I never would have thought in my 28 years of life that my relationship with my hair would be teaching me an important life lesson of learning how to let go of control.
I was seven when I got my first relaxer. I didn’t know what that really meant for my hair or my identity at that age. But I do remember my hair cascading down my back, thick, full of volume, and glossy. People would always compliment me and say how perfect my hair was and how pretty I was, so naturally, I automatically associated my beauty with my hair.
See, when my hair was relaxed I was on a relentless mission to have my hair bone straight at all times — not a wave or frizz in sight! Because my mother is an incredibly talented hairstylist, I never worried about the health of my hair, but my anxiety around wanting to control the way my hair looked was a different story.. I think most of this anxiety stemmed from always trying to keep up with what the media was depicting as the “It girl look”.
When it comes to beauty, it is of no surprise that hair has a huge emotional significance on Black culture and identity. Even in the West Indian culture, your hair is automatically associated with your beauty. I’m Haitian and growing up, I dreaded hearing, “Is that how you’re going to leave your hair?” it didn’t matter how good I thought I looked, after hearing that all of my confidence would vanish and suddenly, I was going back to fix my hair to simply make others feel comfortable. As I got older, the need to always look “perfect” suddenly trickled down to other aspects of my life.
When I was in high school and as an undergraduate, I vividly remember waking up on Monday mornings, getting ready for the day and the first and only thing that I was concerned with at that very moment was making sure that my hair was not frizzy and had no dents in it (ladies, you KNOW what I’m talking about!).
This obsession with needing to be in control all of the time actually hindered my growth and didn’t help me progress in life, love or my profession. Of course, with more education, various life experiences, and taking the time to heal different childhood traumas, I realized that I had to release the need to control everything out of fear, including my hair. During the time that I was bald from my big chop, as liberating as it felt to just wake up and go about my day, I never really felt beautiful. Ever. People said it, but I never felt it. In the beginning of my natural hair growth journey, especially right after my big chop, I did not realize the emotional impact such a drastic change would have on me. I wish I took the time to really enjoy those moments with no hair.
Now, with my curls/coils, there is no taming them. I’ve had to learn to allow my hair the freedom to do its own thing, and to be okay and feel confident in my hair. It’s interesting now, because I get stares all the time and in the past I would automatically think that people are staring because they feel uncomfortable until I get approached and someone says, “Wow, I love your hair!” For those of you with curls and coils, have you ever tried to get your hair to curl up in a certain way and it just did what it wanted to do, what it’s meant to do? Have you ever noticed how limp and distressed your curls look after trying to manipulate them too much?! In a way, I think our natural hair is trying to teach us how to relinquish a bit of control and just let things be.
About the Author:
Winnie Denoi is based in NY and works in PR/Marketing during the week and blogs about beauty and wellness on the weekends.