With the onslaught of media, celebrities, and even our families dissing our natural hair, standing proud for your curls can be hard. Nikki Walton, psychotherapist and NAACP Image Award nominated author of Better Than Good Hair dives into why we are so unhappy with our curls, and explains why your thoughts and opinions are the only ones that matter.
ESSENCE.com: Why are women so unhappy with their curls?
Nikki Walton: We live in a world where straight hair is the beauty standard. It has been deemed socially appropriate for all situations, where textured hair has not. In fact, in a global study Dove Hair found that only 10% of women in the US with curly hair feel proud of their hair, and sadly, only four in ten little girls with curly hair think their hair is beautiful. We’re also seeing that highly textured hair is often considered unprofessional, unattractive and looked upon as something that needs to be corrected.
ESSENCE.com: What can women do to make themselves feel better about their hair type?
Nikki Walton: Many curly girls have spent the majority of their lives working against their hair, so my number one piece of advice would be to work with your texture. Find a stylist that knows her way around a curl and get a cute shape to enhance your natural texture. Then, find products to help make your wash and go great! If you want a little hang-time, try twist-out and braid-outs. Avoid heat and following bloggers/YouTubers that have hair that's very different from yours. Those vids are great for inspiration, but it's better to follow folks with a texture and length similar to you, and even then, don't expect the same results!
ESSENCE.com: Should women give more or less attention to their hair? Why?
Nikki Walton: It's difficult to generalize and give advice for how much attention women 'should' give to their hair. As I mentioned in my book, Better Than Good Hair, when women are going natural, it's usually after a decade or two (or three) of altering their hair texture and being fed images of the straight hair beauty standard. I (And others like me) were never taught to care for our hair in its natural state—we were taught how to keep our hair straight. Because of this, there will be a period of time in the early stages of transition where women will spend a ton of time acquainting themselves with their hair. But as time goes on and the excitement has worn off, you'll be in a new groove. When you walk down the street, you're no longer super self-conscious of your hair—you realize that even if people are staring, it's probably because they're admiring your dopeness, and even if they're aren't, who cares. Your full attention has returned to your family, your career, your hobbies and your hair, has become just another part of what makes you, you.
ESSENCE.com: How can we make our sense of attractiveness better connected to confidence and positive self-esteem?
Nikki Walton: Unfortunately we live in a world where appearance matters, a lot. But there are a few things you can do build real self-esteem
1. Take less stock in other people's opinions. That includes snide remarks and compliments about your hair or overall appearance. It should be YOUR thoughts and feelings that really matter.
2. Practice positive self-talk. Become more mindful and watch your automatic thoughts. Do your best to push the negative, self-defeating and destructive thoughts from your mind.
3. Practice an attitude of gratitude and stop to give thanks for your amazing accomplishments, talents and skills. We often get caught up on 'what's next' and sometimes entirely dismiss the present moment. Focusing on your natural gifts and how you can be of service to your community and the world will naturally re-prioritize your life.