December 22, 2012, was the day I decided to let it go. 

That date will forever be ingrained in my memory because it was the day I decided to get my last relaxer and start my natural hair journey.

It was the day I decided I let go of the scalp sores, the straight edges and chemically straightened strands of hair forever — and since then I never looked back.

But, it wasn’t until this year when I finally realized how much that moment shaped me into becoming the person I am today. 

My natural hair journey has played a major role in heightening my self-esteem and it has also set the tone in building confidence in not only myself, but also my friends to wear their hair naturally.

To me, I felt like I became an advocate for promoting a form self-love.

And although I’m proud to say that I’ve influenced others to wear their natural hair, getting to that point myself wasn’t an easy process at all. 

During my transition period, I wore weaves for two years straight because I was afraid of rocking a TWA. I thought wearing weaves was the best style during my transition, but I didn’t realize how much I would be damaging my leave-out due to flat ironing my hair regularly and I even permed my edges once. 

The heat damage from my leave-out really had me thinking that what was growing under my weaves were loose 3c curls, but instead, they were coily 4c curls, which I can admit was something that took time for me to get used to. 

After two years of transitioning on December 22, 2014, at the age of 21, I decided not to hide behind my straight weaves anymore because I wanted to see what my natural hair truly looked like. I made the decision to break away from my weaves after seeing my best friends wear their natural hair. Them, having the courage to do so convinced me that I could do so too.

It took me a while to build up enough courage to visit my hair stylist to see my curls. So much so that when I finally decided to go, I straightened my hair instead, due to the fear of seeing what my natural curls really looked like.

I genuinely felt like I failed myself by not wearing my natural hair, but I was still amazed at how long my real hair was. It was down my back! Ever since, I’ve been getting creamy crack at the age of 4, I’ve never seen my hair that long.

But while I was flaunting my straight hair, I forgot it wouldn’t last forever and I would have to wear my curls eventually.

That was something I definitely wasn’t prepared for. 

After washing my hair for the first time and seeing my curls slowly coil up, I got overwhelmed. Even though I did research on the best products to use for my hair and watched tons of YouTube videos, I still really didn’t know what to do.

The first hairstyle I tried was Bantu knots, and although I felt like my first attempt wasn’t that bad, they didn’t look like the tutorial, which influenced me to feel a sense of embarrassment and become self-conscious. So self-conscious I wore a hat to my classes that day.

I felt so uncomfortable and it showed all over my face. My best friend, Zuri, noticed and I remember her reminding me that it was something that was going to take time to get used to.

I knew it, but I still didn’t realize how much of a toll this journey was going to have on my self-esteem.

My natural hair built me up in no other way I could imagine.

Photo: Ebony Thomas

A few weeks later, I started to get more comfortable. More comfortable with looking at myself in the mirror and being more comfortable with my natural beauty.

I took a small break from wearing my hair out and decided to wear braids for a few months and I wore my hair out again the summer after graduating from undergrad in 2015. It was during that time I started experimenting with different styles, products and getting my wash day routine down pact.

But, it wasn’t until my second year in grad school where I felt like I perfected this natural hair thing and that’s when the compliments came. So much so, people started seeking advice on how to maintain their own hair and they even asked me to style it!

I’ve heard numerous stories from friends about how they don’t know how to manage their curl type, how they couldn’t perfect their wash day routine, or they didn’t even know what products to use to style their hair. 

I knew I wasn’t an expert, but I tried to give them the best advice I could. I also tried to tell them my story to give them some encouragement, because although everyone's story isn’t the same, I think we can all agree that it's a hard journey.

I found it necessary to tell people that no one’s hair is alike and it’s always important to find products or hairstyles that work best for them. 

One thing I always made sure to tell them is that natural hair can really raise your confidence level. 

A few years ago, I was so self-conscious walking around with my 4c hair, but now I really appreciate its versatility. I wouldn't want my hair any other way. 

After all these years, I didn't realize the natural coils that were growing under my head while wearing my weaves would be the crown I’m now proud of wearing.

Now I see why one hair stylist told me I had the best type of hair to go natural. Back then I didn’t believe it because I was programmed to think that straight hair was the best way to go.

Now I’m determined to send that message to my friends, family members and all the other people who are struggling with embracing their natural hair: what grows out of their head should be loved, cherished and appreciated.

I can honestly say within the past year or two I have helped so many people through their journey.

I have given them advice and encouragement to wear their natural hair proudly. Whether it's in the workplace or just going out one evening, I try to give them the best advice possible on being confident in rocking their natural tresses, no matter the curl pattern.

I’ve even encouraged my roommate to wear her hair now. Out of the three years we have lived together, I finally influenced her to wear her hair out this past summer — to the point, I was styling her hair every week.

It’s a beautiful thing and a beautiful process for Black women to showcase the hair that they possess and its versatility!

So if you've ever struggled with acceptance, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for advice because we’ve all had our own personal stories with embracing our hair.

That’s why I say I use my natural hair to promote self-love. 

To influence my beautiful brown sisters to be free. 

Hair and all. 

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