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November 1, 2009

Natural Hair and Self- Esteem


I'm the creator of CurlyNikki.com, a site dedicated to educating folks about healthy, natural hair. CN.com features styling tips, inspirational stories, celeb interviews, and product and ingredient reviews. If you're assuming that I'm a trained cosmetologist, it'd be a good guess, but you're wrong! The only head I do is the one sitting atop my neck -- I'm a psychotherapist.

My interest in hair began when I decided to stop straightening -- revealing my real hair to the world. The negative reaction I received from family and friends was unexpected and disheartening. I was accused of "trying to fix something that wasn't broke", and sacrificing my future career! I received rude comments from peers, and one family member consistently reminded me that I needed to 'comb my hair'. Learning to love and accept the new me was difficult, and compounded by the hang-ups of those around me. I had to draw on a new source of self-esteem... the genuine kind that doesn't come from others' perceptions of me.

Easier said than done!

This straight hair standard intrigued me, and I actually began studying it in graduate school. It quickly extended beyond hair and spilled over into self-concept, as it relates to standards of beauty in general. In 2007, I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a Masters in psychology. In my practice, I regularly counsel women through depression, low self-esteem and image development.

My mission is to provide balance between physical beauty and personal esteem in a way that defies societal norms-- whether I have a client on my couch, or I'm communicating with a CN.com reader via email.

While I'm not anti-relaxer, I don't advocate for them either. I am a proud member of Team Natural, and provide free, unbiased, information so that divas like you, can come to your own conclusions! Live and let live is my motto. While I'm definitely here to discuss how-to hair and beauty tips, I wanted to take a moment to discuss your inner beauty.

My hair hang-ups revealed that my self-esteem fluctuated with my perception (good or bad) of my outward appearance. Not good. So today, I want you to reflect, and determine whether you have genuine, intrinsic self-esteem, or if you allow your worth to be based on external and fleeting factors such as looks, love, and fortune.

5 Signs You're Not Feeling Yourself:

Poor Self Image- When you look in the mirror, what's the first thought that crosses your mind? If it's negative-- 'ugh, I hate my stomach', or 'I'd definitely be hotter with bigger boobs'--then you might have a low self-esteem.

Self-Disparaging remarks-- Have you ever heard the saying, 'you're your own worst critic'? Well, it's true. Women with low self-esteem are usually hyper self-critical and guilty of saying things to themselves that they'd never say to a friend in the same situation.

For instance, let's assume that you're dieting and you give into that gnawing chocolate ice cream craving. You tell yourself, 'You screwed it up now! You'll always be a fat loser'. You then feel horrible, and proceed to eat the entire tub of ice cream since you flubbed that day up anyway. This negative self-talk leads to feelings of guilt, anger, even depression. And the negative feelings lead to negative behaviors... which result in even more negative self-talk.

It's a vicious cycle!

Inability to take a compliment-- A hot guy approaches you and compliments your new hair cut. If your response is, 'I hate it...it accentuates my wide set eyes', you might be dealing with low self-esteem.

Assumes being disliked-- In the psych world, we call this mind reading. Think back to the last time you walked into a room full of strangers. What thoughts did you have? Did you assume that others didn't like you...even though there was little or NO evidence to support it? Women with low self-esteem often assume that strangers are thinking the worse--usually, whatever you're imagining they're thinking, is actually a reflection of your thoughts and worse fears about yourself. If you assume people are thinking that you're inferior, lame, or weird...you actually think those things about yourself!

Inability to say no-- Women with low self-esteem often have a hard time saying no to the requests and demands of others. This comes from a need to be liked, and to feel like a 'good person', because 'good people' always say yes, right? Not respecting your time and allowing others to disrespect it, is a sure sign of low self-esteem. More times than not, once you agree to the task you didn't want to do in the first place, you feel guilty and resentful, and end up turning that anger inward...resulting in even lower self-esteem.

So, do you fit the bill? The funny thing is that we all do... to a certain extent. We've all had those days where we weren't feeling ourselves... we felt fat... unattractive... inferior. That's normal. What's not normal is feeling this way all the time. Life is short, and you have to learn to accept you for you, and enjoy life!

