“Your hair, queen, is a gift from God.
Given to reflect your splendor.
Your hair, queen, is an extension of your greatness.”

– excerpt from the poem “Glory”

Whether we realize it or not, hair is used as a measuring tool, especially in our professions. We assume a person has a certain level of professionalism depending on the color, cut, and style of their hair. The industries we work in have unspoken (or sometimes written) rules about the way in which our hair should be kept. Some of us follow these rules while others defiantly refuse to fall in line with them. I’ll admit I was once the person that opted for conservative hairstyles to avoid going against the grain. I would push the limits with the clothes I wore, or show bits of my eclectic personality with accessories but wouldn’t dare try it with my hair – until I went natural.

The summer of 2015 was the last time I relaxed my hair. With careful consideration I decided that I wanted to experience my hair without harsh chemicals and slathered “creamy crack” on my roots for the last time. I wasn’t prepared for what came next. In fact, the slow transition had me fooled. I was still able to straighten my hair with heat and wear it bone straight with minimal maintenance. It stayed down when I wanted it to and stayed slicked to my scalp with the smallest amount of gel. Until it didn’t. Suddenly I was left with curls that didn’t obey me or my flat iron.

When I could no longer wear my hair down without it turning into a ball of frizz I sought comfort in ponytails and buns. I trimmed my ends religiously in hopes to ease the frustration I felt when it took longer than usual to wash my hair due to the changes in its texture. There weren’t any other women of color in my department at work that shared my specific plight. The other women wore their hair down, in neat ponytails, or in stylish buns thrown together in haste – their straight hair sometimes damp from their morning shower. I looked outside of my department for hair inspo and noticed that there were women that switched up their appearance with stylish wigs, extensions, or voluminous twist outs. I lacked the patience to venture into natural styles that involved wash-and-go’s and flexirods and settled on extensions with minimal leave out. I appreciated its convenience and low maintenance but felt a moment of panic before walking into work after getting it installed.

“Would I have to field questions about the sudden change in length?”
“Would we have awkward conversation about why I chose to add length and volume to hair?

I prayed they wouldn’t notice it and most of them didn’t. I eventually needed a break from extensions and returned to the box braids of my youth. And like before I felt a moment of panic followed by second thoughts.

“Would my co-workers think it’s too long?
“Will my patients think I look too ‘ethnic’ or too young?”

Then it hit me. I was confronted with the root of my fear of changing my hair despite longing for something new. When it came down to it, I wanted to change my appearance without scrutiny, stereotype, and without question. This desire heightened when I overheard a co-worker discuss the hair of another woman who works in our hospital (that happened to have large-sized faux-locs).

“Her hair is just too big. ”
Another co-worker chimed in. “And it’s not even her natural hair color.”

Oddly enough, knowing the thoughts of others around me didn’t deter me from pursuing my next hairstyle. Avoiding relaxers meant I needed protective styles more than ever so after returning to extensions for a second time I made my gutsiest move yet (which is kind of tame in the grand scheme of hairstyles that ever existed). I came to work with braids that not only had volume but also covered the entire length of my back. Now, it wasn’t my initial intention to have them that long but a simple miscommunication between my hair-stylist resulted in a gorgeous hairstyle that boosted my confidence and made me feel great. As expected, my hair garnered a lot attention. I avoided having my hair touched as much as possible, I was called sassy, fierce, and asked to whip my hair like Willow Smith (sigh). The response was overwhelming positive but even if it hadn’t been I would still love it just the same.

I decided that the state of my hair would not be dictated or controlled by others. I am free to cut or shave my hair, add extensions, color, or wear it in braids, twists, or in its natural state whenever I please. I do not owe anyone an explanation as to why I experiment with my hair. I will not shy away from a hairstyle I love because someone may not like it (or in the worst case talk about me). I won’t worry about fitting in because I know that my hair, my glorious crown, is not meant to fit into a box of what is deemed acceptable. I choose not to forfeit the opportunity to express myself in order to make someone else feel comfortable. I challenge you to do the same. If you don’t already, bravely wear your God-given (or purchased) hair in a way that reflects your personality and makes you feel beautiful. It doesn’t matter if your head is completely free of hair, full of it, or somewhere in between. You are beautiful no matter its length, texture, style, or color. Share your greatness and wear it with pride.