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Lessons I’ve learned From My Curly Hair: Wisdom for Navigating Life

Lessons I’ve learned from my curly hair. Where do I begin? Curly hair. Love it or hate it, it’s mine. There’s no escaping it. Since the moment my hair began to grow at the age of 18 months, white-blonde curls bounced around my little head. 

As a child I was aware that my hair was different to some in my world. But as I met my teen years I became more acutely aware that I did not fit the long, straight or perfectly permed-hair stereotype. It was the 1980’s. So let’s be honest, there was little available in the way of curly hair products to help tame my wild mane. A particular source of frustration for so many years. Short curly hair was where it was at for me for much of my teens. My hairdresser loved that I gave her permission to experiment with my unruly locks. 

I recall hearing all sorts of myths about how to ‘straighten’ curly hair, including having a baby. In all honesty that option didn’t carry a whole lot of appeal to me at the age of 16! There were many interesting suggestions offered in my desperate attempt to reverse the ‘gift’ of curly hair I’d been blessed with!

Does all curly hair take forever to grow?

Does all curly hair take forever to grow out, or is it just mine? After a brave and vulnerable moment early in 2001 I directed my friend to cut, actually shave, my longer than shoulder-length locks to a ‘number 4’. Then I dyed it bleach blonde! GI Jane became my pet name for a while after that. I loved the new look AND the time it saved me in maintenance! That was, UNTIL it began growing out and the curls started to appear once again. 

As I sat and reflected on the decades of my ever-evolving love-hate relationship with my curly hair I recognised a few important lessons I’ve learnt. (Don’t be surprised by my therapist-spin on these!)

1. Don’t believe everything you think.

    “It’s way too short”

    “It’s too curly”

    “I look like a freak”

    “It looks awful”

I would stand in front of the mirror for hours trying to find a new solution to hiding my curls (as a teen). I would spend equally as much time trying to straighten my fringe (bangs for the US girls) with a hot ‘curling’ iron (ironic right!?!)

Over the years those types of thoughts frequently filled my mind. But there was always at least one (or more) people who complimented me on whatever style I had going on at the time. Even the GI Jane look.

This is one of the more powerful realisations I’ve had about my personal growth. Learning to catch my thoughts and filter them into objective truth and lies was a massive game changer. Once I knew I had control over which thoughts I accepted and rejected, my thought life took on an increasingly empowered posture. One that has transformed my inner world radically over the years.

2. Growth takes time (often more than you think).

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about having naturally curly hair is knowing that once it’s cut it takes SO MUCH LONGER than our straight-hair friends to grow back!!! 

From the age of about 11 to age 18 I wore my curly hair short. I rarely allowed it to get long because it took such a ridiculous amount of time to get there.

As mentioned above, January of 2001 was when I became a little more daring. One spontaneous moment led to me having my hair shaved off (sparing a 2cm length of hair across my entire head)! I loved it! Initially at least. But it didn’t take me long to discover the painful reality of how long it would actually take to grow it out. Not to mention the many months of awkward growth in between. 

Personal growth is so incredibly similar! It can be exciting and a little frightening to embark on the journey of change. We have euphoric moments. And moments when we doubt we’re even on the right path. And every awkward part of the process in between. 

3. Trust the process.

As a curly haired girl, especially in my long hair seasons, I eventually learnt that towel drying my hair was a necessity! Any other method would never make the grade.

The next most important part of the drying/styling process is to sleep with my hair tied back, for the above-said reasons. Also to avoid any unrecoverable, crazy knots in those curly locks.

Now, with almost half a century of living with curly hair I trust this process to bring a (more) predictable result.  

It’s so important to trust the process in our growth journey too! There is a natural ebb and flow as we learn to embrace change and growth in our lives. Not usually easy. But normal nonetheless. To be expected. It takes practice. Along with a bit of trial and error along the way.

4. Sometimes it’s good to mix things up.

Oh my goodness! If there’s one thing I learned a very long time ago, it’s this. When I find the ‘perfect’ curly-hair product, it gets taken off the market! Talk about anxiety provoking! So I’ve had to learn to mix things up a little (a lot actually!) where products are concerned. Slightly frustrating at times. But again, as I’ve gained more understanding and experience with curly hair I’ve discovered that it’s actually good for the health of my hair to not use the same product all of the time. Same with shampoo and conditioner. Changing it up occasionally is a good idea.

They say “Variety is the spice of life right?” Honestly, I think variety is good for us. Even the most routine and introverted of us. Mixing things up occasionally brings opportunity to invite new people and experiences into our lives, broadening our perspective and enhancing our hearts and minds. As a self-proclaimed introvert I have grown enormously as I’ve embraced variety in my life in many moments.

5. For every person whose straight hair I’ve envied, there is someone out there who envies my curls.

So maybe instead of fighting against what God gave me I’m better off accepting myself the way I am, curls and all. I’ve learned to embrace my hair. And I thank God for my gorgeous hair dresser who has her own set of amazing curls! Without her I’m lost! She’s the only one I’ve grown to trust with my curls….so when she took maternity leave TWICE over the past few years I was completely lost! 

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ve often looked at the lives and successes of others and envied what they have. As I’ve grown along my journey I’ve learned to look more at others for inspiration, as opposed to comparison. Comparison kills at every turn. It kills our joy, our motivation, our sense of self and our innate purpose.

And for every person I’ve ever envied there is someone out there who looks at me (and you) and envies what we have. Fact is this. Onlookers rarely know the struggles, the battles that individuals face behind the perceived success.

Wisdom we can ALL adopt from the life of a curly haired girl.

Moral of the story is this. Learn to embrace YOU. Your gifts and quirks. Your looks.

Just embrace YOU for who YOU have been created to be.

That does not mean we never have to address or work on areas of our life requiring change. While we have breath there will always be room for growth in our life. It wouldn’t be healthy or productive to deny that.

If I’ve learned any lesson from my curly hair that I can apply to my life it’s this: Self-acceptance is the one of the purest forms love. It’s where love flows from. When I learned to love my curly hair, even on those bad-hair days, I stopped fighting with it. I stopped telling myself I’d look better if I had hair like ‘everyone else’. I started telling myself how much I actually liked, even loved, my wild locks.

And today I can honestly say I’ve embraced my curls – even the awkward, in-between-growth, bad-hair days!

When we can truly love and accept ourselves while we’re still growing…WOW…that is a powerful, powerful position to embrace in life. Watch what flows out of that beautiful place. You’ll be amazed!

*A great article by one of my fellow-TWS-bloggers about growing forward. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did

**Here are just a few fun facts about what we curly-haired girls (and maybe guys too) experience due to our ‘gift of curls’.

Glenda O'Neill

Glenda is the founder and director of Novo Counselling, a private counselling practice situated in the beautiful North East Region of Victoria, Australia. She is especially passionate about helping women find release from the pain and baggage of their past as she journeys with them through life's challenges, toward emotional clarity and freedom. Marriage and Relationship counselling is also part of her skillset. In addition to her one-one-one work, Glenda leads an online community ‘The Empowered Mind’ where she is passionate about educating and inspiring women to bring life and growth to their inner world, as they grow stronger, more empowered minds. Her online presence continues to expand with her online consults and programs. Glenda is also a qualified teacher with over 23 years spent in education, mumma of three wonderful miracles, wife to one amazing husband, lover of life and proud Aussie.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sonya

    As I semi curly haired woman I totally understand. I have burned and broken my hair and spent hours trying to straighten it. Learning to love the curls.

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