When it comes to my mass of curls, I’ve tried every hairstyle imaginable – keratin straightening treatments, braids, extensions, relaxers – all to hide the natural kinks and coils that are my God-given crown.

As my ends started to fray and my scalp grew weary from destructive chemicals, I found myself questioning my need and desire to work against my hair instead of with it.

As my hands burned at the helm of the flat iron and my preparation time became too tedious for an increasingly demanding schedule, I wondered why I couldn’t just embrace my mane, which so eagerly craved to be free.

As an educator, I work with students who not only need a consistent role model, but a mentor who looks like them.

Whenever I would walk into the room with my curly hair, I would notice the shy smiles and hear the whispered murmurs, “her hair looks just like mine.” In recognizing the power of seeing your reflection as a form of actualization, I knew I had to role model what self-love and acceptance looked like in practice every day.

As I let my hair grow from small ripples to dancing waves, I noticed a different woman in the mirror.

One whose shoulders remained back. A woman who was authentically and unapologetically coming into her own.

A woman more concerned with what was inside of her head, than what was on it.

Although the change didn’t happen overnight, the gradual transformation allowed me to reflect on the spiritual growth that accompanied the physical hair growth.

My soul was no longer weighed down by the burden of other’s expectations.

My spirit was light from the lifted pressure to fit a mold I was never meant to adhere to. For the first time I actually internalized that the love I found in God was more than enough and I did not need to live to please others. I was no longer a woman who aimed to meet societal standards, but rather willing to challenge what it meant to be beautiful by simply accepting herself.

In professional settings, the way I style my curls has been called into question as unsuitable for the workplace and in my daily proceedings, people have touched my hair without permission as if it’s an object and not a sacred part of my body.

I’ve read articles about young girls being criminalized and punished for wearing their hairstyle of choice to school. I’ve heard negative media criticisms of women who wear their natural hair to high profile events. When these are the messages that are projected onto you, it is instinctive to internalize that the way you express yourself is not enough.

The road to embracing my curls as a piece of my identity and core component of my aesthetic has not been easy.

In a society that still maintains a standard of beauty that is equated to long, straight tresses, I still wonder why my difference is a subject of conversation or an object to be toyed with. Why do we fear difference? Why do we objectify the unknown and the unfamiliar?

Hair should be celebrated in all of its forms. Whether you want to rock a protective style, leave your hair curl in its natural state, or feel most beautiful and comfortable with any other array of styles, your hair is simply that – yours.

Your hair is not the size of your heart or your ability to use your strengths and talents to make a mark on this world.

Your hair does not equate to your work ethic or your willingness and quest to be the best version of yourself.

For me, the texture of my hair is a symbol of my strength and resilience. If you tug on my curls, they will spring and bounce back to the very place they originated. Much like my own character, my curls are lively, have a mind of their own, and always sit confidently.

I wear my hair natural so that one day it won’t be different.

I wear my hair natural to pave the way for other young women to come into comfort with their luscious locks despite any discouragement she may face.

I wear my hair natural so that glorious crowns of curls will be seen as the norm – not an object, not different, but normal.

My curls are and will always be enough.

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