, ,

How I Learned To Shake Off Negative Opinions

February 1st, 2017 at 2:00am

We’ve built a society where commentary is volunteered and not asked for.

Facebook enables us to show our reactions to posts using only six emojis. Instagram allows us to comment on anyone’s pages regardless of if we know them or not. Even Tinder has contributed to our generation’s tireless need to share our opinions with its “swipe left, swipe right” interface.

Needless to say I, much like most of you reading this, have faced quite a bit of criticism from people, free of charge.

In September of 2016, I decided to take the plunge and go natural. I’m not going to lie, when I got out of my hair stylist’s chair and saw that I had an afro, I was shocked. For 21 years, I had struggled with flat irons, chemical straighteners, and humidity to tame my hair into something it wasn’t. Now my hair was free and I realized how beautiful it was to finally feel like myself.

(Photo via @stylefromalexis)

What I didn’t predict was that making the decision to cut my own hair was going to affect other people. From strangers on the street to coworkers, everyone seemed to have the need to tell me their opinion about my hair. Most of the comments were nice, if not stereotypical. If I was given a dollar for every time someone called me “Foxy Brown” or
“Angela Davis,” I wouldn’t even have to worry about my college debt. But all in all, I know those people meant well.

Then there were the not-so-nice comments.

I can remember shortly after my hair really started to grow, a coworker pulled me aside and asked, “So why do you have a bush on your head?” I was caught so off-guard. Now I understand that back in the day, people used to refer to their afros as a “bush.” But last time I checked it’s 2017 and we can be a little bit more progressive. As I attempted to explain to her that this was my natural hair, she continued to let me know that she was not a fan of my new look. She asked me if it was a trend the kids were doing now and what my mother thought about it, as if I were a rebellious child. She then wrapped all of her pretty little negative comments with a big red bow, letting me know that she thinks that I look prettier with straight hair.

In more ways than one, I was offended. But it was the last comment that affected me the most. Growing up seeing an emphasis on European beauty standards, I knew the feelings of “not being pretty enough” all too well. With a head full of kinky curls and a skin tone darker than soft beige, I was nowhere near the “standard” the media promoted. But I had finally learned to love myself, only to have someone of my own race make me feel less than who I am.

(Photo via @styleintheway)

I had let someone else control my perception of myself. It’s not like I really thought I was ugly. But the fact that the words were said out loud gave them more weight than I should have allowed. The truth is, her negative comments say more about the person she is than they do about me. And this is the lesson I had to learn when dealing with negative comments and opinions. The comments aren’t about me, they are about their own internal conflicts.

So the next time someone shares an unwanted opinion of you, think of it like this: Other people’s opinions are like a hand full of sand, let them slip through your fingers. What’s left behind in your palm are the seashells that you know to be true.

You are beautiful, intelligent, strong, and capable. No negative opinion should ever take that away from you.

Have you ever had an opinion shared with you that you didn’t ask for? Share your stories with us in the comments.