I Am Not My Hair… Or Am I?
Many a time I’ve heard the phrase, made famous by Queen India Arie, who let us know early in her career that she is in fact not her hair. As the lyrics and videography depicts she expresses that her hair does not define her. With or without hair she owns who she is. For years, I sat back singing the words to the song as if I felt the same way.
I am not my hair.
I am not this skin.
I am not your expectations.
For a while I thought that this statement applied to me, but as I reflect on it now, I could not disagree more. I am my hair. I say this is because when I went natural, there was a process that I had to go through. I feel like it applies to most women who go natural, not all women, but most. These findings are not backed by research I didn’t triangulate my data or run a qualitative study using focus groups to form these answers. Lol at me trying to apply what I learned it my research class to real life! However, there are three stages that we go through before understanding and owning our natural hair.
The first stage is called the relax stage! This is the stage where we are in transition. We are afraid of what we would look like if we were to big chopped, especially those of us with big heads like me. Others of us are trying to figure out if we are about the natural life, so we hold off on getting a relaxer longer than recommended. In this stage most women are trying to have their natural hair mimic their relaxed ends. So we apply a lot of heat to relax our curls . Or we leave the front out of a weave and over-straighten that one patch of hair.
After months or years of manipulating our hair we finally muster enough courage to big chop. Moving to the next stage in this three stage process: the ugly stage, or the “I’m not use to this look” stage. Which is accompanied by women not understanding how to care for their natural hair. In this stage we are questioning why we are doing this. We look to a few of our favorite vloggers for inspiration. We buy endless defining creams and whatever else vloggers are promoting. This is with the hopes that somehow a magical cream will alter our curls.
Eventually we realize our texture is no where similar to the youtubers (a sad reality but reality nonetheless). With the inevitable shrinkage and the manipulation to our hair in the first stage women are not feeling their hair at all. The styles that are tried make us look 12 years old and we know we grown. If we do not turn to braids, twists, weaves, or wigs we find a signature style and just rock with it. For me it was the fro puff. I had a hard time sectioning my hair so twistouts, braidouts, or china bumps were wayyyyy out of my league.
Ultimately, there’s resolve, the we accept our hair naturally. We start to notice our curl pattern and how define our hair can be. There is this self acceptance that overcomes us and they can’t tell us nothing. We gain a level of confidence from something that was far from enjoyable prior to then. And this is the final stage.
Whatever your experiences are with your natural hair one, if not more, of these steps resonates. There is this piece of you that finally gets it. You learn to accept your hair and yourself for who you are and how you are. It is that reason I believe that I am my hair.
The process of going natural taught me so much about myself that I cannot disregard it. My hair taught me so much about expectations, that were NOT mine, that I tried to live up to. It taught me about being different, understanding my worth and being unapologetic for who I am. My hair has helped me unmask my authentic self. So I Am MY Hair because it took going natural for me to understand myself clearer and for me to accept myself more. I am my hair because my hair is big, it’s tightly coiled, it is versatile, it is chemical free, it’s beautiful, it is dusty at times (lol), it shrinks, it’s far from straight, it tells a story, it’s roots begin in Africa. I am my hair because my hair is me.