The holidays are a time for family, food, and fun. [Please excuse the cheesiness of the statement, but it’s true!] And with these festivities, brings some of the harshest natural hair critics. I’ve personally been subjected to a lot of natural hair criticism –especially due to the thick, kinky texture of my hair. At work, co-workers have commented on how “wild” my hair is on humid days. (Sometimes it swells and I forget my “hair emergency kit”.) And when I straightened my hair once, a co-worker — who rarely acknowledges my presence — went out of his way to tell me, “Your hair looks professional like that.” I’ve also received awkward stares from complete strangers. But the most hurtful criticism has come from family.
Family criticism is well-intentioned, but hurtful nonetheless. Sometimes it’s in the form of a joke, other times in the form of ignorant questions, and others times just plain hurtful maybe even a little spiteful. If you recently big chopped, the holidays are often your big debut. And with it comes a lot of comments. I’ll never forget my big debut at Thanksgiving three years ago. Terms like “jheri curl”, “low-top fade”, “nappy”, “[not] good hair” flew around often. Let’s just say I was the topic of discussion… and there was nowhere to hide. Over the years, I’ve become a pro at handling family criticism of my hair. Here are a few tips for you to handle it too:
Laugh – Yes. Laugh! Because a lot of the jokes are hilarious! Your family is really not trying to hurt your feelings. As family, you pick at each other… and have a good laugh. Do that! Your sensitivity about your natural hair will subside and your comfort level with your natural hair will translate to your interactions with co-workers and strangers as well.
First they will ask you why, then they will ask you how – Remember that. When I first went natural, no one could understand why I traded my long, flowing hair for a “nappy” afro. Then it began to flourish, then they began to marvel, and then they began to follow. One by one, family members began to go natural or at least embrace their natural texture more.
Educate Yourself– There is a lot of misinformation disguised as myths and misconception passed down from generation to generation. You know what I’m talking about like “you can’t get a man and/or a job with natural hair.” “Natural hair is unprofessional.” And many, many more. Again your family has good intentions but they just don’t know. There’s the scence of trying to protect you from the stereotypes. But being informed will help you, better educate them when their questions shift from “why” to “how”.
It’s not you. It’s them – People often project their own insecurities onto you in the form of jokes and criticism. Remember that their comments are more of a reflection of them than it is about you. And often, if their comments really sting it is because of your own insecurities. Over the years, I have become very desensitized to criticism of my hair. I’m confident now. I correct people when they are “out of order” and move on. I no longer let people ruin my day.
Be Confident – This is my final piece of advice. Be confident. Hold your head up high. Walk in and say, ” I woke up like this! I woke up like this! Flawless!” [Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.] But seriously, look at yourself and love the reflection looking back at you. Confidence is the best armor for any shade that is thrown your way.
How do you handle natural hair criticism?