life self-care Wellness

What My Curly Hair has Taught Me About Self-Love

March 12, 2018

I’ll be honest, I’ve been putting this post off for months now. I think because it forces me to dig down deep and release all the feels. Something that we all know we need to do, but don’t necessarily make the time for.

In yoga teacher training we’ve been chatting in length about the Yamas and Niyamas, the ethical code or principles to follow as part of the yogic lifestyle. One of the Yamas is “Aparigraha” or non-coveting. I interpret it as not grasping or holding onto things that do not serve you. In a literal sense, it means cleaning out your closet or home frequently to get rid of possessions that are cluttering your life. But from an emotional perspective, it means letting go of ideas or stories you tell yourself that don’t have a basis in truth or don’t serve your greater purpose.

This yama really resonated with me because for the last several months I’ve had to let go of a story I’ve been telling myself for years: that I’m “more beautiful” with straight hair.

Up until a few months ago I would have thought you were crazy if you told me I’d be caught dead sharing those words on the internet. I’ve obviously dealt with my fair share of insecurities (many of which have been documented here) but I really didn’t think my curly hair was one of them. In hindsight, my behavior indicated quite the opposite but I truly believe this insecurity was so deeply ingrained in me that I stopped noticing it. I just embedded this idea in my brain that beautiful = straight hair and ugly/lazy = curly hair.

It actually makes me cringe when I say this out loud because this statement could not be less true, I just simply was so unaware of this toxic thought pattern that I just kept on believing it.

That is until a few months ago when I was doing a self-love exercise that asked me to journal on the question “what do you hate about yourself?”. I know…deep. I really didn’t think much would come up for this one other than some obsessive thinking habits I have and how quickly I snap when I’m hangry. It’s not that I don’t have flaws, I’ve just learned to embrace them as being part of a larger fabric of who I am. But as I put pen to paper, the words, and subsequently the tears started pouring out.

What my curly hair has taught me about self-love and how I found deep compassion for my insecurities and in the process learned not only to accept them, but to love them.

For context, I has just gotten out of the shower and was waiting for my hair to airdry slightly before doing my weekly hair straighten. This was a habit I had gotten into: Once a week I would wash and straighten my hair with a blowdryer and straightening iron. Judge as you will but over the course of 3 years I was able to train my hair to last a week before it got greasy enough that it needed to be washed. And despite the fact that I absolutely dreaded the process, I consistently have been doing it for 10 years.

Every time I’d go to the hairdressers they would comment on how dead the ends of my hair felt. I was perplexed because in my mind I was *only* using hot tools once a week, but in reality I’ve been forcing my hair into a shape it shouldn’t be in for years. Truthfully, I think my hair was just so over it and no amount of trims or hair masks was going to change that. The change needed to come from much deeper within.

The curly hair storm had been brewing for a few months leading up to that journaling breakthrough. I had reached out to curly haired girls I knew whose straightened hair looked silky and healthy and asked them for advice. Almost every single one literally shouted at me to get a Keratin treatment. This was not a new idea to me and truthfully, I’d gone back and forth on getting it done for years but something kept stopping me. Mainly the idea that it would no longer give me the option to wear my hair curly if I wanted to (which was rare) but also the fact that I was soaking my head in chemicals to achieve my silky straight locks. My issue is not with Keratin itself, since it’s naturally produced by our bodies but from the formaldehyde that is often mixed with or methylene glycol in the formaldehyde-free versions…not to mention the other mix-ins.

The idea that I’d have to keep this up every couple of months and not know any of the long-term effects of these treatments totally freaked me out. But all my friends urged me to try it so I booked myself an appointment at what seemed like a legit and relatively safe hair studio. I booked off the 3 hours required for the appointment and sat down in the chair with a book and magazines in tow. I was ready. Within a few minutes my plans changed. The very sweet and kind hair stylist informed me that the ends of my hair were so dead from the hot tools that the treatment would kill it even more and likely mean me cutting off a lot of hair. Naturally, this idea didn’t thrill me. She sent me home with a hair mask recommendation and told me to try to lay off the hot tools for the next couple of months.

