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What My Curly Hair Taught Me About Loving Myself

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

My hair has pretty much always been curly. In fact, even though I’ve seen photos of myself at around ten or eleven with straight glossy hair I don’t remember ever looking that way. I remember wanting to grow up to look like Jacklyn Smith in Charlie’s Angels. In junior high school I tried to blow out my hair to look like Francine Marks, a classmate who had the most perfect layers. No such luck. Even when I stuck bobby pins in my hair to clamp it down it eventually swelled into a frizzy mess. 

High School was even worse. I cut my hair really short and it looked absolutely awful when it was growing out. “Out” being the perfect description. My hair somehow never grew vertically, only horizontally. I essentially looked like Little Orphan Annie but not as cute. In fact I remember a teacher of mine saying my hair looked like the head of a mop. That comment really stung. I hated everything about my hair. It was like a tattoo I could never erase. 

And I fought against it with all my might. I had no choice but to up my arsenal with a straight iron. I had never used one and was so excited I couldn’t get home fast enough to give it a try. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like I wanted it to. Yes, my hair was somewhat straighter but it also felt as dry as hay. After a while I had to throw in the towel, not because I wanted to but because I didn’t think I had a choice. I had to accept that my hair would never be straight. 

So I went with it. I grew my hair long and stopped fighting with my curls. I started modeling myself after the women of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement with their luscious and abundant manes of hair. I grew inspiration and confidence from other curly haired girls like Lisa Bonet, Stevie Nicks, Rosie Vela and Julia Roberts.  I will never forget when I got my first summer job as a waitress and one of the staff trainers said I had the most beautiful hair. Me? I was absolutely stunned. No one had ever said anything remotely like that to me ever. This very cute guy thought my hair was beautiful. It was incredible.

Embracing my curls actually made me stand out in a positive way.

It is amazing what can happen if you open yourself up to what you think are your imperfections. Nothing about my hair changed, except my attitude toward it. When I let go of the shame and negativity about my curls and started to support them, they responded in a positive way. 

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