Curly hair and self-love journey

How I Met My Hair: Curly hair and self-love journey

In the cinematic universe of Fleabag, Phoebe Waller Bridge once said, "Hair is Everything, Anthony." That sounds very, very relatable, doesn’t it?
For a species that’s collectively obsessed with how they’re perceived by the rest of the world, we put so much time and effort into our hair that I don’t find it even the teensiest bit surprising that the haircare industry knows just how to play  on our insecurities.
But hey, I digress. Instead, let me tell you a personal story about my curly hair and how it's been a part of my journey to self-love.
Words cut deeper than weapons - "Noodles," "Maggi," "Chidiya ka ghar" – these were only a few of the taunts that were routinely hurled my way (and in turn, the direction of my hair) when I was in school. If you’ve grown up with curly hair yourself, you must know that having these locks can often feel like you’re fighting an ongoing battle. But why am I delving into the topic of hair for a mental health blog, you ask?
Here’s the thing. Each of us possesses unique qualities that define us. We all recognize how easily we can become insecure about our bodies. Our hair, too, plays a significant role in shaping our self-image. 
My realisation that curly hair wasn't considered desirable hit me when I saw my mom - with her stunning curls - tirelessly straightening her hair. I couldn't fathom why she did it. To my ten year old self, her hair was everything
But all that aside, the determination with which she straightened her hair sent a powerful message: curly hair wasn't something to be desired. That determination slowly seeped into me, and I internalised it. Any love I had for my curls dissipated, especially after witnessing movies that portrayed beautiful women with sleek, straight hair as protagonists while their curly-haired counterparts were often (type)cast as nerds. In reality, some of the most captivating actresses have curly hair!
I often ponder what triggered my decision to care for my hair instead of resenting it (and thus, subjecting it to constant straightening). I still don't have a clear answer, except for a deep-seated understanding that embracing my hair meant accepting myself as I truly was. On the surface, it's just hair, but for me, it marked my initial step into the world of loving myself just a wee bit more.
Half a decade later, with my own luscious curls to boot, I can confidently declare that this journey represented my first foray into self-love. But where does all this self-love spiel come from, anyway?
At the risk of sounding preachy, let me attempt to define it.
Imagine having a magnificent garden. Over the years, you've lovingly tended to it, watering and nurturing it daily. Yes, the garden contends with invasive pests, stubborn weeds, and other unwelcome elements, but it also serves as a sanctuary for birds, insects, and butterflies to thrive. In essence, you've cultivated an ecosystem simply by allowing the garden to flourish.
Self-love parallels owning that garden. It means granting yourself the space to exist as you are, nurturing your needs, and acknowledging your ability to create an ecosystem that works with you. Self-love encompasses numerous facets: self-appreciation, self-compassion, self-kindness, self-forgiveness, self-awareness, self-acceptance – simply put, "self" before any adjective can be part of self-love.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before I can impart lessons on self-love to others, I must scrutinise my own journey of self-love.
Can I assert that I unconditionally adore myself? Not entirely. I don't believe anyone can profess absolute self-love. However, can I start by appreciating myself? Absolutely. Often, it involves pinpointing that initial starting point, that single aspect one needs to commence the voyage of self-love. Much like every garden begins with a solitary plant.
My curly hair and self-love journey began when I said goodbye to my straighteners and started following the curly girl method. It might sound like a small change - something that sounds as inconsequential as simply switching shampoos - but it meant much, much more. It was a way of breaking free from what society expected of me and embracing my true self.
During this journey, I faced "bad hair days”. Of course, I did. In fact, there were times when accepting my hair was tough, and I'd just throw it into a bun. But the important thing was that those tough days didn’t (and still don't) define who I am.
Whether it's your hair, your skin, your anger, or your sadness, these constitute only mere fragments of who we are. They are not our entirety. Sometimes, the parts we resent yearn for the spotlight, constantly striving for our attention. They exist to redirect us, and all we need to do is listen.
Today, I can confidently declare that curly hair is an integral part of my identity, a part that holds a unique place and contributes to the richness of my being.


Meet the Author 

Varnaya likes writing because then she can pretend to be a speaker! Sci-fi and coffee are the two things that can sustain her.She uses narrative therapy in her therapeutic approach, and believes that people are an expert in their own lives. She wants people to know that they have the power to choose their relationships and nurture them. She loves writing about the oddities of our world, the characters she visits in the books/movies and the systems that influence us. Happy reading, may the force be with you!
Varnaya Sanghvi, Psychologist
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