Working Out The Kinks Between Beauty Myths and The Modern Dominicana

As we (women) uncover our truth and speak up against racism and outdated systems of thinking, we are not just healing ourselves--but also influencing our families to adopt new ways of existing. I’ve been natural for over a decade and while I’ve openly spoken about hair and identity in Dominican culture, I haven’t spoken about the acceptance of natural hair as the antidote for self-esteem issues, and complexes in this community. The Dominican natural hair community is comprised of a gang of women who don’t take no for an answer. Women who are proud negritas and who aren’t intimidated to show it. We are the fearless women grabbing by the nape, the core complexes in Dominican culture: self-love. I represent this diasporadical Afro-Dominicana and I’m here to share the self-awareness and some of the discoveries that go behind our natural tresses; I mean our work. It’s easy to say “I love me”. The challenge or the actionable part of this statement is having the balls to be yourself in a community that forces things down your throats.

Without a doubt, dropping the relaxer and transitioning to wearing my hair in it’s natural state thickened my skin and deepened my relationship with myself. While going natural took a heck of self confidence, I cannot take away the fact that during my foundation years my programming included self deprecating comments and little self-acceptance. Getting deep into these troubles has allowed to grow farther in my own path.

Until the age of 17, my natural hair was hidden by relaxers and weekly hair salon visits to Fantasy Hair & Spa on West 142nd St. and Broadway. I didn’t have a choice. Curly hair was just not an option in the Leon/Pichardo family. It was enforced and expected by everyone; even family friends.  At the time if felt like my entire world saw beauty this way and I took it upon myself to challenge those around me. My mom worked for white folks and so did my father. I don’t mean to pull the race card, but I do believe that (often), the standards of one’s workplace becomes that of our own. People tend to bend their values at the reflection of those in power.

Energetically, enforced European beauty standards never felt right to me.

During my high school years, my uncles would suggest that I get a boob job since I was (still am) an A cup. That’s misogynist much? For years I didn’t feel as though I was enough for my family. The idea that men would tell me what their idea of beauty is and that I was supposed to follow suit is bizarre and still leaves an awkward taste in my mouth. The fact that men would try to make me feel insecure as a teenager was NOT OKAY. My story is flaw finding at it’s most acceptable way in Dominican culture.

A study by the American Psychology Association shows that adolescents with low self-esteem grew up to have more mental health problems during adulthood than adolescents with high self-esteem. It also found that “adolescents with low self-esteem grew up to have more physical health problems during adulthood than adolescents with high self-esteem”. I am the adult and the adolescent that these studies talk about.

Prior to healing, my self-confidence was described by my upbringing. My self-healing work has allowed me to create a new Self System where I’ve been able to understand that self-confidence is a reflection on how much I trust my abilities and my relationship with a higher-self. Self-esteem training/programming begins in our homes. The dialogue that takes place between parents and their children at home influences how adults grow up to feel about themselves. As humans we love and we hate parts of ourselves; these same parts are passed on to our children through our reactions. In turn, every reaction that a parent shows his/her child affects and shapes the way they view the world and themselves. I grew up with excessively critical parents and I’m sure it’s why I am so hard on myself.

Our parents feelings are so crucial to our own. I now understand that growing up being told that I should dislike my hair was actually how every woman in my family felt; and that the men who critiqued my body were just raised by other men who wanted to dictate how women in a family should look (“women who hold this name should look like this”).

When we grow up not feeling enough at our most natural way, we create or find masks to fill that void. How we feel about ourselves affects how successful we are, our relationships with others, and how we handle our emotions. If we teach our young girls to love and accept themselves at an early age we can avoid the shit show that happens to our mental during the transition to adulthood. My point is that strengthening the inner confidence and perception of self love amongst young dominican women will be beneficial for the generations to come. I’m grateful to be on this path with the other thousands of Afro Dominicanas who feel this way too. In acceptance lie all the good feelings that we need about ourselves to push us forward. The next time you fall into self-criticism and unconfident thoughts, note them and change them to positive thoughts.

Photos:

Bani, Dominican Republic. 

During a time when I decided that I needed to go to DR for a month and just connect with myself in nature. 


Join me on April 29th, for an emotional empowerment release and glow workshop with fellow Dominicana, Pila De La Cruz. Read more here.