My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 22: Building Confidence

Many, many years ago, when our teenage son was only about 5-6 years old, I can remember him reading a book to me.    The book was a bit above his reading level, but he very determinate about sounding out words with which he was unfamiliar.  I was genuinely impressed.   Each time he completed this exercise, I would interrupt his reading with, “Yay!!” or “What a good job!!”    He swelled with pride and worked increasingly harder with larger and larger words.

This would have the makings of a “great mom” moment, except that at some point, I became distracted.    There he was, sounding out syllables to the best of his abilities, and all he could hear were crickets chirping.    Suddenly, he stopped in the middle of his reading and said to me, “Why aren’t you proud of me any more?”    I could tell that he had lost motivation to continue, and though I tried to explain that I was no less proud of him but that something stole my attention momentarily, he soon closed the book and left (sigh).

The fact that I remember that incident so clearly all these years later is strange, except that I had my own experience with confidence (or lack thereof) not too long ago.  My natural hair journey is at a place, I think, where I have a regimen with which I’m comfortable, and I’ve read all the articles about conditioning, moisturizing, etc. that I could find revelatory.   I don’t, however, say that in arrogance; I still enjoy reading them, and I am always learning.   My hair is healthy and thriving enough such that I don’t read articles and make whole scale changes anymore.   BUT, in a summer that has been marked with record rains and the consequential humidity and blazing heat that follows, I have been experimenting with styles.   Specifically, I have looking for up-dos that can be worn casually for around-the-house moments or formally for my teaching days.

After watching a video on a summer up-do, I became inspired to experiment.   The idea was a couple of loose braids across the front that tied in back, joined by a few pinned-up twists in back.  The tendrils were to frame the front of the face.

bbullard summer updo july 2013

(Yes, I’m still in negotiations with myself about my gray).

I can safely say that this one didn’t go as well as I would have liked.   The youngest asked me in child-like candor what I did to my hair.   When I found the courage to ask if she liked it, her initial response was, “Truthfully?”    I knew where that was going.    She said it wasn’t one of my best styles.   I guess I should focus on the positive here; she is learning more diplomacy as she grows.

The oldest’s criticism was more constructive, though she didn’t give a look a much-desired “thumbs up,” either.     “The tendrils need to be higher on your hairline.”   Okay, I’ll take that as a suggestion that I should perhaps try the style once more with some customization.

In my mind, this moment of stretching myself with a new hair-do reminded me so much of our son’s reading experience, and it all led me to a question: where do we gain confidence?

For sure, the opinions of those closest to us count for something.    I suppose that’s why, even after I ventured out with my hair this way, but yet still wanted to hear from the kids what they thought.    And though others’ opinions don’t matter anywhere near as much as they once did, I will confess that once our daughters voiced their disapproval, I did became self-conscious.    While I was out, was anyone (or everyone) else looking at me crazily?   The problem with natural hairstyles and this whole journey “thing” is that you don’t always get that vote of confidence from others.   Unlike our young son, however, the task for the resolute is not to lose heart when the crowd isn’t cheering us on.   We must learn to do like David and encourage ourselves.  Moreover, we must gain confidence from who God says we are.   Here is one of my favorite passages of scripture that has truly been a foundation for this whole transition to my natural hair.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.  [Psalm 139:13-18]

bbullard july 2013 updo takedown pm 3I was still pondering all of these thoughts when I took my hair down later.    (You’ll indulge me in a Pinterest experiment with this second photo, won’t you?    I stared at my reflection, and I could not help but smile.    My hair, though dry, semi-tangled and ready for co-washing,  was exactly as my husband likes it.   He calls this my “wild and bushy” look.   And though I’m only a mini-fan of big hair, his opinion definitely gives me confidence.

For right now, I’m back at my tried and true twist-out, and waiting for the end of the summer.  Two more months of 100+ degrees to go.   We will see what other madness I come up with, and perhaps I might even be brave enough to post a few more pics!  In the meantime,  I am thankful for this post to help me in being more like David.yself in the mirror, and I couldn’t help but smile.   My hair was exactly as my husband likes it.   He calls it my “bushy and wild” look.    And for sure, though I’m not the biggest fan of “bushy and wild,” his opinion gives me confidence.


2 thoughts on “My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 22: Building Confidence

  1. I had a similar experience. My twist out drew up quite a bit thanks to the heat and humidity and became a coily “fro”. I hair banded it back a bit at the hairline and embraced wearing it. Two sonswe were like: “Is it supposed to look like that???” Which kind of challenged my confidence. They are learning right along with me on this natural hair journey, so I have to remember that their inquiries aren’t meant to be indictments. So I gathered my emotions, staved off swirling my neck and waving my finger and simple said: “Yes, this is what it looks like when the heat and humidity affect it.” To my surprise, they both said: “Ohhhh…OK! We were wondering if you’d cut your hair off to get this “young look” on purpose.” OK…THAT made my day!


    • I could see a couple of your boys saying very sweetly and diplomatically, “Is it supposed to look like that?” The youngest is trying to get there (lol). My one bit of consolation in this whole experience was that, when I showed the girls the video and the hairstyle as it was supposed to look, they didn’t like it, either. “Too much going on,” they both said. So maybe it wasn’t as much my version of the up-do as it was the up-do itself. At any case, for this moment, I’m staying in my lane!! Love you!!


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