Hair and introversion

I just want to put this out there, because I’ve never really seen this subject addressed before. Certain points pertaining to this subject have been addressed before, both here and elsewhere, but not everything.

I happen to be introverted, a personality trait that isn’t understood or liked very well in our society. Western culture in generally is geared toward extroversion and our institutions extol and praise extroverted traits. Our offices mainly have open floor plans where people sit on top of each other in small cubicles, working in teams is often highly emphasized both in the workplace and in school, etc. Introverts are stereotyped as shy and anti-social but that’s not the case for many of them. Shyness and introversion are not one and the same thing, though a lot of people think they are because of the fact that shy people and/or introverts tend to be less social than what extroverts consider to be “normal.” So what is a shy person? What is an extrovert? What is an introvert? Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Extroverts draw their energy from being around other people and hate being alone. Introverts draw their energy from within themselves and usually are fine with being alone, as being around other people for long stretches drains them. Extroverts tend to like being the center of attention and don’t mind huge crowds, things which tend to make introverts cringe. Introverts prefer to deal with others one on one or in a small group. There isn’t anything wrong with being one or the other, it’s just how our brains are wired. Yet because introverts aren’t as readable or easy to know, extroverts try to convince them all the time that something must be wrong with them and if they were only like their extroverted selves, they would be happier. This assumption makes me furious, because for a good part of my life, I was deemed arrogant, snotty or just plain weird and told that I was “too quiet” and I assumed that if I were more outgoing, I’d be more well liked and accepted. My attempts to change an intrinsic part of myself failed of course, because behaving in ways that weren’t natural to me was awkward and people sensed that. I even contemplated suicide over the issue when I was younger because why would I want to go through the rest of my life as a freak and an outcast? It wasn’t until a little over a decade ago that I began accepting my introversion and now I have no desire to change whatsoever. I may not have as many friends as extroverts do but the ones I do have are close and meaningful, something that can’t be said for a lot of extroverts, who tend to have a lot of shallow relationships and few deep connections with anyone.

As far as it relates to hair, I see profiles of newly natural and long time natural women all the time who remark that one of the reasons they went natural is because their voluminous hair seemed to suit their personality better because they are so outgoing. Where does that assessment leave me? Even though I have fine hair, it’s still fuller than it ever was when it was relaxed. But because I don’t have a gregarious personality to go along with my hair, I have to wonder if a number of people think that natural hair just doesn’t suit me as people sometimes equate big or curly hair with a big personality. Not that I care what other people think. My hair never really took to relaxers well and fake hair also damaged my strands. So for both practical and emotional reasons, being natural is the only way for me to go. However,  it took a few months for me to adjust to it and there were times when I nearly went back to relaxers because I wasn’t sure if I was confident enough to wear my hair the way it grew out of my scalp. Ignorant comments from people who don’t understand natural hair can easily wear a person down if they aren’t prepared. It didn’t take long for me to learn that in order to be successful as a natural, you have to transition your mind and well as your hair. Confidence isn’t reserved for people with just one personality trait. It’s something that can be learned and built upon no matter where you are on the personality spectrum. Honestly, if it were not for sites like Naturally Curly and Black Girl with Long Hair, where I saw people flourishing with their natural hair, I doubt I would have developed the confidence and the skills to continue on this journey.

I also have to say that being introverted with the kind of hair that isn’t widely accepted can draw attention to yourself that you may not necessarily want. Speaking only for myself, it can be draining to answer questions about how I got my hair to look the way it does because I either get blank stares or exclamations that the person asking could never go natural because they don’t have good hair. It can be threatening and violating to have people just reach out with their grubby hands to touch it, often without asking permission. It’s not in my nature to want to be in the spotlight, but introverted naturals sometimes are because our hair is a novelty in a lot of circles. I still haven’t found effective ways in order to deal with this issue. Which makes me wonder if natural hair is best suited for extroverts. Do you really think that certain textures or hairstyles suit certain personalities more than others? I’d like to know.


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