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When I straighten my hair, I feel really guilty about it

Devika Syal

I can give myself a fully transformative makeover, but when it comes to straightening my hair, I am still hesitant.

When most people think about body positivity, they apply it to the actual body, including size, shape and height. This is all valid, considering that a lot of discrimination, sexism and plain-old bullying stems from a person’s body type. Girls in magazines, Photoshop and the fashion industry all tell us that skinny is better, and a majority of body shaming comes in that form.

However, we might not realize that there are several other forms of body shaming that are thrust upon women on a daily basis that we feel guilt or embarrassment about, when we should not. This includes the quality of our skin, the shape of our noses, the amount of body hair we have and so many more superficial “problems” the media has told us we have.

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I know it seems that being aware of the institutions put against women to criticize their appearance means that it is easier to feel confident in your own skin. I wish that were true, but I, like many other women, feel the pressure of white American beauty standards when it comes to getting ready in the morning. I can put on a full face of makeup or dress in a certain style without a problem because I feel like I am enhancing the features I already have.

However, when it comes to doing my hair, I feel extreme guilt the second I plug in my hair straightener. Sure, putting on makeup covers up some of my blemishes, but people can still see my face. When I straighten my curly hair, I am directly covering up and altering a part of myself that was naturally given to me, that I should be proud of.

I don’t even straighten my hair that often — probably once or twice every few months — yet it’s still an activity that I regret the entire time I am doing it. Whenever I go out with straight hair, I feel like I am telling the world that I am not proud of my natural appearance and that I have to conform to beauty standards in order to love myself.

It doesn’t help that I get more compliments when my hair is straightened. It may be because it is a different style, but it can feel like I’m being praised for looking completely unlike myself. I fear that I’ll meet somebody while my hair is straight and that image of me will be imprinted in their brain forever.

Simply rereading what I have written, I sound ridiculous. But that is the point: Even though I and many other women know that our insecurities are pointless and fake, we still feel them and act on them. It’s important to remember that that is OK. It is completely OK to feel insecure about our appearances, as long as we try to fight them every day. In some cases, that will include wearing a piece of clothing regardless of how other people might think you look. In my case, it includes straightening my hair without fearing that I am encouraging the oppression of women and the implementation of beauty standards.

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Every woman has their own journey when it comes to body-related self-acceptance and self-love. What matters not is that we let it get to us, but rather that we let it get to us, then take a step back, realize that our looks do not define our worth, and get back to work!

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