Multi-ethnic Hair and Self Esteem
Self-deprecation – we all do it, and usually for laughs.
Now my kids are doing it, and it’s a little worrisome and really NOT funny.
For me, the self-deprecation has ALWAYS been about my hair. Wild, wooly and wonderful! Of course, I didn’t realize that until I was an adult. It was so different from everyone around me – my own mother’s even. And she was often negative about how to take care of it, saying, “I just can’t take care of it, I don’t know what to do with it.”
I know she loved me dearly, but it seemed like she hated my hair, and it sunk in and stuck with me, so I hated it too. I was one of those little girls that would run around with a dishtowel on my head, pretending to be a princess and saying, “look at my long beautiful straight hair.”
Of course, I was teased by some kids at my school, by my brother, by my white cousins and even aunts and uncles – and it hurt.
As I got older, I started the self-deprecation – before anyone else could get to it. And I inflicted a lot of damage to my hair with chemicals, color, and heat, to try to make it into what I thought was beautiful, straight hair or to have looser curls. I thought if I could change that one thing about myself, life would be so much better.
I recall, though, two very good friends of mine in high school. One was a very tall girl, over 6 feet tall. Another had terrible facial acne. Both of them were teased, even bullied by those around us.
We all took terrible hits to our self-esteem, and though I am now very confident in myself and who I am, those old, bad feelings still break through once in a while. I realized later on that it wasn’t just about me and my hair, but ANYTHING that someone can seize on that is different from them will be fodder for teasing. We all use self-deprecation as a defense mechanism, but we really shouldn’t.
So, I have really started to get this into check, especially around my children, instead saying, “look at my thick beautiful curly hair. Yours is just like mine.”
I am replacing negative comments with love and positivity, even and especially during hair care time with them. “Our hair is a wonderful gift – curly and wavy and wonderful.”
For people out there who hate their hair, or parents whose kids’ hair is not like their own and maybe drives them a bit mad, I suggest that you avoid the anger. Do your best to get past the frustration that comes out when we have 10 minutes to do 60 minutes worth of work in the morning, and the detangling and hair styling is not cooperating. And skip the negative comments about yourself, if you have hair that is sometimes uncooperative. Kids pick it up and mirror it back to us.
Do your best to try to replace that angst. We can’t always change the outside world, as hard as we might try. But in your house, show your kids that they always are loved at home for who they are and how they look.
And let them know that in your home and in your heart, there is great appreciation for the wonderful locks with which we have been gifted.
* Dr. Ena Hennegan is the founder and CEO of Many Ethnicities, LLC, the industry’s newest personal care brand. Many Ethnicities was created specifically to address the unique challenges of multi-ethnic hair. Dr. Ena’s brand launches and will be available to the public in the spring of 2017.