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,