Learn to stand your ground: Lessons from a tumultous natural hair journey

I have had my hair “natural” for as long as I can remember. For many black women who are embracing their natural hair today, the transition is smoother than it was ten years ago. This is mainly because societies seem more and more accepting of this look. My natural hair journey had many bumps, but it also had happy moments.

natural hair

The first stop in the natural hair journey

I started my journey off by shaving my « relaxed » hair, going almost bold in my second year of university. This was a huge change. In fact, many people did not recognise me at first glance- I think I actually liked it as it made blanking people on campus easier (lol). But the beauty of being “unorthodox” at a university like Sussex, was how accepting and supportive your fellow students were of your difference. So, despite the fact that it took some friends some time to recognise the new me, everything went smooth.

My second hair stage was the transition to locks. I started growing them while I was on a work placement in Burkina Faso. I let it grow organically (free formed), and so for the first few months, I looked like an eccentric (lol). Luckily for me, I was in a country where I did not know many people, so those who wanted to be friends with me had to accept my eccentric look. Like my big chop off, my locks was another unannounced huge hair change. But once again, most of my friends thought it was cool when I returned to the UK after several months abroad.

Though I had support from my friends throughout my unconventional hair changes, members of my family were either “concerned” by this or upright against it. My dad, for instance, worried that having locks would hinder my career prospects, and that society would have preconceived views of me because of it. To me, these concerns echoed the reality many black women already faced in our society regardless of how they wore their hair. So, I stood my ground, stayed truthful to myself and kept rocking my locks. That, however, did not last long. Few days before my graduation, I gave into pressure and removed my locks. To this date, that remains one of the few decisions I made as an adult that I still regret.

So after I cut my locks, I went back to square one. Fortunately, my natural hair grew quite fast. But, to some people in my family, my hair was still not good enough, it was too unconventional, too messy. When I travelled to Congo, many people were very surprised by my hair. Some thought I left it natural because of a religious belief (Branhamism), others just thought that I was a weirdo; if I had to choose between the two, I’d go for the latter because it implied that I was outside society norms. There were nevertheless some family members who did not see my natural hair as a problem, and I loved them for being supportive when others were very critical of my choice. In fact I had a family member in Congo tell me how I looked better with a wig than with my “weird” hair… the audacity! Out of respect, and because I knew that they would never see my side, I just brushed it away. After all, I was only there for the holiday, so it was better to keep the peace than to create a hostile environment.

natural hair

Still rocking the natural hair look, even abroad

After the different dramas I’ve had along my natural hair journey, I have never again let any sort of pressure, be it from society, family or friends, influence what I choose to do with my hair or my life. My hair is still natural, and I still love it. Today, many of these people who were so against the natural hair look seem to be accepting of it. I guess social media has helped give the natural hair look a lot of positive exposure, and so many women and girls are happy to embrace it. This brings a smile to my face; they would not have to put up with half the pressure some women dealt with in the past. I have actually had people who would have looked down on me because of my « weird » hair, now tell me that they like my natural look. What has changed? Not my hair, that’s certain. This goes to show how people are easily swayed, following whatever trend society sets for them.

My advice to everyone, especially to those facing all sorts of society pressure, is this: be different, be unique, and do you. As long as you are at peace with yourself and not harming others, you will always be a winner. Do not let society or people shape your life because you will never please everybody and it is your own life! So know your values, and when the storm of pressure comes, stand your ground like a house built on a super solid foundation.

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