Some Tips for Improving Stock in Yourself:

Tell yourself sweet nothings-- This sounds silly, but it's actually quite effective! Stand in the mirror, and gaze at yourself. Instead of focusing on the negative (which we all have), hone in on the positive. And for the kicker-- say it out loud! Begin every morning with this ritual, and I promise, in a few weeks you'll literally be emanating with self-love.

Glam it up-- Have you ever noticed that you feel better about yourself when you're in your Sundays best? Our lives can become a bit monotonous, and it's easy to throw on a pair of sweats, or an old ratty sweater-- this negligence can lower self-esteem quicker than quick. The next time you wake up feeling 'blah', get dolled up! That's right, do the opposite of what you feel like doing... even if you have no where to go! Put on your favorite jeans, wear those new earrings you were saving for next weekend, and throw on the shoes that make your butt look good! Even on the crummiest of days, the simple act of pampering yourself, will make you feel ten times better.

Talk back to your inner critic-- For the next week, I'd like you to become aware of that little voice in your head. You'll be surprised at what a "Debbie Downer" she is! The main tenant of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is that your thoughts, not external factors, create your feelings. So, when you're thinking negatively, you're probably feeling bad too. This can easily be remedied by monitoring your negative thoughts, and replacing them with rational, positive ones.

Green is so not your color-- Don't buy into the 'grass is always greener' hype. Your neighbor's grass may look greener, but it's probably not... and even if it is, who cares?! Curvy girls want to be skinny, and skinny girls want curves. Period. There is not a woman in this world that is totally happy with her looks. Don't put stock into others' perceptions and opinions of you, and don't compare yourself to others. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. The sooner you learn to love you for you... with all of your shortcomings and quirks, the sooner you can let your hair down (whether flat or HUGE) and have some fun!

Hopefully these tips will inspire you to turn inward and assess your own source of self-esteem. Your true beauty will be realized when you feel just as good as you look on the outside.

Later Gators,
Nik

13 Chime in!:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if turning 42 did it or just life in general, but slowly and fearlessly I am regaining my self esteeem that was almost destroyed by mean people and a bad marriage and divorce a few years ago.

Nik, your website is truly inspirational and has taught me to love me for me. First my natural curls and now my natural ME!

I visit your site pretty much everyday, and I've never been dissapointed.


Be Blessed Always!

Anonymous said...

I really needed to read something positive that would help me get pass negative things I think about my self.I'm so hard myself but i thing the exercices we'll help me see that I really have good things about me and hopefully that we'll help me love better not only myself but others. Thanks Nikky

Dooney's Mama said...

U are the BEST girl. I so NEEDED to hear (read) these words TODAY. I have had LOTS going on and I felt like I had NO control. I graduated with Associates in Nutrition in December...turned 40 in January...and have been depressed ever since...'til yesterday!

I finally found a job in my field...I'm willing (NOW) to work on my marriage and I just did my "semi" big chop. I've been natural for years and was so "stuck" on having LONG hair...it didnt matter how much of a mess it was. So last night I took back control of MY life and got 4" of unhealthy...unwanted...untrimmed hair.

It was a bit shocking but I'm so LOVIN' the freedom! And of course...I get to church and all I can hear is...I cant believe u cut ALL that pretty hair...like it's not still pretty or I cant grow it back. I got compliments from 2 girls and they were naturals themselves!

My hubs likes it...hell I LOVE it...so there!

Thanks so much for your encouraging words...

May God continue to Bless you...so you can Bless others!

Anonymous said...

Hi,my name is hadasah. i am 24 years old and ive been carrying my natural hair since birth. I guess I can say keeping your natural hair is no biggie when growing up in West Africa,but due to Western influences, a lot of people here see relaxed,straight,glossy hair as a status symbol. You financially o.k. if you can buy relaxers regularly. Girls with natural hair were seen as having moms who didnt have the extra money to buy relaxers...I had to laugh cos it really took more money to buy the best products to maintain natural hair.My mum could attest to that! We had to buy loads of imported haircare products. My mum didnt mind because the results were a beautiful head of curls. Most people didnt believe that soft natural curly hair could be achieved with care and understanding and attributed it to having good genes or having a white ancestor.
Thanks to my mother, I've learnt how to appreciate and take care of my natural hair. I've even learnt how to make my own haircare products using natural organic products like Shea Butter.
I believe that an appreciation of natural hair will start from mothers telling their daughters that they have beautiful hair and understanding the best methods to work with what they have.
i love your site and Im proud of you. Perhaps we could chat on twitter. My I.D is @rediamondfrost. Take care and keep up the good job.