I’ll be honest, I left the studio feeling pretty let down. I had mentally prepared myself for this change and was so at my wits end with straightening my hair that I would have done ANYTHING to get rid of this weekly activity. But like I said, it did start a storm within that ended up being one of the most enlightening and thought-provoking experiences of late.

Fast forward a few months and I’m sitting there crying over my journal as my wet hair drips onto my robe. I finally finally came to terms with the fact that I was harboring negative thoughts about my own curly hair and that it called for a drastic change.

I walked out of our bedroom and announced to C that I was done straightening my hair and was taking a break from my hot tools for a little while. That was 6 months ago.

What my curly hair has taught me about self-love and how I found deep compassion for my insecurities and in the process learned not only to accept them, but to love them.

The last 6 months have been a journey of self-love and compassion. I’ve had to rewrite my own story of what makes me beautiful and dig deep to figure out where things got off track.

Truth-be-told I’m not sure when I learned to hate my curls. I remember twirling them when I was really young and loving how fun they were to play with. In elementary school I would ask my Mom to blow dry it but it wasn’t everyday and by high school I was straightening my hair for any dance or special occasion. I simply didn’t have the time to do it everyday so my curly hair was reserved for when I had to “impress”. By college it was an almost everyday occasion and when I met C in my early 20s he didn’t even know I had curly hair cause it was always straight!

Even now people are surprised to learn I have curly hair because I so consistently straightened it that they’d never seen my ringlets. It was like walking around with this deep secret that I didn’t want anyone to figure out.

What I realize now is that in many ways I let the media influence my views on my hair. It’s similar to how I fell into the trap of disordered eating. I believed that if I was skinny I would be more loved, or more accurately, once I was skinny I could finally love myself. Eventually I learned that loving myself has nothing to do with the weight on the scale or the size of my jeans but the same couldn’t be said for my hair.

What I lacked in my life was hair diversity, and I promise if you look around at the people you follow on social media or the shows you watch on TV you won’t see much hair diversity either. Women are expected to have sleek, shiny hair without a single strand out of place. Frizz is unacceptable and embracing your natural texture is lazy. Having straight hair is like being born into thin-privilege. You’re accepted by society without even trying. And anything outside that norm is not acceptable.

I realized that I unknowingly was being influenced by the problem and simultaneously contributing to the problem by forcing my hair into that same narrow box. Though I certainly know I’m not alone in perpetuating this issue, I never want my actions to influence another generation of girls to feel anything less than whole-heartedly beautiful.

My curly hair has taught me that self-love encompasses so many aspects of our being. Our bodies, our values, or religious beliefs, or sexuality and yes, even our hair. Sometimes we’ve spent so long telling ourselves the same story that we don’t even realize we’re actually reinforcing self-hatred. It’s made me think a lot about Aparigraha and how I’ve spent most of my life coveting and idealizing a certain hair type while rejecting my own.

What’s funny is that as soon as I decided to embrace my curls, my own fears (not being beautiful, not being loveable, not being respected) pretty much vanished. At first I had to fake it. On an everyday basis I felt fine about my curls, but it took a lot more courage for those “big events”. And I’m not gonna lie, I deeply internalized the compliments I was getting, because I wasn’t yet in a place to accept my own. Slowly but surely I have built up confidence.

I haven’t touched a hot tool in 6 months and I really do feel beautiful wearing them loud and proud. I also have been embraced by a curly girl community I never knew existed. The number of women who have reached out to say thank you for not conforming to societal pressure or the deeply personal messages I received when I told you I was writing this post have made this journey infinitely worth it.

I’ve also learned HOW to style my curly hair, which truthfully isn’t always the easiest but I feel so much less resistance to it than I did with straightening it. Playing around with new products and techniques has actually been kind of fun! Does this mean I’ll never straighten it again? My answer: never say never. I probably will because variety is also fun but what I’ve learned is that I’m no less beautiful if my hair is curly than when it is straight.

Self-acceptance had to come before self-love could ever exist.

