Unconquered Dilemmas: Learning to Embrace My Natural Hair

 natural-hair-madness

“Being alive and being a woman is all I got, but being colored is a metaphysical dilemma I haven’t conquered yet.” –Ntzoke Shange

Although I’m only three months into my natural hair journey, I’ve realized just how uncomfortable I am and have been with being my authentic myself. It’s an awkward thing to admit, but it’s the truth. Embarking on this journey has made me increasingly aware of the fact that I, too, have yet to conquer the metaphysical dilemmas of being a colored woman. My initial decision to go natural wasn’t based on any profound reasoning; I simply wanted my hair to regain its health and grow back to its original length. Surprisingly enough, this process has led to some unsettling realizations, deep introspection and, unfortunately, some internal conflicts that I’m learning to deal with as each day passes.

To put it frankly, this transitioning process has exposed just how afraid I am of embracing myself. The very first day I decided to wear a flexi rod set to work, I stood in front of the mirror for a good 20 minutes trying to reassure myself that I looked fine and office-presentable with my curly fro. After a few, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”  pep talks to myself, I eventually managed to drag myself out of the house and to work. I wish I could honestly say that I walked into that office bold, confident and unabashedly black, but it was more of a defeatist “Oh God, please don’t let these white folk gawk at my hair” type of entrance. After receiving a bunch of compliments, I was so frustrated with myself for all the angst I experienced in my bathroom that morning, and annoyed for feeling so insecure about my hair not being bone straight. I was even more disappointed with the fact that it took getting compliments from my (white) co-workers for me to feel comfortable with my own hair.

I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I have a high level of self-esteem, but  that one flexi rod set gave me a quick reality check, and helped me realize there are some things I have to work on internally in order to truly say I love myself, and to get through this natural hair journey. This process has become more than just me trying to grow long, healthy hair; it’s become a journey to learning how to love and accept myself despite other people’s expectations of how I’m supposed to look.

As a teenage girl, getting a relaxer was more about me wanting to feel and look “mature” than it was about me hating my natural hair. As an adult, I’ve observed how that innocent desire for a mature look turned into me becoming dependent on relaxers and straight hair to feel beautiful. I have absolutely nothing against straight hair (I love me a good Dominican blow out), but I do take issue with being fearful of embracing my natural, God-given appearance. I will never be at peace not knowing how to be comfortable with who I am and how I naturally look, which is why this journey is necessary for me.

These first three months have been exciting, frightening, frustrating, and beautiful. There are days when I wake up and feel “flawless,” and there are days when I have absolutely no idea what to do with my hair and the tears start rolling. But on the good hair days and on the days when my twist out attempts are just that- an attempt, I look at myself in the mirror and see someone I love, despite how her hair looks. I can’t lie, this hair journey has me feeling naked and uncomfortable, but growth is rarely ever comfortable, and I’ve made peace with that. Long-term transitioning isn’t for the faint of heart (this is my third attempt), but I intend to embrace everything it entails, and I am determined to follow through with this commitment to loving myself and loving my natural, curly, black girl hair.

 

What are some things you used or said to motivate and encourage yourself during your transitioning process or after your big chop?

Ashlee Wisdom is a graduate of Howard University, where she received a B.S. in Psychology and minor in Biology. While studying in Washington, DC, Ashlee joined the Urban Cusp team as an intern, and has since been appointed to the position of managing editor. Merging her passions for healthcare and writing, she also works as a grant writer for a non-profit health center in New York. Ashlee is most passionate about her faith in Jesus Christ, black feminism, and combating racial, ethnic, and socio-economic disparities in healthcare. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health in Health Policy & Management at New York Medical College. You can follow her on Twitter @AshleeWisdom.