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  • Writer's pictureKiah.

Letting My Hair Define Me

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

"I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am a soul that lives within." -India Arie

For me, when I was younger, my hair was just there. I knew my mother took care of it and my auntie braided it up in the summer sending me along my way as I pranced around with my beads hitting each other, creating their own little tune. My hair didn't mean much to me and as far as I was concerned nobody else paid much attention to it either. I wore my hair in plaits, cornrows, and big, fat twists. It was in a sense "hidden" until it wasn't.

In the fourth grade, my mother allowed me to straighten my hair for the first time. I have a head full of thick, kinky/curly hair so naturally, I was very much enjoying this new, silky lifestyle that I was introduced to. I wasn't Pocahontas or anything, but straightening my hair was enough to make people notice and compliment my "new do". I proudly flipped and swayed my tresses around, very much in love with the fact that my hair finally looked like my friends who had already been relaxing and perming their hair.

{Sidenote} While this is not a post about how I fell in love with my natural hair, it can be said that I was fixated on having straight hair up until I got into college. Thanks to the natural hair movement, being a broke college student who couldn't afford to get her hair done every 2-3 weeks and a multitude of others things I soon embraced and loved my natural hair- thick, kinky, curly, frizzy, nappy, twisted, braided and everything else in between. Now back to what I was saying.....

Going well into my middle and high school years-- by this time I straightened my hair religiously-- my hair became more and more important to who I was. I basked in the compliments from classmates and as time continued I wore my hair as less of a crown and more as a shield. I was fine with hiding behind my hair, letting it upstage me. I realize it may sound weird separating my hair from myself, as if it's not a part of me, but it wasn't.

My hair was no longer an extension of who I was, it became my identity. I became comfortable with people seeing my hair before they saw me. My hair became the thing that I used to hide behind the insecurities that I tried to run from. The more I noticed how much people admired and loved my hair--whether it was straight or in its natural state-- the more I clung to the idea that at least this was a part of myself that seemed worthy of loving.

My personal belief that my beauty and confidence lied within the strands of hair on my head was becoming more and more real.

Every "I'm going to cut my hair"(yes, most of the time I was bluffing) was met with a sudden cringe from the people around me. It felt to me that the sheer idea of me one day making the impulsive decision to chop my hair would make me less than in their eyes. I wouldn't be Kiah anymore.

But, alas! Here's the bright side of letting my hair define who I am for so long: giving my hair the permission to define me and being perfectly comfortable with people seeing my hair more than they saw me made me realize just how much I relied on hiding behind my hair instead of dealing with my insecurities.

Me learning to love and embrace my hair as a black woman was and has been a beautiful journey. However, cutting off the very real attachment that my worth lies in the presence of my hair was all the more freeing and also took me a very long time to accept.

My insecurities didn't lessen because I chose to hide behind my hair, they only grew more.

I'm much more than the strands of hair that grow out of my head. Facing my insecurities and learning to love myself beyond my hair helped me to see that while my hair is a part of me that I love, embrace, and am proud of it does not make me a whole being. I can look in the mirror and not doubt that people see Kiah, not just Kiah's hair.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget... Be great! xoxo

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