Natural hair has seemingly become the new on-trend phenomenon in the hair care industry. An influx of African-American women in the United States are choosing to forgo hair-straightening and chemical relaxer processing in exchange for an opportunity to embrace their natural hair texture(s). While this transition may appear to be liberating, it also may come at a price that many don’t discuss: a steady decline in self-esteem.
Let’s paint a picture of how it may be to transition from straightened to natural/curly/kinky hair: Your straightened look was considered polished and attractive. Yet your new natural style is now described as unique, earthy, and “ethnic.” Your once easy-to-manage chemically relaxed hair has now developed a mind of its own. It requires extra TLC (i.e. pre-poo, co-washing, deep conditioning,etc.), hates humidity, can become tempermental on occasion and God forbid you use a product that contains silicones! While you once turned heads with your silky straight tresses, you now notice a decline in potential male suitors who can accept your new “look”. If you are in a relationship or married, your significant other may nicely mention that he thinks you look sexiest when you wear your hair straight. Now that your hair is natural, even your co-workers are intrigued. They want to know “how you got your hair like that” and if they can “touch your hair”. Your boss may ask if you can tone down your hairstyle for the sake of being “professional” or to conform to the corporate environment.
Making the concious decision to depart from the society-driven image of what beauty is, requires an ability to sustain one’s acceptance of self and maintaining self-confidence. In this interview, DC based clinical psychologist, Dr. Roz Aker-Black provides insight on the potential self-efficacy, social, and emotional struggles that emerge when women choose to transition to a natural hair lifestyle.
Lachelle: What possible emotional or social issues could be faced by women who are transitioning their hair from a relaxed/straightened look, to a more “ethnic” and natural look?
Dr. Roz: For most women, the way our hair looks will determine whether we are having a good day or not, hence the term “bad hair day”. When our hair is not cooperating with the look that we would like to present to the outside world, we become self conscious and will obsess about our hair all day and will even feel embarrassment as to how others may perceive us.
Making the decision to become natural or express an individual’s ethnic roots can certainly bring about emotional and social issues. Socially, one must first assess if they have the “perceived” attitude or personality that society associates
with a natural look. Emotionally, an individual will have to question if their choice would be accepted in their environment or whether their environment will reject them. An individual has to be able to accept themselves first before they can expect
anyone else to accept them; you know the old adage of being comfortable in your own skin. If that individual has not reached this level of self acceptance, then regardless of whether they are natural or prefer a more relaxed look, it wouldn’t
matter; the social and emotional issues would be the same. The individual’s measure of confidence would be in question with either look.
Lachelle: For women who are having a hard time accepting their new look, especially those who chose to do the “Big Chop” (cutting all of their relaxed ends off into a small cropped natural style), what would you suggest they do?
Dr. Roz: Obtaining a new hair style can be a scary transition as our hair can be a big part of our identity, however if an individual is struggling with accepting their new look, I would encourage them to focus on the great attributes that are specific to them. As women, our hair can determine the course of our day (if we are having a bad hair day). We feel our best when we feel we look our best, but really what we must understand is that the best of us is not determined by what we look like, but more so by the qualities that we possess that defines our character and integrity.
Lachelle: I have heard from many single women that have noticed that their attention from the opposite sex has waned since they transitioned from straight to curly/kinky hair. So much so that they are willing to relax their hair again just revive the attention. What would you say to women who are facing this issue in their dating life?
Dr. Roz: Dating and receiving attention can be complicated whether an individual is relaxed or natural. As women what we must understand is that confidence, being approachable, and likeability are attractive, regardless of physical attributes.
Attractiveness is an attitude that one must possess and men are very good about perceiving vulnerabilities by what a person may wear and how one may present themselves.
I encourage individuals to monitor what perceptions that they possibly may be presenting in their environment. No one has the power to make you feel inferior unless you allow them too. Self acceptance is at the core of most of our insecurities
and we must be aware of how our insecurities affect our behavior.
I like to call it the CAB Effect! Our Cognitions (thoughts) influence our Affect (emotions) and our Cognitions and Affect determines our Behavior! If an individual is thinking negatively about a situation, they then begin to experience negative emotions and as a result they may experience negative behaviors. So if the assumption is that others will react differently towards you (based on your choice of hairstyle), an individual will begin to experience the negative emotions of self doubt,
intimidation, or sadness, and their behaviors may result in not making eye contact, prejudging the character of the person before exploring an emotional connection, and may appear as lacking self confidence.
In regards to dating, fall in love with yourself first! After all if you do not love you, you can not expect anyone else too!
Lachelle: Have you counseled women who are dealing with this issue? If so, how were you able to assist them?
Dr. Roz: Most of my clients are women that suffer with negative self acceptance and as a result it affects their functionality in every aspect of their life, whether they realize it or not. As a clinical psychologist, I use interventions that allow the individual to connect how their negative thoughts, influence their negative feelings, and how their negative thoughts and feelings influence their behavior. While it’s not easy to accept components about yourself, once an individual becomes aware of how they are functioning, they are more apt to change those things that cause them distress which leads to better functioning.
Lachelle: Are there any motivational quotes or spiritual passages you would suggest if you had a client facing this issue?
Dr. Roz: While this may sound cliché, I always ascribe to “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder”, it matters not what others think about you, but what you think about yourself! You set the tone of how others view and treat you! If you do not have
positive regard for yourself, you really can’t expect anyone else to!
Lachelle: What are some clues women should look out for when considering counseling to remedy these negative self-efficacy issues?
Dr. Roz: If you suffer with negative views of yourself, you consistently have self doubt in your abilities, and feel hopeless about your situation then you are a perfect candidate for therapeutic services. If an individual’s thoughts and behaviors have a negative pattern (self-defeating or self-destructive attitude and behaviors) then therapeutic services will serve as a vehicle of change in an individual’s life, but it’s all about recognizing your difficulties and wanting a change in your life!
Dr. Roz Aker-Black has a doctorate in clinical psychology that serves as the basis for her ability to provide life coaching skills to individuals, families, and couples. Dr. Roz has over 10 years of experience with providing effective strategies to help
others function more appropriately in their lives. Dr. Roz can be reached via email at email@example.com for all of your therapeutic needs.