We all have those demons hidden in our emotional junk drawer. I get that having curly hair certainly isn’t the worst of them, but it’s important to know we all have them. Likewise, we have the capacity to work through these insecurities and in many ways discover that it’s the exact things that make us question our self-worth that make us beautifully unique.

It’s funny how quickly my curly hair has become a part of my personal tapestry. Having it makes me different and also imparts on me the ability to use my voice to praise that which is different…something I would have rolled my eyes at a year ago.

My request from you is to dig through your own emotional junk drawer and bring those same stories you’ve been unconsciously telling yourself to the surface. Maybe you hate your ears, or your voice or your belief that dogs are infinitely wiser than humans (if so…talk to me! I’m with you). Whatever it is, know that just because it’s different doesn’t make it bad, or ugly, or stupid. It makes you, YOU.

In the great words of Oscar Wilde “Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken”.

* * * * *

Curious to learn how I style my curly hair? Check out my latest video where I show you the techniques and products I use to embrace my curly mane!

Tell me one of your insecurities…sometimes the first step is just admitting it. Curly girls, where you at?!

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  • Reply
    lindsay
    March 12, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Yes! Love this so much. I felt the same way about my hair. I was always so self concious of it and would lust after my friends’ hair…long and flowy. Also, the media is a big influence on how I felt about my hair….maybe it was because when the Millionaire Matchmaker told girls to straighten their hair because men want ro run their fingers through their hair. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:13 pm

      GIRL!!! I saw that exact episode! I remember feeling so badly about myself. It’s crazy how the media spews out this messaging that has no basis for truth and yet we all blindly believe it. I’ve never forgotten that one scene and it’s sad how much I put myself through because of it. Hopefully we can change the dialogue!!

  • Reply
    Julie
    March 12, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Oh my gosh this is incredible! Thank you for sharing! I’ve always had curly hair and have spent so much of my life straightening it! I fell into the same trap as you! As I’ve gotten older and not wanted to spend all my time doing my hair, my hair has stopped being so curly. No one can explain it, I’m just a slightly wavy but pretty much straight hair girl now and I miss my curls! I never thought I would say that. So you do you and enjoy what you’ve got. You never know if it might disappear.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:14 pm

      Yesssss I’m learning that the grass is always greener. It’s important to embrace whatever it is that you have right now and not grasp onto something different or something you used to have. I’ve been there (especially with my body) and it served me no purpose. Hope you’re learning to love and embrace exactly what you’ve got!

  • Reply
    Stefanie
    March 12, 2018 at 10:24 am

    Thank you so much for this post!

    When I was younger, my mother blew out my hair daily, so when I was a teen, I was convinced my hair was straight and frizzy, but I just didn’t know how to manage it. I figured out it was really curly in High School and started wearing it as such, but fell into the trap of media stereotypes that beauty meant straight hair. For years I’ve assaulted my hair with straightening treatments, hot tools and long, 40 minute blow outs, only to be upset hours later thinking it still didn’t look “just so”.

    After a long, frustrating blow out session this weekend before a party, I looked in the mirror and realized something– I was fighting with myself. My hair wants to be curly and I’m doing everything in my power to go against it. Why not love it and embrace the curls? So many straight-haired girls compliment my hair and tell me how they wish their hair did the same…. It’s time to dive into the world of embracing and loving my beautiful, red curls and your post furthered that message! Thank you so much!!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      Of course, lovely! I have been in that exact same scenario. It’s funny because when I used to get compliments on my curls I used to think they were just being nice but now that I’ve been learning to love my curls I no longer doubt their intentions. Love and acceptance truly has to come from within first! xoxo

  • Reply
    Taylor Filaroski
    March 12, 2018 at 11:09 am

    I really love this and find it interesting how you related it to falling into the trap of disordered eating. Once I gave up disordered eating thoughts, I found my inner critic turning to other areas of my life! It’s so hard to let go of every internalized belief we have about what it means to be beautiful and successful, I get you! I have naturally straight hair but I have always been self-conscious about my voice–it’s naturally very loud and “unladylike.” *eye roll* since I love doing community theater I try to reframe my loud voice as well, at least I don’t have any problems with projecting! Haha. Thanks for the post!!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:12 pm

      I’m so happy it resonated and glad you’re learning to embrace your own insecurities as well! Most of the root of disordered eating comes from a place of insecurity so it’s not surprising it turns to other areas of our lives even after we’ve recovered. I think it’s an ongoing journey of self-acceptance but I’m so proud of the strides I’ve made!

