For as long as I can remember, I’ve been at war with my hair. A life plagued by failed hair experiments, ranging from the latest straightening fads to a ghastly spiral perm disaster. The cherry on top is the warehouse full of styling products and gadgets I’ve purchased over the years; expensive and broken promises from cosmetic companies that fill my bathroom cabinet.
Friends, war isn’t cheap.
My earliest memories involve waking in the morning and seeing my hair in a feral like state around my head. Wild, with a mind of it’s own, my doo never quite looked like the others girls in school.
I recall sitting in the elementary school cafeteria, enviously staring across the lunchroom at a girl with perfectly smooth hair. Thinking how easy her life must be with hair silky to the touch and that bounced when she ran. I imagined her jumping out of bed with nothing more than a quick pull back of her tresses into the perfect ponytail. I hated her and her Pantene commercial hair.
I’m one of those people whom the good Lord blessed with naturally wavy/ curly hair. But here’s the problem. I didn’t discover that my hair was this texture until I was in my early twenties. Yep, you read that right. For two L O N G decades, I treated my locks as if they were straight. Which meant, I did not grow up being taught the sacred rule that girls with curly hair know:
Never ever, no matter what, brush your curls!
Oh, no. I never got that particular memo. Instead, I used my big plastic wired brush to rip through my tresses like it was my job. Brushing out my natural waves into what could only be described as frizz helmet. Bless my heart; I just thought I had thick, bushy hair. I didn’t realize that underneath that frizz were curls dying to get out. (I’d show you a picture, but I’m pretty sure all evidence was destroyed.)
Friends, I didn’t get the nickname Mufasa for nothin.
I was the kid constantly ridiculed for my frizzy mane. I was lovingly called horse head and asked if I used Mop & Glow to wash my hair. Ouch! Right? Little by little, with every jab a lie took root in my heart: God made a mistake when He created you. You are ugly and need to change your appearance in order to be loved.
Words are extremely powerful and hit deeply to the core of our identities. Some women may have been teased about their weight and others about their skin color, but whatever the source of the shame we can carry the sting of these words well into adulthood. Through my formative years, I gradually began to agree with the voice that said I was a mistake. It may seem trivial to discuss hair and self-worth when there are so many other pressing matters in the world. But hear me out, this is a bigger deal than the hair on my head; this is about the voice that whispered shame and self-hatred into my ears. And girls, you know we all battle that voice from time to time. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what you look like. I read stories all the time of supermodels that struggle with body image issues and drop dead gorgeous women who hate how they look.
Sure, there were many other factors that contributed to my self-hatred that loomed large around me: early childhood wounds of rejection only seemed to validate the voice that taunted me.
Here lies the problem; my ears were not tuned to the voice of Jesus to discover my true value. My entire identity was wrapped up in what people thought of me. (Talk about a prison!). Like most girls my age, I gave more power to magazine covers and guys to determine my worth. In many ways, my hair became a symbol of my heart: a big mess tangled with shame and insecurity.
As I said, this post isn’t just about hair.
Friends, we all share the same enemy whom Jesus called the “father of lies.”
He will use anything to lead us down a path of destruction. Over time, he planted seeds of self-hatred so deeply in me that by the time I was in college I was extremely insecure. I would allow guys to treat me like trash because I didn’t believe I was worth more. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: We behave how we believe. Without the inner confidence that comes from the love and acceptance found only in Jesus, I lived out of the shame and insecurity that I felt on the inside.
Praise to the Lord above for redeeming my life when I was twenty-five years old. Sure, this meant He forgave my sin and covered me with His grace, but there was much more—I began to experience true freedom from the voice. Deep inside, where that well of shame resided, Jesus spoke words of love, acceptance and freedom over me. Jesus alone is the Voice of Truth, and He alone has the right to define us. Day by day, His truth began to set me free. At first, I didn’t recognize the internal transformation that was occurring, but one day I realized I was walking in more freedom and coming to a place of self-acceptance. As I walked with Jesus, His Voice became more powerful than the one that said I was a mistake. His truth renewed my mind and counteracted the voice of shame. One of my favorite scriptures says it best:
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
Ironically, around the same time that Jesus was setting me free from shame, I discovered my natural curl. I think I was in a hurry one day and had to “wash and go” and as my hair dried it fell into loose ringlets down my back. Once I made this fabulous discovery, a friend with naturally curly hair began to “disciple me.” She taught me the ins & outs of curl maintenance. (Thank you, Leti) After a while, I got to the point that I would intentionally wear my hair curly and not hate it.
I’ve discovered in the decade or so since I began walking with Jesus the beauty of self-acceptance. There isn’t a place of external perfection that we can achieve and feel free. This freedom is rooted 100% in knowing my identity in Jesus. What I didn’t know as a young woman was that I would never be free from shame until I found my worth fully in the price Jesus paid for me on the cross. Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and God said that I was “worth dying for.” Today, these words define me. I pray you’ll take these words as your own. Don’t listen to that ugly voice of self-hatred.
Here’s the deal about insecurity: there’s always a new standard of pretty. As women, we will never hit the invisible mark, and our enemy will continually provide images for us to compare ourselves to. The only freedom from this prison of comparison is to not play his game. Instead, we must look to Jesus for our real value and don’t allow something as fickle as a number on a scale or a style of hair to define us.
We must embrace the fact that God created us uniquely, and we are each fearfully and wonderfully made. So if your hair is curly or straight, whether you are curvy or skinny, whether you skin is ebony or ivory, our Creator designed each of us beautifully.
The secret is to discover your version of pretty and rock it.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected
if it is received with thanksgiving,
1 Timothy 4:4
Don’t get me wrong; I love a good blowout. Wearing my hair blown out straight makes me feel more polished and pulled together. But over the years, I’ve also learned to rock my curls…and girls, let me just say … it is liberty! There’s nothing like the “wash and go” ease of wearing my natural doo.
So, for any of my curly haired friends out there let me close with some final tips from a girl who discovered her waves later in life.
- CURLS LOVE MOISTURE! Shampoo. Condition. Rinse and Condition again… just for kicks.
- DO NOT COMB YOUR CURLS! (If you need to comb through tangles, then do so in the shower with plenty of water and conditioner!)
- Use a T-Shirt To Dry: Once you finish washing/ conditioning. Do not comb through your wet hair. Just shake it out and use an old t-shirt to scrunch and sop up excess water. DON’T TOUCH THE WET CURLS AS THEY DRY.
- Product: Apply product to the outside layer of the hair, try not to separate the curls when you apply product and let the hair air-dry.Choose a curl product for your specific type of curl. My new favorite product is Pantene’s No Crunch Curl Whip. It leaves curls bouncy but not sticky.
Rock your pretty!
Marian Jordan Ellis
Founder & President of RGM
Photography by Justin Ellis