My Self-Esteem Skyrocketed After Lockdown Made Me Go Natural
"As I transition, I shed the shame, fear, and repulsion I felt toward my hair."
I'm somewhat of a spontaneous person. I got my first tattoo with no plan in sight whatsoever. The same goes for my nose piercing, second tattoo, and any other permanent marking on my body. I like taking risks and trying new things because life's an adventure. However, whenever I tried to embrace spontaneity when dealing with my hair, a sudden rush of anxiety overcame me. I felt stuck—I was too afraid to change anything about my thick, frizzy, 4-type curls.
At first, I thought this fear stemmed from an appreciation of my hair. Unlike some other Black women, I've always been natural. In my head, I thought I loved my hair as I had never permed it, but secretly, I was ashamed to wear it in natural public. However, I had never changed it, so I thought that counted for something.
I lied to myself for most of my life. I told myself that I, unlike newbie naturals, just didn't like wearing my curls. Surely, there wasn't anything wrong with that. As such, braids, passion twists, weaves, and other protective styles became my go-to looks. I loved them, but as soon as I took down my protective style, the feelings of disgust toward my hair would engulf me. Once the Kanekalon hair was untangled from my roots and the twists unraveled apart, feelings of shame and repulsion slowly took over. When I looked at myself in the mirror with a frizzy twist out, inches of new growth, and a dirty scalp, I'd only think of one word: ugly.
However, things started to change once a close friend decided to go natural. Suddenly, her hair journey became a focus in our conversations—how much she loved her curls, how excited she was to try different products, and how beautiful it made her feel to wear a short afro. When she turned to me for advice, I realized I couldn't keep denying how toxic my relationship with my hair was, so I decided to battle it by going natural, too.
To rebuild my confidence and appreciation for my curls, I promised to stay away from protective styles for at least a month. I stocked up on natural hair products, watched YouTube hairstyling tutorials, and experimented with twist-outs and Bantu knots. It was optimistic that a decades-long toxic relationship would magically go away in a month, but it was no surprise when within two weeks of my natural hair journey I booked an appointment with a hairstylist to install fresh box braids.
Months passed and my damaging relationship with my hair continued until the COVID-19 pandemic took over my life. Suddenly, salons closed and I couldn't see my stylist. For the first time, it dawned on me that I couldn't hide behind my protective styles—I was forced to wear my hair. At the beginning of quarantine, there wasn't a day where I didn't hate how I looked. Not only did I abhor how I looked with a curly afro, but I also became irritated and frustrated by the time it took to take care of it.
Transitioning to wearing my natural hair was one of the hardest periods of my life, a time filled with insecurities, shame, and ugliness. It was tiring, and I was exhausted from feeling that way. With the pandemic seemingly staying for a while, and these negative feelings weighing me down mentally, the only solution was to chop it off.
I chopped off 12 inches of my hair and dyed it brown. I entered the New Year as a newbie natural, one who began her natural hair journey by discovering its beauty. I may have been natural all my life, but I never loved my hair until now. As I transition, I shed the shame, fear, and repulsion I felt toward my hair and replace it with gratitude, appreciation, and love. Some days are harder than others, but the tiny voice inside my head that once screamed "ugly" is getting harder to hear. In its place is my voice, taking back ownership and reminding me that I (and my hair) are beautiful.