A wise woman sang: “I am not my hair, I am not my skin. I am not your expectations… I am a soul that lives within.”
Firstly, I’d like to thank India Arie for sharing this wisdom. But what does it mean to me to not be defined by my hair?
I think everyone knows what it’s like to be judged based on what they look like. Heck, we’re all guilty of doing it to someone else in some way or the other. Her hair’s too straight, her hair’s not straight enough. Too dark, too light. Too thick, too thin. Too plain, too crazy. We all want different things, thus we all like different things. One man’s ugly is another man’s gorgeous. It’s all a matter of perception. So, again this statement- I am NOT my hair, I am NOT my skin –it resonates with so many of us because we can relate to it. This is how I can relate.
Growing up, I absorbed all the misconceptions about beauty that the media and my culture forced upon me. My hair, as it was prior to heat styling, was not at all what I perceived to be beautiful. Straight was perfection. Blonde reigned supreme. My hair was too thick, unmanageable, not straight enough, too dry, too coarse, too damaged, too dark. When you’re that unhappy with a part of yourself and all you can say are bad things, there’s only one thing you can do (or so I thought), attempt to change it. I bought a fancy extra hot, slim nozzle hair dryer and an expensive wet/dry flat iron and went to work on my troubled mane. The results: Amazing. My hair was sleek, shiny and super straight. I loved it! No more cat-that-just-got-struck-by-lightning ponytails. Many people warned me to stock up on the anti-heat hair lubes and I followed suit. I also turned up the heat on my heat styling because the more my curly roots grew out, the more I had to flat iron them. Everyone loved and admired my hair and I thought that I finally had the hair I’d always wished I had.
All that glitters, isn’t gold. Sometimes it’s dandruff.
The itch was killing me. All the products and extra heat on my scalp had caused me to become victim to die hard dandruff! The spiky little aerials constantly searching for signal from my perfectly flat side part was killing me too. My hair was breaking, my arms were tired and I’d become obsessed. I was devastated. Over the years I’d tried many new things to bring life (and manageability) back to my hair. I changed my hair colour a few times, changed my products many times, cut my hair, changed my hair style. I’d even reached the self-realisation that my hair was in a straight-comatose funk, which made me resort to buying a curling iron. Of course THAT didn’t work either, as I hadn’t realised that I have naturally curly hair which I’d been scorching into submission for years. It all came back to the same terrible truth. My hair was not happy.
After numerous attempts to get the “perfect” hair I saw in the magazines, that long silky straight or wavy curl, I decided that I needed a big change. My hair was badly damaged and I needed to accept that. I needed to start over and a new haircut seemed like the best way to do exactly that. I went shorter. Shorter than I’d ever gone before. Everyone hated it, but I loved it. I finally wasted less time and money on my hair and I was looking forward to new, healthier looking hair. BUT that’s not the happy ending I was hoping for. My hair grew, ah yes, it grew. It grew very very slowly. I was still flat ironing. In fact, I’d stopped using my blow dryer all together and my hair had gotten much worse. Once I had enough regrowth, I could tell that my nightmare had returned. Thick, curly roots had begun to pop-up from my skull like weeds in an overgrown garden. Washing my hair became a dreaded chore. Avoiding all extreme weather conditions- rain, wind, sunshine- remained a fearful routine, as I couldn’t risk moisture ruining all my hard work. Again, I was obsessed and it was tiring. This constant fear of what people thought of my hair was crippling me and it greatly affected my social-life. I wouldn’t go to the beach, I wouldn’t dance too long at parties, I didn’t want to go hiking. I was too scared that my hair would frizz and that everyone would see the shocking truth.
Kroes or curly?
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I met someone truly wonderful and she helped me to see the error of my ways. I finally decided to consider for a moment, why I changed all the aspects of my hair care routine, but one. Heat styling. My hair had fallen victim to this method of torture since it was long enough to braid and wear in ponytails. It broke combs, it was unmanageable and I was lead to believe that it NEEDED heat to survive. Almost like a naughty kid you try to silence with sweets. The kid may be calm for now, but his teeth will always rot and he’ll be left with something pretty ugly and unhealthy looking. I believed that my hair was imperfect in its natural state. So what did that say about me? Like my hair, was I not good enough? Was I not perfect enough without straight hair? Was I not pretty enough? Enough, I thought, enough of this. India Arie was right. I am NOT my hair. BUT my hair is a part of me and I need to love it as it is. In exactly the same way I love my body and my inner-self. I decided to take that leap and let my hair be…well…what it is! In the wise words of The Beetles, “Let it be, let it be.”
I’ve only just become acquainted with my absolutely glorious natural curls. I didn’t even know I had them! I’m loving every curl, every strand, every moment. I live without fear of the impending doom that is moisture threatening to ‘ruin’ my hair. In fact, my hair LOVES moisture now. Of course, this wasn’t an over-night thing. It took months of doubt, will-powering, self motivating pep talks and research, to get me to where I am today. I am still transitioning and someday my hair will be completely healed from the trauma it had been subjected to for so many years. For now, I swim, I walk in the rain, I run, I don’t care for shower caps and I am proud of what I have. I’ve heard the criticism and the negative comments from the haters, but I’ve also gotten many compliments and words of encouragement. Regardless, it’s MY hair, it’s MY choice and at the risk of quoting the McDonalds slogan- “I’m lovin’ it!”