When I began my natural hair journey, unlike many of the younger ladies, this was no fad for me. I never thought about going back to a perm, or what I might do when natural hair was no longer the “in” thing. Instead, my decision was based upon a new level of exposure and education. I had held a friend’s hand as cancer ate away at her body; other friends had a similar battle and, thankfully, were more victorious. Then I met several ladies who were well ahead of me on their journeys. Not only did they understand hair, but also how natural hair was but one facet of the many benefits of a natural lifestyle. That was why I began my hair journey–I wanted to make healthier decisions regarding my hair, and the thought that I might actually add a few quality years to my life sold me.
As unique as my reasoning for going natural might have been, my path was very similar. Since December 2010, I have read more hair articles (particularly product reviews), seen more videos, and joined numerous hair communities than I care to mention. And I have taken more “selfies” at each stage of the hair journey than I ever took in my entire adult life.
For those few without teens or preteens, and who don’t subscribe to social media networks, the “selfie” is a cell phone/ technology-induced phenomenon which allows us to take close-ups of ourselves and quickly post those shots onto the web. This concept is at the heart of any natural haired transition, and it does have a place. Because of the significance of our textured hair and what it has come to symbolize within and outside of our community, moving away from the cultural norm of straight hair is worth celebrating, and worth capturing in pictures as a celebration of our independence from the man.
There is a problem with this whole selfie craze, though. I mentioned it casually as I shared my post on cutting the final bit of perm out of my hair; that was almost 2 years ago. I still take a ridiculous number of pictures, especially when I feel like I styled my hair well. I had one of those days not too long ago. I had a faculty meeting, and what began as a quick trip to the restroom to make sure I had nothing in my teeth, etc. turned into an extended moment in front of the mirror. On that day, I was in love with my hair. I loved the braid-out results, and I loved the way the henna reflected my red highlights in the bathroom light.
But I knew something was wrong. What’s the problem, you ask?
The root of the word “selfie” is SELF. Quite honestly, much of social media is built upon that same four-letter word. “Like” me, “heart” what I do, see me, write to me, and in general, know what I have going on. We live in a world right now where one of the biggest draws of our attention is the reality show, with people who are somehow convinced that they have so much more going on than we do until we should tune in to watch them. Or I should say, there is a producer of the show who manipulates their lives to look far more interesting than our own. If we are not careful, we fall into the same trap of seeking the adoration and affirmation of others rather than allowing every aspect of our lives to point back to the Father. There is nothing wrong with a positive self image, or with feeling good about yourself. Personally, I love to let our extended family and friends know what we’re doing, and Pinterest has become my dream board. But when everything becomes about you, that is a dangerous place to be for the believer.
I will continue to take pictures on occasion. As I have stated repeatedly, transitioning to my natural hair was sooooo much more than a hairstyle change, and I am glad that I captured that change in photos. I also realized something in observing the pictures from 2010 and forward versus 2010 and backward: there were a number of years in which I felt very unattractive. The impact of that feeling did not hit me until I began to look through my archives for online shots, only to notice that I had very few shots taken before I began letting my hair grow out. Funny, other women often ask me about how it feels having natural hair. My answer is something along the lines of, “It’s freedom.” But in looking at my photos pre- and post-transition, it finally occurs to me from what I was delivered.
Philippians 4:8 tells us that ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ I continue to read and to research because yes, I want to grow a head full of healthy hair. But I only want to keep my focus in proper perspective and make sure that my hair–and anything else about me–gives me an opportunity to talk about my walk with Jesus. Spending that opportunity by talking about me would not leave someone with anything that lasts. Similarly, I want to put these increasing opportunities to lift up self via social media into perspective, too. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and even blogs can be wonderful tools for professional and personal life goals. They are very effective places for everyday ministry for those of us who are not called to grace a pulpit, but still have a story to tell. But they can also be traps, allowing us to be consumed with the praise of others and to base our value on how many likes and comments come our way. Father, allow me to live a way that points back to You; whatever draws others to me, use me to draw them to You. Amen.