Sep 15, 2014

Learning to Love Myself

By Hend Hegazi


One of the blessings of this world that we can easily take for granted is the diversity of the people around us. The different languages, skin colors, hair types, personalities…the library of characteristics through which we can learn from one another is endless. All these features add to the beauty of this life, and to the beauty of each of us.

Unfortunately we do not always see this beauty. Whether it is caused by media influence or the effect of people’s comments around us, sometimes we can end up hating characteristics about ourselves that we could have loved.

For me, it is my hair. I have spent my entire life hating it and fighting with it, trying to make it do things that it was never meant to. When I was a child, my mom had muscles in her upper arms, simply from combing out my hair. She would comb it out, with me yelling and “Ouch!”ing the whole time. Then she would pull it into two side braids. I remember one day I begged and begged, and after a whole lot of begging, she finally let me leave it down. About an hour later, she was cursing herself for having listened to me as she tried to comb out the frizzy mess that was now on top of my head. I do not remember that she let me wear it down again.

She kept it long for me until I was in second or third grade. At this time I thought, “My best friend has the straightest hair in the world! And hers is short. So…Maybe if I cut mine, it will be straight, too.” Needless to say, my curly/frizzy new do was more than a disappointment. It meant that now my mom would spend about an hour each night blow drying my hair for me, then wrapping it up in all sorts of strange ways so that it would not frizz. More muscles for mom, more pain for me.

I must have been about nine or ten when I first had my hair chemically straightened. And I loved it! Sure, after I showered it still had to be blown out, but that whole process was much easier now. And when it was straight, it was just like everyone else’s hair; it was manageable.

The rare times that I let my hair down in its natural curly state, all I heard from my parents was, “What’s wrong with your hair? Why does it look like that?”

I was never given the opportunity to embrace it. To my parents it was ugly, and none of my friends at school had hair that was anywhere near as unruly as mine, so I had no choice but to believe it was ugly.

I started wearing hijab my freshman year of high school. It was not an easy decision to make; I was the only one wearing hijab, one of only 4 Muslim students in a school of about 1600. But the fact that I would be able to hide my hair did make that decision easier. It was a relief just to pull it into a bun every day, although I did continue to fight with it at home. I was determined to make it cooperate, but was never successful.

When I got married, my hair anxieties returned. And I spent years trying to figure out how I was supposed to look sexy when I basically kept my hair tied back the whole time.

Earlier this year, at the age of 34, something finally changed. I tried letting it down, no straighteners, no blow dryer. And I learned how to keep it from frizzing (well, mostly anyway). And I like it; I like that it has personality.

I wish someone had taught me this years ago. I wish someone had said, “You have beautiful hair; you just have to learn how to manage it.” Such a simple reaction could have had a significant effect on my self-esteem!

It is useless to look back and wish I could change things. But I can learn from the past, and grow from it.

Everyone always asks why I do not keep my daughter’s hair tied up. She’s only two and she has big Shirley Temple type curls, although this is the real  world and not the movies, so there is some frizzing going on there, too. But her hair is beautiful. And I do not care that not everyone sees that….I DO care that SHE sees that. So I will not force her to keep her curls pulled back. And I will not make her straighten it, or blow dry it. When she is old enough, I am sure she would want to experiment with it. Until that time, I am going to let her know how wonderful it is, and how beautiful she is.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Post a Comment