  • Reply
    Erin @ Erin's Inside Job
    March 12, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Omg stop I think your curly hair is magical! I totally get it though. I’ve had my own fair share of trying to force myself into boxes I just wasn’t meant to be in. Love you and your hair and thanks as always for the words 🙂
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…Five Things Friday #178

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:10 pm

      LOVE YOU BABES! You story today made me so so happy. I love seeing women be their badass true selves!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    March 12, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    Davida your hair looks amazing – and you look so at ease in your photos! My hair is naturally curly (and gets curlier as I get older!) and I love it. I always have – because it’s not horrible to straighten when I want to (way easier than it is for a straight haired girl to get curly hair than it is for us to get straight hair!). But mostly I love it because it feels like ME! When I straighten it it never really feels like me. The most interesting people in life are the ones who don’t try to go with the grain or the trends or the fashions – they’re the ones who just are. They just do their thing and they look all the more beautiful for it because the real them shines through – there’s no mask. Who wants to be a clone? Not this curly haired girl (who can be straight haired or wavy haired or curly all the way whenever she feels like it). My nose though… that’s a whole other subject (see? we all have our things :D)
    I look forward to you doing a post on what product you’re using to style your curly locks now!
    Melissa recently posted…A Quick and Easy Peach Salsa

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      I’m starting to feel the exact same way! I recently saw a video of me from a year ago with stick straight hair and it actually made me uncomfortable. I just didn’t feel like myself! It’s funny how much things can shift when we stop fighting who we are and instead accept ourselves exactly where we’re at. We all will have our insecurities but it’s important to use them as tools for growth and not obstacles that impede it. xoxo

  • Reply
    Katie
    March 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Girl, I relate to this SO much! I have my own curly hair and while I have come to love and embrace my curls, I used to HATE them. Finding the right product and process for my curls was definitely KEY to me starting to accept them for the way they are. I will still straighten my hair from time to time, but I’ve come to love the flexibility with being able to wear my hair curly OR straight and knowing that regardless of what I do, it’s beautiful and ME.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:10 pm

      love love love this perspective! It’s so true. Having fun, playing around and experimenting is amazing so long as you know that without it all you are equally as beautiful. It’s been a long journey to get here but I’m so happy I’ve gone on the ride!

  • Reply
    Liz
    March 12, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    I ADORE your curly hair. I think it is SO beautiful in every photo of you. I have had to stop myself more times than I can count for commenting saying how beautiful I think it is because I’m never sure how to give that compliment and have it mean what I want without it sounding creepy lol! But srsly, it’s freaking GORGEOUS, Davida!

    I read a quote somewhere on Instagram the other day about flaws being superpowers in disguise and it really resounded with me. For me, I view my thighs as my biggest flaw. Granted, I’ve kinda let them go the past year and that’s 110% on me, but I’m doing something about it now. And you know what, that quote fueled my fire to get that part of me back in shape – so much POWER comes from the muscles in that part of my legs. They move me through my most loved passions. They ARE my superpower, I just need to harness them and exhibit them to their full potential.
    Liz recently posted…Wholly and Completely

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      Such a good quote, love! It’s so true. My curly hair has been such an insecurity in my life and yet hear I am having learned this huge and powerful lesson from it. A true superpower if I may say so myself! Thank you for the very kind compliment. Learning to love and embrace my curls as I’m sure you’re doing the same with your thighs. Gotta love those superpowers 😉

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
    March 12, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    I totally feel you on this post. I remember my hairdresser and I talking about how hair is such a huge part of our body image – and it’s SO TRUE. I’ve always hated how my hair is in this weird in between stage between straight and wavy. And as I’ve gotten older, it’s thinned out a bit too. So I can totally relate to feeling insecure about your hair. But for what it’s worth, I LOVE your curls. And thanks for the dose of perspective today. 🙂
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted…Date Sweetened Hot Chocolate

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you so much babes! It’s funny how the grass is always greener. I have days where I’d love to give you some of my hair cause it can be so heavy but I am learning to truly embrace and value what I have because as soon as it’s gone you’ll want it back!

