The need to be in control is directly linked to the need to not be your true self, and here’s why.
So lately, I’ve been paying very close attention to how much I’ve needed to control my hair. It’s no secret that Black women have a very complex relationship with their hair.
But I never fully understood why I struggled so much with mine and why there was always shame attached to my hair. I used to think that it was because of the weaves, the perms, and the heat, or maybe it was the media, or the shady comments from friends and family.
But now, I think it was something else. I think it was because no one ever told me that my hair was something to be proud of. I had no idea that it was alive, and that it was a procreation of me like a child.
Maybe this is a concept that is especially difficult for black women to embrace. Sometimes it seems like everyone criticizes us for how we treat our hair, and we would rather control the narrative. I had to stop wearing sew-in weaves for that reason (I was also too lazy to comb them properly). But the truth is that self-love embraces, while self-hate tries to control.
Once a woman loves her hair in all of its glory, she can do whatever she wants with it no matter who criticizes. I decided that perming my hair is what works best for me right now, even though some “experts” say that perms are bad for your scalp.
But the perming is not the issue; the lack of love and acceptance is the issue. If you authentically love your hair, you can style it any way you want and it will love you back forever.
I have no idea how this happened for me, I just know that one day it happened. I remember combing my hair in the mirror and whispering, “I love you. I really love you.” I thought about all the times that I put my hair down and called it mean names like: unruly, nappy, short, and damaged. I also thought about all the jokes that people made about black women’s hair, and the stereotypes that I accepted and integrated into my daily hair routine.
None of this was fair and I remember just getting sick of it. I kept trying to control my hair, instead of just letting it be. It’s like I would plead with it every morning: “Please don’t embarrass me! I don’t want these people out here looking at me like I’m crazy.” And yeah, that’s one of our greatest fears isn’t it? That people will look at us like we’re crazy because of an aspect of ourselves we can’t control.
My hair made me feel so insecure when it wasn’t done. At home, it was fine. But when I needed to leave, I made it my business to beat my face and get that hair under control. Now I’m not criticizing the desire to look your best when you leave the house, but I am questioning the intention behind it.
Do you tug and pull at your hair every day because you love it and want to enhance its beauty? Or do you feel that your hair will humiliate you if you don’t make it do what you say?
This is not just a question about hair. This is a question about you. When I realized that my inner child was gorgeous just the way she was, I noticed the same thing about my hair.
After years of letting people criticize me and try to put me in boxes, I had had enough. I knew that I had a right to choose what I did with my life and how I did it. I knew that I had the right to be sovereign.
That was when I stopped listening to the experts. I stopped trying to make my life conform to the standard. I started listening to my inside voice and found that she had some very profound things to say.
I apologized and told her I was sorry for pushing her down and ignoring her. I made it clear that I didn’t understand what I was doing, and I needed her now more than ever.
Now, I realize that separating yourself into parts is extremely confusing. Beyoncé did this on her I Am: Sasha Fierce album and people called her demon possessed. Our parents don’t teach us that we create multiple alters over time to cope with life’s demands.
Teachers, pastors, lovers, and friends don’t tell us this either. So we go through life thinking that we’re a singular entity, laughing at those who realize they are not, and getting confused when our “inner demons” rear their ugly heads.
When I finally understood that there were multiple versions of myself, it was mind blowing. I have several alters and you can read what I wrote about them here. This made everything make sense.
I had an aspect of myself that was a perfectionist and a workhorse, and another aspect of myself that just wanted to fly by the seat of her pants. This explained why I always felt at war with myself.
So one day I just told all of them that I loved them. “All of you guys have helped me solve a different problem in my life. I need you even though you were all born out of pain.” And that’s just the thing about alters, you create them to protect you, but they don’t just go away. They stay with you your whole life, just in case you need them again.
Now that we’re all on the same page, I’m having a really good time. I let my many aspects work for me, instead of against me. I don’t accept it when others say things like, “Carla you’re not being yourself,” because I am being myself. Every face I show is my true face because… I’m more than just one thing.
I want to be spiritual, sexy, serious and silly. I want to dance to loud music with my husband, contemplate deep spiritual concepts for hours, and laugh over good food with my friends. I want to comb my hair gently in the mirror and smile at how beautiful it is. I want to be everything I am because that’s so much better than being in control.