Re-defining my beauty.
For the last decade, my hair has been my crown. I have nurtured it, protected it and guarded it with my life – until six months ago.
For as long as I can remember, such large emphasis has been placed on hair, whether real or synthetic. In my younger days, I remember routine visits to the hairdressers where I would select my preference amongst an assortment of braided styles and sit for hours in anticipation for the result. The next few weeks would be spent in an attempt to maintain the hairstyle and around the fourth week, repeat.
My early teenage years saw the rise of the natural hair movement, originating in the states during the 2000s. I very quickly jumped on the bandwagon and educated myself on the different hair curl categories (type 2a-4c), how to prevent breakage and constantly updated myself on the best products for natural hair. The movement was a refreshing break-away from the lack of representation of natural and afro-textured hair in the media. I’d make regular visits to local beauty supply stores, eager to finally discover if many of the hyped hair products I had seen in videos from American YouTubers were finally available in the UK. With social media creating an increased demand, many natural hair brands finally took heed and I quickly stacked my beauty drawer on par with my favourite vloggers' recommendations.
A couple of years later and wigs were making a stamp in the black hair market. Wigs made of weaves that you could sew, glue or clip in became a hot commodity and I found my adolescent self-oscillating between my natural hair and hair extensions. Prices rapidly increased, skilled hairdressers became harder to find and the pressure to look beautiful was on. A hairstyle would need to be planned in advance, thoroughly thought out and adhere to whatever current trend was sweeping social media at the time.
I gradually found myself placing grave significance on my hair and internalising any comments I would receive in regards to it. My hair became less of an expression and my hairstyles became less of a choice. ‘The longer, the better’ had been ingrained into my conscience so I always attributed my satisfaction of my natural hair to this, often prioritising length over health. I also could no longer ignore the fact that was deemed desirable always coincidentally aligned with euro-centric beauty standards.
Days spent frustratingly obsessing over my hair and my inability to keep up with everybody else’s notion of beauty was taking its toll on my self-esteem. I found myself dependant on my hair as the finishing touch to any look, while subconsciously having already decided it wasn’t enough. Hair almost seemed like the prerequisite to any level of femininity and I knew that there was no level of self-worth I could find in the strands that grew out of my head, or that I attached to my head... so I let it go.
It was almost like a scene in a movie. I sat in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom with clippers in one hand and a hand-held mirror in the other. One YouTube tutorial later and an amateur job that I subsequently rectified at a barber-shop, I was forced to accept that the tool I had held on to for what seemed like forever, to affirm my place in society as a woman and meet the standard and ideologies of attraction, was gone.
Although my decision initially plagued me with undercurrents of fear and anxiety, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally be unapologetically me. I was optimistic about the future, eager to explore my femininity through aspects beyond my appearance and re-define my own personal perception of beauty.
Fast forward six months, I have discovered new realms of self-love and now understand that the need to establish ourselves beyond societal expectations is crucial. Beauty is honestly skin-deep and sometimes it takes being vulnerable to obtain the truest version of ourselves. I loved my hair but I knew that I couldn’t depend on it. I now know that when it comes to my appearance, the only opinion that matters is my own.
This article originally appeared on Glamour UK.