“When I look at you, I see myself. If my eyes are unable to see you as my sister, it is because my own vision is blurred. And if that be so, then it is I who need you either because I do not understand who you are, my sister, or because I need you to help me understand who I am.” – Lillian P. Benbow, Past National President of Delta Sigma Theta
This is the first thing I thought about after I shaved my hair. What kept ringing in my head was, “When I look at you, I see myself…..because I need you to help me understand who I am.” I wondered if my daughters felt that. I wondered if, even though they are 4 years old and 3 months old, they could recognize themselves in me.
All of my life I’ve been in some capacity of mentorship. But when I became a mother, the role model aspect went into overdrive. I realized I literally had two lives that would pattern themselves, whether good or bad, after what they were raised around.
Luscious, fabulous, intense, perfect, delicious, beautiful…these are some of the adjectives I use to describe my oldest daughter’s hair. She has very thick and coarse hair, and I LOVE IT! Every time I shampoo and style it, I marvel at how beautiful it is so that she can hear it. She’s not around anyone who’s hair looks like hers, so naturally she started coming home from school wanting her hair to hang long and flow like some of her friends. This is why I tell her how much I am in love with her hair. I want her to know and accept that she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God as it is written in Psalms 139:14 NIV!
One morning I was relaxing my hair and it hit me. See I have this rule that my daughters can’t relax their hair until they are 16, mainly because they will be more responsible with how to take care of it by then. But I realized, how are they going to positively embrace their hair if they don’t have a role model. You know someone whose hair is just like theirs to show them how to ROCK IT OUT! I’m the type of person that would feel fabulous in a paper bag. So I’ve come to the point where I know that my outer appearance does not define who I am. But my daughters have not reached that mark yet. How can they embrace the texture of their hair, not feel strange when theirs “behaves” differently than their peers or how to stand up for their own beauty in the midst of physical differences? It had to be me. I have to be the one to show them how to embrace the beauty of their natural curls.
I teetered on this whole big chop deal so I ran it across my husband. My thought was that surely he would oppose and then I would decline this whole hair thing and stick to my easily manageable relaxer…but ummm no, I was wrong. He was pretty pumped about the whole thing, not necessarily the fade that had to come in the beginning, but the thought of seeing me in a twist out or my longer hair in a bun, or just a flat out afro! So with that support, I hopped into my girlfriend’s chair and shaved it slap off!
I prepared my husband and my four year old a month prior by showing them how my hair would look after the chop. Needless to say, my daughter was NOT enthused about her Mom rocking a fade but she knew I was cutting it so that my hair could look like hers one day. I didn’t think my message had come across until one day we were at the store and a cashier commented on my daughter’s hair. She said, “OH MY, she has some really really really thick hair!” “I LOVE IT,” I respectfully chimed in. The cashier proceeded to say, “My daughter’s hair is just like that and I just don’t know what to do with it. It just gets on my nerves. I don’t know what to do.” My response was, “Well, the first thing you are going to do is to tell her how beautiful she is and how awesome her hair is.” My four year old nudged me in the hip and whispered to me, “Mom tell her why you are about to cut your hair.” I was empowered in that moment, because it was then that I was certain she knew that her hair was so special that her Mom was going to be a “copycat” and she wants the world to know. My thought was…#winning!
Ladies, this EmpowerMoment is more than just about hair. Jesus commands us to imitate Him. In Philippians 4:9, we are encouraged to imitate Godly things, to put them into practice. Not just say it, but do it. Paul’s letter to Timothy encourages us to “…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” I Timothy 4:12 NIV
Thank You for making me the way You did. Thank You for making my face look the way You wanted it, my hair the texture You chose, my nose the shape it is, and my frame the way You saw fit. Thank You for my daughters and every other daughter I’ve mentored. Help me to instill in them that they are beautiful, and not just because I am saying it; but also, because when they look at me they see themselves, and in that, I pray that I am a reflection of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
I EMPOWER you to realize that little ones are watching you. Your reaction to the world is how they will react. It’s about being a living witness, a role model, and encourager to those around us. As my daughters age, I hope they will learn that my big chop was not about the hair at all, but all about them embracing who they are.
Dedicated to my daughters, “Tootie” and “Dewly”, and my mentee, “VocalMiss,” who’s forced me to be a living witness to practice what I preach.
Are you encouraging a young girl or gal pal how to embrace herself? Share your story with us. If not, get going. Don’t talk about, be about it. Show her how to embrace herself and be an example.
Read a Related EmpowerMoment: Don’t Leave Them, LEAD Them!
As a professional, Mrs. Khalilah Burton is a College Biology Instructor. She is also currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Higher Ed and Community College Leadership. Khalilah is passionate about her faith journey and uses this key scripture as her inspiration: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV) She and her husband serve as Co-Service leaders and Co-Group leaders of SustainedLove, which supports marriage get-a-ways from Family Life. Khalilah also serves as a guest speaker and panelist for various events for women and Christian empowerment. Khalilah resides in Millbrook, Alabama with her wonderful husband Donald Burton, Jr. and their two daughters. They attend Vaughn Forest Church. Check out Khalilah’s Christian weight loss blog here.