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.
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.
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 my curls 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. In fact, I truly to believe that curly hair is beautiful.
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”.
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Curious to learn how I style my curly hair? Check out my latest video where I show you how to get curly hair!
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