstood. Yet, so many times we won’t take risks because of fear (I deal with fear in many areas of my life). However, courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Making this decision, for me, took a lot of courage. I was so “comfortable,” not standing out and looking like everyone else. I didn’t even realize that I didn’t look like everyone else anyway. I had other things about me that made me stand out, like my infectious laugh or my warm smile. I didn’t even recognize that I already had a “natural energy” that flowed from the inside, out and every new characteristic that would radiate from me as a result of my hair journey had been there all along.
When a woman decides to step out with a new “do” there has to be a level of courage that accompanies that decision. So many times, we don’t have the courage to step out in faith to do the things that we desire to do and not to mention the things that have been PURPOSED for us to do. We have to have courage to live outside of the prescribed way of thinking and the way people think we should be.
4. I AM CAPABLE, through Wisdom, of MAKING THE BEST DECISIONS FOR MY LIFE.
Through my hair journey I have realized that I do have the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships and INSIGHT to make the right decisions for my life. My decision to go natural went against everything that “made sense” to me. I didn’t have the first clue about what to do with my hair. I always kept my hair layered, relaxed and wrapped. Every now and then I’d venture into some spiral curls or a straw set…but I was taking a step into new territory. But somehow, throughout the process, I started learning and understanding more and more about my hair and what it needs to be healthy and which styles look best on me, etc. Through my day to day journey, I am gaining understanding and wisdom about my hair and my life. I might be afraid or not too sure about things going on around me, but when you obtain wisdom, you will have the ability to discern the inner workings of a concept, idea, person, relationship, etc. and be able to make the best decisions for your life.
My hair journey is not just about hair. It’s a tangible object through which to experience my life’s journey as I learn to walk in purpose. Inspired by the words of the song, “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom,” by India.Arie, I am so grateful that I stepped out on faith and showed my (true) face, because freedom is mine today.