Muhammad Zahid Iqbal said...

Informative one and decent Article.
Find it so much helpful and enjoy reading. asian hairstyles

Tish said...

Wow that fit me today and so many other of my many colored days(a la dr. seuss):)

Prinie said...

I've been giving myself a little CBT for the "Assumes Being Disliked" section. Sometimes I think "I'm so strange and weird and "out there" that no one will like me and that I'm just going to be ostracized forever!" But that's...crazy irrational. lol I have a lot of friends for someone who thinks they have none and people are generally nice to me with the exception of the few meanies so it's like my thoughts skew reality and make it harder for me to navigate. Not cause of people...but cause of myself!

Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

You are truly inspirational from one natural headed psychologist/psychotherapist to the next. You are clear concise, smart and well versed. You hit the head on the nail for the reasons why women suffer from low self esteem. True self love is acceptance and finding something BEAUTIFUL about yourself. I so agree with what you blogged. And yes, we all suffer from these things mentioned from time to time, but being aware of what it does to our beautiful souls is priceless. I've seen changes in myself from this self realization and actualization. Thanks Nikki!

Anonymous said...

We need more sites like Curlynikki to help combat this negative self-image and help with improving self-esteem among black women and other women of color. When I first went natural, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into because in this society (especially among black women) hair is part of one's self-image. In addition, to become successful black women have to align with white society norms (Do you see any black women wearing their hair kinky, curly who broadcast the evening news on primetime television, or who are business women in Corporate America?). I knew cutting my long straight relaxed hair and wearing it short and kinky, curly was going to draw attention be it positive or negative. What helped buffer things and helped me was my age and visiting websites like Curlynikki. I visited Curlynikki, and other black hair blogs and websites, almost daily when I was contemplating on going natural. I saw something different, unique and absolutely stunning with black women hair on these websites. I was so use to wearing my hair in one style and that was that flat, relaxed, straight look. The straight relaxed look was all I was exposed to for many years. I remember through out my college years being told "you act like a black white girl". And the comments came as, I believe, a direct result of my outward appearance including my long straight hair. The "straight" relaxed euro-style hair that I rocked. I have been contemplating going natural for some time before I did the big chop. I thought to myself, "I am not a white woman and do not want to look like a white woman" and decided to change up my appearance starting with my hair because, besides your face and how you dress, the hair is the first thing people notice about you. Once I changed up my hair, I immediately changed up my wardrobes to a more conservative look because being a manager, I have to dress the part at work. Although, I was always one into fine fashion given my tall, thin build. When I went natural I glam it up even more. Made myself look even more feminine and beautiful. We must know that we are beautiful black women and love ourselves. It's ok for your guy to say that you are beautiful but YOU must say it to your self and mean it. Your man is not the one who is experiencing this pressure to conform to and align with society's norms of the "straight hair caucasian Euro-centric" look. Embrace yourself because no one can love you like you! It a metamorphosis that you go through. A complete change and let that change be about loving you first! God blessed us with a beautiful thing that caucasian women wish they had the ability to do. With natural hair, we can wear it curly, straight, or locked. It is truly a beautiful thing.

Anonymous said...

I can so relate to the concept of self love as I go in and out of the cycle.What we say to ourselves is the start of something good or something bad.My light was turned on when I realized that through my thoughts I create a positive loving self concept or low-self esteem. For me it has been a continuous routine of working with myself.

Alyssa Joy said...

I'm glad I stopped and read this blog today. I really needed it and it is a really big help. Thank you so much. You don't know how much it means :)

talybutterfly4 said...

Thanks Nikki. You words were very inspirational. I really needed to hear that and plan on taking the advice that fits my situation.

Anonymous said...

I loved this article and it pegged me correctly. Wow spelled backwards! This natural hair journey and self appreciation is not for the faint of heart. I feel more empowered and confident wearing my hair in it's natural state even though I am getting some resistance from the world. Thanks Curly Nikki!

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