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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

My Natural Self

I was scrolling through Pinterest the other day and came across this anonymous quote: “Being Natural is not a statement, it’s the closest I can get to being myself.”

Although it seemed inspirational and uplifting, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disconnect. For me, wearing my natural hair out has always felt like a statement: something to be commented on, explained or covered. I never truly felt comfortable in my “most natural self.” Growing up I was always excited to get my hair done and never left my natural hair out for more than 24 hours. The routine was ‘simple’: mark down a free weekend, take out the previous style, comb and furiously detangle, wash, allow to air-dry and be ready for eight painful hours in the salon chair the next day—see, simple.

Because of how constant this was, I never really learned how to take care of my hair. This mentality relied on a mixture of convenience and aesthetics: with braids, I didn’t have to worry about ‘dealing with my hair’ and I would receive compliments with every new hairstyle. This spanned from friends to random people in the hallway, to teachers who wondered just how my hair grew so fast in three days. Yes, we were kids and yes, they always meant well, but it didn’t make me feel any more confident in my natural 4C hair.

A Young Age

These feelings were deeply rooted and stemmed from as early as 10 years old; I still remember my first attempt to wear my hair out at school in the fifth grade. The hairdresser that I was supposed to go to over the weekend cancelled my appointment, so I was forced to attend school without extensions. Despite what I’ve said about my confidence in my hair, I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was excited to show it to my best friend at the time, hoping that she’d validate the fact that I’d tried something different. 

It didn’t go well. 

I can’t remember exactly what was said but I do remember feeling my heartbeat pounding in my ears as I walked through the hallway to find her before school started; then feeling crushed immediately afterwards.

Events like that simply reinforced what I’d always seen in the media: that 4C hair was difficult to manage, dry, brittle, and needed to be relaxed, straightened or covered. Most of my family in Nigeria relaxed their hair and simply dealt with the upkeep. Unfortunately, that proved to be nearly impossible in the dry, cold Canadian weather. I was forced to leave my hair the way it was. I didn’t realize the blessing it was at the time but my mom refused to relax my hair. Hers went through near-irreversible damage, resulting in an infamous big chop and hair that never really grew back the same.

Making Changes Over The Summer 

This summer, everything changed. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to deal with the painstaking realization that things cost money, and as time goes on the upkeep gets more and more expensive. Going to Carleton meant moving to Ottawa which meant that I’d have to deal with the hair situation sooner rather than later. I no longer had my mom near to plan my appointments, take me to them and well, pay for them. The cost of doing hair was on the rise, and I for one was not willing to pay the price— at least not as frequently as my mom had. This summer I had four months of glorious free time. It was just me and my hair since my usual stylists had moved on to different, more stable careers during COVID. So I did what all Gen Z do when they’re new to something: I pulled up YouTube and typed: natural 4C hairstyles into the search bar. The result was an onslaught of videos with different styles that I had never even considered. I watched countless tutorials and spent hours fiddling with my hair, messing up my bathroom and then taking cute pictures of myself afterwards. 

This shift led to more meaningful ones in my life. I started to fine-tune the beauty standards available to me on social media. I followed more black celebrities, small creators and natural hair connoisseurs who helped me find beauty in myself. I bought supplies and a million creams but as I slowly began to figure it out, I started to notice a ‘healing’ of my inner child. I went out with a friend with a natural hairstyle for the first time in ages to watch the new live-action The Little Mermaid, I didn’t feel ugly in the photos we took and saw my smile brighten. I even went into job interviews with my natural hair in a cute updo (and got the job!). All of this felt validating as I saw my hair transform as I just let it do its thing. It grew healthier and thicker than I’d ever seen it.

My family members also noticed the transformation. After one of my interviews, my mom sat me down to let me know that she was proud of me. Her exact words were: “I love how you’re handling your hair these days, you’re just owning it.” Part of me knows that she was just happy to save money but another part knew how much this meant to her as someone who fought similar battles, and that has stuck with me ever since.

A Positive Self Image

Although my natural hair journey is far from over and I won’t be abandoning extensions-based protective styles anytime soon, I now feel more comfortable in letting my hair breathe for longer in between appointments and not shying away from displaying it at professional events. Building a positive self-image is a never-ending battle and I’m glad that the better part of mine has just begun.

Teni is the current Campus Correspondent of Her Campus at Carleton! She oversees and supports the executive team, ensures that HCHQ requirements are met, and acts as a final reviewer of all articles. Outside of Teni’s Her Campus duties, she is a second-year student in the Public Affairs and Policy Management Program, with a specialization in Communication Technologies and Regulation in addition to a French minor. Teni is passionate about racial advocacy and has administrative experience through organizations like CATIE where she worked as a Research Assistant. Within the role, she updated the public service directory of community-based organizations along with their internal database. On campus, she works as a Front-Desk Associate at Carleton’s Center for Student Academic Support. In terms of extracurriculars, she has kept busy with clubs like BSA (The Black Student Alliance) and BSPA (Black Students in Public Affairs), where she volunteered at an Afrofuturism conference and made lifelong connections with other Black students in PAPM. To relieve stress, Teni thrives in the realm of escapism, ranging from fantasy books to reality TV. As a lover of the arts, she uses poetry as a creative outlet and aspires to be a published author alongside a career in either Law or Public Policy.