Being Authentic: Does It Mean Wearing My Hair Natural?
In the past week, I’ve heard the word ‘authentic’ repeatedly from three women who I consider to be my mentors. Its been either mentioned to me directly or in an intimate setting with other women. Being followed by a word or topic, reminded me of times when I have heard different pastors preach on the exact same topic and I felt it was the message needed for that moment in time - a message that was relevant to key events or situations that we faced as human beings, and usually a message of hope.
According to the Google dictionary, authentic means “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.” Until this past weekend, I have associated being authentic with a certain outer appearance, particularly when it comes to Black women. In my mind, authentic Black women wore their hair in a natural or real state, put on minimal makeup, and usually wore African print clothing. Natural hair was the main telling feature, whether in afro state, relaxed or as dreadlocks - that is what I have often associated with “authentic”. I think I was influenced by the natural hair movement which says that as Black women we need to love and wear our natural hair sort of as our ”default” hair because it’s our identity, and to an extent alludes that if you don’t wear you hair natural, you don’t love yourself. So, since I mostly don Brazilian/Peruvian hair, I subconsciously decided that I wasn’t authentic and I was fine with it.
“Stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone.”
Things changed this past weekend. I realised that I have been thinking about what it means to be authentic all wrong. I learnt that being authentic is about being genuine - being honest about who you are at your core - your mind and soul, why you are the way you are, accepting yourself irregardless of anything else, and showing up as yourself in all places and situations. It’s not only about hair or makeup preference. If being authentic was about being closest to your natural physical state, then a lot would need to change, basically the way we live these days. But, it’s not always easy being true to yourself, which is why it’s become a buzzword. It’s hard to stand firmly rooted in who you are when you’re surrounded by people who seem to think that you should be how they are, but it’s worth it. If it makes you happy and doesn’t harm anyone else directly, then why not? If it means you’re being silly to a few people - so what? I‘ve never heard of any icon who attributed their success to going with the crowd - but I’ve heard many attribute it to challenging stereotypes and “going against the grain”. So, in the words of Maya Angelou “Do you boo!”. Stay true to yourself.