If you follow me on Instagram @oribytiti you will know that I have a segment on IGTV every Monday called ‘Mindset Monday’. It’s a great space for me to be open and honest about the mindset required to grow healthy natural hair to long lengths. My aim is to be open and honest about my own experience as well as the experiences of the numerous women I guide.
In being open and honest, I realize that I must also talk about the tough aspects of my journey so far. So today I’m going to share how I felt about wearing my hair exclusively natural when I realized It was badly damaged. To be honest, I had no real choice, it was either that or I face permanent damage.
A little background, I have been natural for over 22 years. I wore my hair natural right from my first day at university before it became a trend. I have always loved natural hair. But in 2016, I woke up and faced the reality that my hair was significantly damaged and a complete shadow of what it used to be. I drifted between denial, then I was upset, then I went back to denial, then I got really angry at the wrong people. And then stupidly, I tried to mask the damage in more braids and weaves because of #protectivestylegrowshair.
It got to a point where I couldn’t even bear to look at my own hair in the mirror. My edges had receded so badly I couldn’t even wear my hair out, let alone attempt a bun. And the rest of my hair, well it was excessively dry, a weird dull grey with no sheen at all. It had no elasticity, split ends dominated to the point where you could see through my hair from yards away. I took a scissors and cut all the damaged ends off. It didn’t even look better. The volume I had always had had been replaced with weak and scanty hair. And the worst bit was accepting that I had inflicted this damage on myself.
The worst thing was facing up to the fact that I had made poor hair choices all by myself. I had been blow drying recklessly. Some days I would blow dry every single day! then flat iron right after!! I had also been doing braids and weaves back to back to back. I will be honest; I had been seduced by the real Brazilian and Peruvian hair that had flooded the black middle-class market post 2005. And I had bought into that sleek representation of beauty. So much so that I walked on the dark side of lace frontal extensions, damaging my baby hairs. I would then watch my edges grow back only to succumb to the allure of another make-believe, yet realistic visual of seduction! The maddest thing was that I’d wear other people’s human hair and buy expensive serums to nurture it. I’d also wash and condition my weaves more frequently than I would wash and condition my own hair.
I had not deep conditioned my hair in over 10 years. Sometimes I even shampooed without using an instant conditioner. And now my hair was telling everyone that cared to look stories about my abuse and neglect. I knew it would get worse if I didn’t act and so I did. I knew exactly what I had been doing wrong. I knew exactly what needed to stop But I had to find someone to hold me accountable, guide and encourage me.
Eventually I took all the necessary steps needed to heal my hair. But at one point I knew I had to do more. I knew I had to declare war on heat in particular, then no braids, and no weaves, for at least 6 months. Now please don’t misunderstand me, braids and weaves and heat were not evil. What was evil was the way I abused them!
I cannot tell you that I found a way to wear my hair with style in that 6 months period, or that I found a way to mask the damage. There was no way. I went cold turkey. This was my ugly phase. What sustained me during this period was a lot of makeup and bright clothes!!! more seriously, I believed I could turn my hair around. I saw visual representation of great hair like mine on YouTube which really helped. And I believed my hair would improve because I was putting in the work. I read books on healing my hair! And I sought the service of a hair coach who assured me it would heal!!
The truth is for about 6 months I did not feel attractive, and I hated the state of my hair and how I looked in this period. But I sucked it up – I listened to a lot of Labi Siffre (Something inside so strong). After 6 months it began to look better, and more importantly, I started to really like how I looked without any additions. For the first time in a long time, I looked at myself and thought my hair was enough. So although I was trying to improve my hair, I ended up improving my own acceptance of self, as I am.