by Chai of Back to Curly

There were countless moments growing up that helped define me as a woman today, in fact I’m still learning from those lessons, many of them found in my mother’s kitchen as she struggled to run a comb through my massive fro, or in between her legs at night as she attentively greased my scalp. The process is often slow, but as a young black girl I understood the ‘different’ so many people saw in me. I understood it as something to be changed or outgrown once I was of age to make decisions on how to improve my appearance, whether it was to attract men, friends or other loved ones. I was never given instructions on how to accentuate my full lips, thick mane or soon growing hips. Instead, I was quietly taught to hide & remain ashamed of what set me apart from the images propagating my life. How does the saying go?

“When you know better, You do better”

As a grown woman, it’s hard to say how I overcame those feelings; in fact it’s safer to say that I used those experiences to better understand the necessity of overcoming that type of fear. The fear of being different, of feeling beautiful is something that’s still infiltrating our lives, even the lives of our children. How do you learn to experience something that’s often a reward from society? From my young understanding, only the beautiful were rewarded with more money, more LOVE, more of the benefits of a good life. It seems the only danger in hearing such false ideas, is to inherently believe in them and to allow them to seep into our sense of self. Perhaps it’s the fear of embracing an idea we knowingly deserve, & how that would feel to no longer yearn for something we were taught was beyond our scope.

Here’s some truth. There is nothing narcissistic or self-involved about reminding ourselves of how beautiful we all are. Nothing. Being beautiful, different, does not have to mean standing alone. What it can mean is standing correct, together with others who share that same energy, on your own path, nurturing & following your own journey. This is my belief, and one that I stand more firm on that any other growing principle in my life.

The art of beauty, of discovering the way it leans into our everyday lives when we least expect it, is something I’ve admired over the years while watching the natural hair community grow and flourish. Community, the essence & purpose of it is beautiful.

I believe our beauty is tangible, attainable, undeniable, REAL & quite possible in all our lives once we understand its purpose, its strength. We see it so often in nature, but the essence of beauty does not stand still or remain languid somewhere in the shadows, rather it moves with grace & determination. I see it here on this site, each week as I care for my Fro, and across so many cities now hosting natural hair events, on social networking platforms posting, sharing, inspiring others to not feel as if they are alone. We even saw it as our spirits were lifted with the I Love My Hair video a several months ago. What I read in the following weeks on blogs and on the lips of so many mothers, was nothing short of hope & the love that’s often the direct result of uncovering such an important message.

Today, I actively seek out inspiration rather than waiting, anticipating for it to walk through my life at the last minute. I keep it on hand almost as daily sustenance to make sure I’m well, functioning & able to be a better me. Women inspire me, artists, men, children, friends, family…even those who are no longer in my life. I know for many of us there is nothing more hurtful coming across disparaging reports similar to last week’s article in “Psychology Today.” Then again we all have the power to change & form our own lives. I implore you, all of us… to seek out your source, embrace your ‘different,’ and share that with the world. Beauty can be found anywhere; because it is its own purpose, it is noncommercial, readily available…it is everywhere.

“The Beauty of Different” is the brainchild behind Karen Walrond’s book found here. To learn more about the author, check out a great interview on Natural Selection or visit her at her blog, Chookooloonks.