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Being African

One year dreadlocks journey : 3 things I’ve learned about identity and self image

Dreadlocks is one of those hairstyle which I think a lot of people struggle to understand. It’s in the number of questions I’ve gotten about them and how they work that made me rush to that conclusion. Oh! and it’s in the unsolicited advice from people who just wish I could go back to braiding normally since this hairstyle on my head is bothering them so much, they don’t like it so I should just go back to braiding for their comfort.

What many don’t know is I have beautiful hair, like really thick, amazing hair, but when natural, combing ain’t fun, in rare occasion when people refused to braid me and offered an alternative for me to relax, I ended up getting burned. And so for a long time I associated hair with pain. I hated when people were touching my hair to do anything. For a long time I left taking care of my hair other people’s business which made me feel bored by the activity and uninterested in the whole hair matters and a small part of me ended up feeling like I’m not in control of my appearance. The day I decided to cut my hair and then a year later decided to start my dreadlock journey were two days in my life where I felt in control of my hair, my head and hence in control of me. So when people offer advice on what to do with my hair, what they don’t realize is that this new style symbolize freedom and control to me. I know dreadlocks symbolize different things to different people, which is all beautiful and commendable for me, it symbolized taking back power and control and some form of personal and spiritual awakening, a journey that I was on before I got them. Not gonna go in depth about the spiritual aspect of it all but here are the things I have learned since I started my loc journey a year ago;

  • Own your identity

When I was in college I used to be a daring person when it comes to my hair. I loved to think and create hairstyles that were different and then go try them out. After graduation it seemed like you can’t try different styles out because there were certain styles that were accepted in people’s offices, so we are not that different from North Korea after all. What I was craving is a personal freedom to be creative with your hair, how you dress and how you present yourself. I am a believer in individuation so I really love it when people try out something different, I love it when they are different from the crowd. I should mention that I didn’t get locs because people who have them are looked at as different, I got them because I wanted to start a journey that has me choosing my identity and looks. I felt like deciding to do something as this on my head was a way of choosing how I show up in the world and hence owning my own identity.

  • Following your desires even if people talk you out of it

Like I shared, a lot of people feel some kind of way about dreads and it is totally okay that they do. What this journey has taught me is the knowledge that my self image is not determined by what people love to see me on, but what I love for myself. I feel like that is freedom. In a world where there’s a lot of noise on what a woman should or should not be, should or should not look like, choosing your own look and being confident wearing that look is a different kind of a vibe. I feel like that’s when I really learned to accept myself, be myself and love myself.

  • Patience, patience, patience

Growing dreadlocks is a journey. Like a journey that needs you to be patient in the progress that your making. There are days when you feel like your hair is longer, only for shrinkage to make you feel like your hair hasn’t grown after washing it. It is also a journey that needs patience in learning what works for you, the products, if you prefer salon or just freeforming, it is a hairstyle that has you very much growing with your hair. And we all know patience is required in living life, so it’s a good lesson and skill that my hair helps me learn.

And those are the lessons I feel like this one year of having dreadlocks has taught me. If you have dreads what are some of the things you have learned when growing them?


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