As I was sitting on the bed this morning, struggling to blow dry my hair with my one good arm, thoughts came to mind about personal appearances.
To tell this story, I will have to backtrack into my life growing up.
I grew up in rural Oklahoma in mostly small farming towns. They were all located within the boundaries of tribal reservations. I am an indigenous person who is an enrolled member of one of the tribes.
When you grow up in the country the way you dress is never about appearances but out of necessity. Jeans, tennis shoes, and t-shirts were my norm. I was a rowdy child, people called me a “tomboy,” and having longer hair was more of a nuisance whether it was down in my face or pulled back into a ponytail.
It was not until I went to a bigger school district from fourth through seventh grade when my appearance began playing a part in how I viewed myself as a person.
Bullied by peers because of my skin color and ethnicity, including comments about my wavy, out of control hair and thick glasses. My hair was shoulder length, black in color, and not straight. The offenders of my appearance were Caucasian girls with straight hair or their male friends. There were on occasion when other tomboys would purposely put stuff in my hair like pencil shavings, gum, tape, and food to instigate a fight. It was a tough time living there and I was so grateful to move to an even bigger city by my eighth-grade year.
I thought things would be different or get better but it did not.
Over the course of a couple of years my hair grew to my waist where I kept it until I left for basic military training after high school.
In high school, the bullying or harassment continued by other minorities both male and female. Again, I would have things put into my hair, but the worse part was having other indigenous students treating me the same way.
The day I cut it all off to just under my ears, my mother cried over it. I was heading off into the military and knew I would not be able to manage it. It was the spring of 1990.
My hair stayed the same length until September 2019 when I decided that I would no longer cut it once I reached the age of fifty. It is past my shoulders now and still growing.
The saying of a woman’s hair is her “Crowning Glory” had a different meaning for me.
I would change the color, cut it, shave it, add extensions, braid it, and curl it, depending on what I was going through or who it would it annoy the most.
The people in my life seemed to attach their ideals of me to how my hair looked. Whether it was family, relationships, friendships, or co-workers.
Their true nature would come out when I changed how I looked. It was my only way of knowing how toxic they truly were. Personal connections with others became lost in the process.
Now, I am not saying that my hair had “mystical” affect over these people. To these others, it was about me staying the “same” and their power over our relationship with one another. If they were happy with me, I would get compliments and they would be nice to me. If they were not, I would get verbal and emotional abuse instead, all related to my appearance and my hair.
This only provided the fuel I needed to either lash out or bury those feelings even deeper. This compounded the stress and anxiety I was constantly under, making the depression spiral bigger until I finally came to a reckoning point.
It was not until my ex-husband passed away when I began to accept myself and my own appearance.
I have written previously about the fact that I never liked taking pictures because I hated the way I looked. That changed with that pivot moment in life. I did not have any reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed anymore. I was free from the emotional and verbal abuse. I was not going to take it anymore from anyone to include my own family.
It is true that I still have weak moments, but they do not last.
I remember the time during this journey when I cut over half of my hair off in March of 2019.
I had a very misogynistic co-worker that made a comment about my hair and equating it to how he believed women should behave for the men in their life. He had stated that’s why his girlfriend/fiancée knew to get permission before changing her hair.
That same day, a person that I was talking to online, and thought was a friend, had made a similar comment about my hair. I had said that I was thinking about coloring it, but he objected to the idea saying he liked my hair long but should straighten it more. He went as far as stating if I changed it, then we could not talk to each other anymore.
I cut it shorter that same evening after I left work. It was long on one side and shaved short on the other. I blocked the online person and the co-worker backed off making further comments about my appearance.
I think the reason for the reactions is because when I am in control of myself the self-esteem and my ego receive a boost of confidence. I take back my power from them and in those moments, they realize that they are no longer in control. Toxic, narcissistic people need that control in their favor otherwise they cannot get what they want out of the other person. Verbal, physical, and emotional abuse are the only weapons they have.
The other issue resulting from the years of dealing with toxic people is the lack of trust and being on constant guard about others true intentions. I know that not everyone is looking to get something from me, but it does make receiving true and honest compliments harder to accept. I usually do not know how to react. My mind automatically goes into protection mode, and I normally do not respond.
This flaw in my thought process requires rebuilding through mental health therapy. Learning how to trust others is a big obstacle for me that I have been chipping away at for the last 5 years.
I am learning to see the beautiful parts of myself, but it is still a struggle.
It has been a long journey to get here.
There is no turning back now.
Thank you for stopping by.
Have a great week!