How to Cope with a Natural Hair Setback When You Feel Discouraged

I have never experienced significant hair loss in my entire life. Clearly, life laughed at me and it finally happened.  I had my first major natural hair setback that was unfolding within the span of two years.

Since it occurred, it has been interesting to see just how much taboo there is around premature hair loss. For anyone living in the United States, hair is symbolic of much, whether of strength, power and of beauty. As a woman of color with hair that grows upwards, I know this to be particularly true. When hair appears thinning or fragile, I have noticed that it can often be perceived with weakness or lack of health. Though the latter is not always true (depending on genetics and other natural factors), it was relevant in my case.

If you have been following me on Instagram and Facebook, you know that I’ve been documenting my journey to hair health and overall recovery after learning I had iron deficiency anemia.  I overcame my diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia earlier this year. This happened was by taking intentional strides to improve my mental space, eating more balanced meals, and understanding how stress affects my body. Two years ago, I was not in a good place. I had graduated from undergrad and struggled to adjust the aftermath of dealing with adult responsibilities like having a full-time job and dealing with some extremely challenging co-workers, entering and then having to leave an incredibly toxic relationship, and feeling utterly lost in my purpose. Long story, short, I was a mess and scressed (yes, scressed).  I will definitely get into all of the details into how this all transpired and what I did to remedy the situation in a few other posts. For now, let’s talk about how I dealt with this challenge.

I did not think of my hair loss as a setback, but a stepping stone in my natural hair journey.

It is amazing how a shift in your perspective allows you to keep the endgame in mind. I have been growing my natural hair for over eight years and experienced many challenges–like the time I went to a natural hair salon and the hairdresser had the sheer audacity to trim on extremely shrunken hair and I let her (girl…). After leaving the salon,  I had four inches of hair gone. I was new in the game at that time, and I realized the mistake once I started learning more about handling my 4C natural hair.  It’s no different than dealing with something like hair loss. So for whatever hair-related issue you are facing, consider what has caused your particular “setback” and work towards remedying the situation. For me, it was exploring and experimenting with a myriad of things, namely Ayurveda and eating a balanced a whole food, plant-based diet.

Every wash day, I took photos to document my progress.

This might get discouraging for someone who desires results right away or dislikes what they are currently seeing. I  experienced this hump last year when I noticed my hair thinning tremendously at the crown. Guess what? I took photos anyway. I realized that the only way to truly get an idea of what was working and not working was to document physical evidence so that I could compare as often as I desired. It helped me to stay the course. Plus, its fun to document! I personally enjoy seeing and sharing my progress. My best friend can attest to all of the hair photos I send her when I’m excited at seeing the gains. She’ll even tell me what she notices so just so that I know where I am with my hair goals.

You’re probably wondering, what if I get too preoccupied with my progress or too obsessive over photos?  We are human. It happens. I liken it to going to a gym or jumpstarting a new project. It’s natural to want to see results right away, but remember that that process matters just as much as the progress you make or desire to see. For example, learning about the science of my hair or ayurvedic hair practices allowed me to enjoy my journey so much more.  Just pick one or two days where you can take photos if you find yourself getting worked up.

I chose to accept it by normalizing my feelings.

I never minimized the impact that my hair loss had on me. I acknowledge it as a painful experience. It was traumatic for me to see clumps of hair in my hands and strands that would clog up my drain. I spent years learning to love, care and to understand my natural hair and to see squandered progress was overwhelming for me. I felt defeated, embarrassed, and confused. It took me months to feel comfortable sharing with my community that I was battling hair loss. Yet by acknowledging and validating my feelings, I was encouraged to prioritize my health. I did not wallow in self-pity. I did not find myself going on other Instagram pages showcasing natural hair. Whew, that have been too much for me at the time. So I recognized my triggers by again, recognizing the pain behind my loss. A natural hair setback is like any other setback you will have in life. Don’t talk yourself into denial. Seek to own your truth and move forward. And that is that on that, sis!

Author: Taiwo Kafilat

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