Identity Project: Part 3 : Self Appreciation

The braids have taught me a lot, but one of the things it has shown me especially in the most surprising ways. It might sound weird that a hairstyle can teach you how to appreciate your self and help your self esteem grow, but it’s definitely true. Think about it. How cool is it, that one- you have to learn to love yourself and hold on to that everyday. A part of that obviously is not only loving what’s on the outside but understanding what’s on the inside too. Now hair, seeing that it’s on the outside has always played a huge role in my own self esteem journey. Up until less than a year ago, I hated my curly hair. Couldn’t stand how unpredictable and uncontrollable it could be. Hated that not only was it not straight but it wasn’t even a cool afro, and had this strange rainbow arc shape to it most days and the curls would only listen sometimes. Then, I realized that my curls are MINE. They are a part of me. And they are the result of my parents. They are what prompt people to ask “what are you?” “what are you mixed with” or my favorite, “are you puerto rican?” and they have been there through the heat and awful hairstyles, waiting patiently for me to fall in love with them. Then there’s my hair when it’s straight. You might say, what? how could you not love straight hair since you hated curly hair? Well, the straight hair only hid my insecurities about my curly hair, but did nothing about my insecurities about my straight hair. I spent years wishing my hair was longer, flowed better, had a different color tint to it, wouldn’t frizz up after working out, would listen to me the same way it listens to the hairdresser who convinces it to be silky soft and thin thread-straight. I still found reasons to hate my hair, even when it was straight. Then these braids happened. After a semester saturated with race theory and matters of race relations more so than any other semester or point in my life, these braids happened. Once again, I wanted to change my hair. Not however, to hide anything. For the first time it wasn’t to hide my curly or straight hair. It was to discover something. Or rather someone… That someone is me. College is supposed to be this time where you find yourself. I’m still looking. Proud of it too, because as many curve balls as life has thrown and continues to throw at me i think it’d be counter-productive to be 100% set in my ways. I took on these braids as an experiment, symboling a cry to the universe to please help me learn more about how i felt about the hairstyle, and aspects of being multi-racial in the first place. Pretty heavy for a hairstyle. i know. But it worked. I’m not done exploring and learning about myself in this multi-racial context, but I’ve grown to appreciate myself and my identity a bit more. How cool is it to have such flexible hair that i can in one way represent my culture, change into another texture altogether for convenience or style, and then yet again to another to learn more about myself. That’s pretty great, but in order to really appreciate it you have to continue to fall in love with yourself. I never understood that much until now honestly. But it takes a lot of love just to keep your own mind, heart, and soul going. It’s not just about those who love you like your parents, your friends, co-workers, church family etc…Loving yourself begins with YOU. Everyone else is icing on this wonderful cake. Pardon the cheesy metaphor but I really believe it. It’s hard to think of a time where I haven’t had to talk myself into getting up in the morning to go on another long day of work, school, meetings, projects, practice, etc… And I know everyone in some way, shape, or form can relate. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate myself before the braids, because I did, and I do, and am still learning how to do so consistently. But getting this new hairstyle took me completely out of my comfort zone. Didn’t know how to take care of them, how to style them, how to wash them, how I felt in them, for at least two weeks…and then something flipped. I made the best of it. I bought larger hair bands to accommodate all that hair. I bought oils and tried to listen to the credible sounding youtube videos that I found. I tried. I took care of myself, and I grew to love the braids, but also to understand myself and how I feel about my hair and self in general. Truly these braids have been a confidence boost. An experience. And a way for me to cut my morning routine down by 15 minutes (best part of the mornings). My hair is still my hair, braids or no braids. And it’s exciting to get to continue to learn how to appreciate all the different facets of myself, but inside and out.     Hang in there for the last two parts! One on the styles I actually tried, and my final rant about what this meant for my identity as a whole. Thank you so much for reading up until this point!   Much love, Stephanie W.C

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