When I first started transitioning from a relaxer to natural hair over five years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d had chemically straightened hair for most of my life and had no idea what my hair texture would be. Would it be super curly like YouTube hair guru Naptural85’s or full and kinky like AfricanExport’s gorgeous mane?

Six months into my transition I grew weary of the process and big chopped: My hair was nothing like I’d imagined. It wasn’t nearly as full as I’d hoped and there weren’t really any curls. It was just…there. An undefined ball of frizz. As time passed I learned how to style my texture. It looked good enough, but I still secretly wished it were different—bigger, bouncier, thicker.  Some of you are judging me right now. But the truth is, at one time or another, most of us have yearned for someone else’s curls. You saw your curly ideal once, perhaps on one of your naturalista idols and then you mentally copy-pasted your head to that hair. And when that hair didn’t turn out to be your hair, you were disappointed—and maybe even envious.

A few months back, curly icon Tracee Ellis Ross reacted to the fact that so many women idealize her boingy mane: “I love that you love my hair, but I only love that you love my hair if it inspires you to love your own,” says Ross. She encouraged women to adore what simply grows out of their own heads, and I’m here to do the same. Manage your expectations from the time you decide to transition to the time your curls are fully grown. Know that your bantu knot out won’t look like that of your hair crush. Get to know your hair. Experiment with new products and read trusted hair care sources. That process of discovery should be fun. It’s like falling in love. There may be some bumps along the way, but they’ll only make your appreciation for your hair stronger.
I learned to love my hair through that process of caring for it and had some amazing revelations. First, my hair wasn’t the hot, boiling mess I’d initially believed it to be. In fact, it was beautiful. It was cottony soft. It was kinky coily. It was all mine. And as time passed, the anxiety and frustration I’d experienced while styling went away because I’d become a pro at caring for my locks. So ladies, embrace every kink or curl. Explore that big ball of fuzz. The key to loving is knowing.

What say you? Have you ever had hair envy? How did you learn to love your hair just the way it is? Let me know in the comment section below.