I have spent too much time on Instagram this year. What else can you do while the world is collectively grounded? I haven’t mastered reels yet (I am working on it). Recently, I was about to post a picture of my flourishing 4c afro hair to my Instagram stories and I was browsing through options for the perfect song to accompany it. I Am Not My Hair by India Arie popped up, and it got me thinking. I strongly agree with the idea that you can’t ascribe personality traits to people based on their hairstyles and that women should be allowed to wear their hair how they want to.
But in many ways, I am my hair.
Firstly, choosing to wear my hair natural with all its kinks and coils makes the statement that I am confident in myself in a world that considers my natural hair something to be ashamed of. I can’t count the number of times that complete strangers have approached me to ask when I’ll be getting my hair done, as if my hair will never be good enough without being extended or “tamed” somehow. As a generation that preaches self-love, we have a responsibility to embrace all beauty, even if it may seem different or unconventional to us. My afro is self-love growing from my roots.
Also, maintaining healthy natural hair means that I take care of myself. The Instagrammable version of self-care is candles, face masks, and long bubble baths. I am a huge fan of this at home spa day self-care, and through my natural hair journey, I’ve learned that hair care is self-care. Anyone who has experienced a 4c hair wash day will tell you that it takes hours. Deep conditioning can be an overnight affair and add to that, air-drying because towels snag at your hair. Once every week, my hair forces me to be intentional about oiling each strand and perfecting each twist. I can’t do my hair without being fully present. As someone who experiences the ebbs and flows of mental health, caring for my afro saves me over and over.
Showcasing my kinks and coils says that I am a fighter. It automatically conscripts me into an army against those who professionally stereotype. I know that there are doors that immediately shut and opportunities that evaporate without a trace once people see my hair. That is a reality that I hope will change one day. For now, I am so proud that my hair is activism sprouting from my head.
My core message is that we all make choices about how we present ourselves to the world every day, and we feel more at ease when those choices are respected. I agree with the old cliché that perspective is everything, I’m sure that there are countless accounts of how much of a chore 4c natural hair is, and I get that. It is hard work to care for my hair and even more taxing to walk out into a world that is not accepting of it. I choose to see my natural hair as a gift and to love it, and if I decide to change my hair, I hope that choice will be embraced.
The next time you run into someone who is flaunting a different or unconventional look, I hope you pause and compliment them for their confidence, for caring for themselves, and for being a warrior.