I began my natural hair journey in 2010. The first time I did a big chop, I was so happy to be natural I didn’t care what my hair looked like. I was glad to finally be natural. I didn’t think about how short it was or if I looked good. I enjoyed every stage. I did, however, wear a lot more makeup and jewelry, perhaps to compensate for having short hair. I don’t know. The second big chop served much more difficult. I have even spent time crying because of my short hair. I have spent time feeling insecure about it, especially after I would wear braids. The second time around, I feel like I am experiencing a lot of the insecurities and self-doubt that a lot of naturals and people on the bridge about going natural feel like. Throughout this 6 year natural hair journey, I have learned a lot about self-love and confidence. What I have seen a lot is confidence and self love on a very shallow basis. I have seen people tell new naturals to wear make up to have confidence or to add accessories and other things to their appearance. I want us to develop real confidence in ourselves as we are, not as our enhancements. So I reflected upon my own experiences and journey to self love, acceptance, and confidence, and came up with these few tips to really build that for our natural hair and selves.
- Limit time in the mirror. The more I looked in the mirror, the more I identified my beauty with an external image of myself: my reflection. But I had to learn that beauty is something that cannot be found in a mirror; it is something that truly comes from within. The more we focus on an external image, the harder it becomes to deeply know and feel beauty internally. What’s in the mirror is not real, but merely a perception, and usually when we are still facing insecurities, we identify with them. We tend to pick ourselves apart in the mirror. Try not to be vain. Beauty is within.
- Don’t wear protective styles that include any type of fake hair, whether it be braids, clip ins, crochet, weaves, or wigs. Wearing extensions while we are still building our confidence can hinder the building process. The less we feel, see, handle, and care for our hair, the less appreciation we will have about it. The more we cover and extend or alter it with extra hair, the more we begin to enjoy that over our own. Look at doing your hair as relationship building with yourself. Spend time with yourself, care for your hair and appreciate it, and confidence will grow and radiate. Commit to wearing only your own natural hair for at least six months. Be real with yourselves, and don’t use fake hair to cover insecurities. It will only hinder the confidence building. From my own personal experience, the more I covered and extended my hair with braids, the more afraid I became to wear my own hair in its TWA because I was afraid that it wasn’t pretty since it was short. I cried because I had short hair and thought that I wouldn’t look as good as I did with my fake hair. I knew at that moment it was time to take out the braids and face my insecurities.
- Try to have minimal styling. I know this one is hard because I style my hair so much. I honestly just don’t really like the short afro look. But one day I decided to just flow with it. Soon enough I began to really like my hair just as it was. This is an important step because it builds the foundation for loving and accepting yourself just as you are. It’s also important because styling a TWA often causes too much friction and breakage because of all the pulling. Embrace the fro no matter how short. Once you can just rock the fro with no hesitation or insecurity, then graduate to some more styles.
- Watch natural hair youtubers with the same type of hair as you. A lot of girls watch youtubers with hair textures and lengths completely unlike their own, and it has the dangerous potential to create a thing called hair envy. This is when you wish you had hair like someone else. It is so important to see representation of yourself when you watch natural hair videos. A lot of times only a certain type of natural hair is promoted, and that leaves a lot of us in the dark about what is acceptable or pretty natural hair. However, there are women with all hair types and lengths beautifully wearing their natural hair. Find people who look like you that can serve as inspiration and empowerment.
- Watch 70s black exploitation films. They have beautiful, strong black female characters with afros of all sizes. Some good ones to start with are Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones. These movies also serve as good black history and we can tap into the times.
- Limit make up. This process is about building true self-love and confidence. It’s about accepting ourselves as we are. When we wear make up to help build confidence,our confidence is in the make up, not our selves. I enjoy make up and do wear it from time to time. However, it should be a minimal thing, and if you are dealing with insecurities, it’s best to face them head on. So, while you may be having insecurity about your hair, try not to compensate with makeup.
I know some of these tips may seem a little extreme (NO FAKE HAIR FOR SIX MONTHS? NO MAKE UP??? NO STYLING???? HELL NAW). However, we have some self-esteem problems in the community of black women. For centuries we were told that our features and our nature is ugly and wrong. From the media portrayal of us to actual slave prices being higher for slaves who had a European look, there have been countless ways to tell black women that the more we look like ourselves the more we go down in value. Rebuilding the love for ourselves takes extreem measures because extreem measures were taken to try to keep us down and feeling low about ourselves. When we think “Oh well I just like my hair better this way” or “Oh I just have a preference for this” and it’s anything other than our own selves the way the creator made us, we have to stop and rethink about WHY and dig deep. As Malcolm X said, “Who told you to hate the texture of your hair?”