When we think of transitioning back to our natural hair, we often think of the external changes, styles and maintenance. However there occurs an equally significant transition that occurs WITHIN our heads that may require just as much attention.
Many have been wearing their hair in processed, relaxed, and other altered states other than it’s natural states since childhood. Very few learned about their hair texture and care until later in life, often adulthood. This can bring about surprising feelings and emotions regarding the hair that they had very little interaction with previously.
Such emotions range from positive to negative. The positive emotions can include a feeling of liberation, a sense of identity and individualism, and an increase in self esteem and respect. The more negative emotions include: disappointment in their texture, feelings of being exposed, envy of others whose textures they admire, confusion, and overwhelm with hair that does not react the same to the hair care techniques they previously used on their processed hair. The transition period can take longer for those who hold on to the process hair for extended lengths of time, as opposed to a “big chop”.
Alexis Barnes, a 25 year old who transitioned about a year ago, commented on her transition, “Keeping my ends, my damaged raggedy strands, was like a child refusing to sleep without a comfort blanket. Even though I had about three inches of thick, new and healthy hair, I was petrified to remove my permed ends. If I am going to be honest, in my head I think I thought if I didn’t like my hair…MY REAL hair, I could perm all that new growth and no one would be the wiser. Sad right?”
Well, it’s not really sad as much as it is an unfortunate effect of repeatedly altering the natural state of one’s hair and attaching to it feelings of comfort, acceptance, and beauty. It’s really like a programming that needs to be de-programmed.
Changes in how others react and respond to our natural hair also have an impact on how we transition. Responses from partners in our relationships and friendships, those in the work environment, and people that are encountered in our daily routines can all leave us with emotions and feeling that can either be positive or negative.
If the mental transition to natural creates more negative emotions and feelings, it is important to address these feelings and get support where necessary. Support can be in the form of exposure to like minded people in groups, meetups, events, online forums and counseling. Surround yourself with people who you can relate to, who can share their experiences and with experts who can help you with any questions.
Transitioning is not always easy, especially when there is a long history of altering the natural state of our hair for many years and generations for various reasons that can have very deep emotional and social attachments. Be patient with yourself and others. When you truly love yourself unconditionally, you embrace all of your life’s transitions with patience and self awareness.
-Jessyca Marshall, LMSW and Founder of Naturally Beautiful Hair Care
Connecting all aspects of natural hair and beauty including the social/emotional