How my natural hair journey also taught me self-love

There are few things as personal and political to a woman than her hair. And as a Black woman, that pressure expands.


I’ve always had a tumultuous relationship with my hair.

I felt detached from my own potential for beauty. I didn’t really have a connection with my hair or any of my features that were typically expected to meet impossible beauty standards — like having a simultaneously skinny and voluptuous body, or being light skinned, with light hair and light eyes. Those were just parts of my body that I didn’t have an attachment to. Perhaps it was an act of self-protection — I knew I’d never be “good enough” to reach those standards. But maybe, it was because I knew that, deep down, they weren’t really me.

As Black women, we’re taught that our hair is an extension of our conformity. Growing up, long, pin-straight hair was highly coveted. To my peers, it conveyed success and belonging.

I’ve always had vivid memories of going to the beauty salon with a thick book in tow — I knew that I’d be dedicating most of my Saturday to looking beautiful in a way that never connected with me.


By the time I was in high school, the pressure to conform began to take its toll. When others complimented my mid-back length chemically-straightened hair, I felt nothing — like I hadn’t really earned anything.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was beginning to realize how much I needed to reclaim my own version of beauty. Not just for the sake of vanity, but for my own self-care and inner strength. So, I made a decision.

At age 17, right after senior portraits, I decided to “Big Chop” — or undergo the journey to reclaim my natural hair by cutting off all of my long, chemically-straightened hair.


My decision to Big Chop came right at the beginning of the natural hair movement. I followed Black girls on Tumblr who documented their own natural hair journeys.

There was so much variety in their hair — close-cropped, waist-length, kinky, curly, coily, and in a rainbow of colors. I was inspired by how they seemed to be so happy and in love with themselves.

I wanted that, more than I knew how to express. I knew that by letting go of my current hair, I was embracing the possibility that I, too, could have that happiness for myself.

When I sat in the stylist’s chair for that first time, hearing the snips of the scissors as chunks of my hair fell to the ground, I felt a sense of newfound freedom and release. I felt like myself for the first time, in a long time.


Today, I’m proud to say that I’m going on six years natural. My hair has grown out to about armpit-length (when it’s not battling that dreaded shrinkage, of course). It has been dark brown, auburn, fuschia, and hot pink. Most importantly, I feel that that freedom I’ve gained through my natural hair journey has given me courage to be my true self in other ways, too.

What are some ways that your own natural hair journey has taught you to love and accept yourself?

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