  • Reply
    Kim Alcock
    March 13, 2018 at 3:39 am

    OMG I can totally relate to this post. Thank you so much for sharing and the video on your curly hair routine, I would love to see more. I had long curly hair and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it and it was extremely heavy and I got a lot of headaches from the weight if it so a couple of years ago I chopped it all off to a short bob and I love it as it’s so much lighter and easier to look after. However lately I’ve been wanting to wear it curly again as yes, the drying and straightening is a chore and dries your hair out a lot. I think the biggest thing for curly hair girls is to find the right products for your hair. I would love to try the Wonderbalm but not sure if I can get it in Australia, will need to google. Thanks again, love your curls

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 13, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Hopefully the wonderbalm will come to Australia soon! I totally hear you on the weight and pain. I have those days too but I’ve found it to be much less now that I’ve stopped straightening it. I think a lot of the pain came from all the tugging and pulling. Hope you find some good Aussie products you love!!

  • Reply
    Heather
    March 14, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    I love this!!! Thank you! I have thick, wavy/curly hair that I have also straightened frequently, only feeling put together when it was straight. On and off I have tried embracing my hair in its natural state and I have been doing it much more lately. My two main inspirations are my daughter and time. I want my daughter to see a mom that accepts all parts of herself. And time is so precious that I don’t want to waste it with a hair dryer and round brush in my hand. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 20, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      So much love for you and your response <3 I hope I can be half the Mom that you are. Seriously. Thank you for this insight!

  • Reply
    Kristine
    March 14, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Curly girl here! FINALLY!! Another girl on the CG train! Beautiful hair! Give your hair some time and you will be amazed at the results!

  • Reply
    Candice
    March 18, 2018 at 8:32 am

    I think your hair is beautiful! I too have embraced my curly hair after years of hairdrying it straight. It feels so much healthier now!

    I also LOVE your tshirt! Can you tell us where you got it pretty please?!!

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off
    March 19, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    I love this post so much. I think it perfectly displays your bravery, vulnerability, and growth. It actually reminded me a lot of what I learned in my Race Sociology class this semester, about how black women often feel that they cannot wear their hair natural because it is seen as unkempt and lazy, so they’re forced to either get incredibly expensive weaves or put dangerous chemicals in their hair to use as a relaxer. Which is RIDICULOUS! You’re exactly right; it IS like thin privilege and the thin ideal, though I will say I love that our culture is moving away from the straight-hair-is-the-only-right-hair trend. I remember being younger and being SO insecure about my hair. I fried it to a horrible state back in middle school by blow drying it all the time and then straightening. These days, I have found a hair care regimen that works for me and I love my hair, even if it’s not always having a superb day. I straighten maybe once a month, if that, and I truly take joy in taking care of it so that I can enjoy it naturally. Thank you for writing this.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      March 20, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      Thank you for your support babes! I just finished reading Americanah and they talk a lot about African hair and the pressure to straighten or get a weave. The other decides to embrace her natural afro and I’m not going to pretend this didn’t help encourage me to embrace my own!

  • Reply
    Ritika Shenoy
    March 23, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Curly Hair my dream but this is not possible at right now. Thanks for posting, in today’s world dreams of having a curly hair but achieving such hair and maintaining that glow demands lot of care.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    May 25, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    This really resonates with me! For almost my whole life, I basically ignored my hair. It was a curly mess, I couldn’t make it do what I wanted it to do, and it was just sitting there. I never went to a hair stylist, and it basically looked like a big, long wig on my head. Then I realized that if I only loved my hair as much as strangers do it could make a difference.

    Fast forward and I have fully embraced my big fat curls. I love my hair now and I’m even starting to experiment with them.

    I love posts from other curly hair beauties. Thank you!

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