I was 30 years old when I first thought about how I wash my hair. A regular visit to my hairstylist friend, Tricia, sparked my interest. The appointment began with my head in the sink while she washed my hair. What a treat! Does anyone else love this part of the process? Nothing makes me melt like having my hair cleaned by someone who gently massages my scalp with care. They check the temperature, make sure it’s just right, then check in to ask how it feels. The whole experience soothes me. It’s all so thoughtful. As Tricia washed my hair, we got to talking, as we always do, and she mentioned that she could tell a lot about someone’s hair care by their scalp, which sometimes has build-up on the crown. I was shocked, then uncomfortable. I felt vulnerable with my head in her hands, revealing my washing habits. I had no idea how clean my hair and scalp were because I never thought much about my approach. It was then that I realized I hadn’t connected with this part of my body. Of course, I went home and reflected on this conversation.
Through the years spent in survival mode, my nights consisted of “self-medicating,” and my days consisted of creating the illusion that I was “well.” What this meant was, I was presenting myself as best I could as a pulled-together individual, but just on the outside, to fit in socially. At the time, I wasn’t conscious of said survival mode; it just happened. As I heal, hindsight reveals that this was the case. Perhaps I wasn’t fooling anyone besides myself and a few others, but who knows. My experience in survival resulted in a lack of time spent caring for myself. Cleaning, washing, and getting ready was always a rush, surface level, and often for others and for the illusion I was working to create. If my hair appeared to be clean, that was all that mattered.
Now I am not the sterile definition of “clean.” Body odor doesn’t offend me, and I am a highly active individual. I bike everywhere, dance, do yoga, and jog if I’m feeling up to the task. I sweat a lot, and I’m not embarrassed or bothered by a little stink or hair grease. What I am talking about here is taking the time to sit with myself and love on myself. To show me the love I want and deserve. It is not for the approval of others or survival in this world, but rather for the joy it brings me, the pleasure I get to experience, and the longevity of my wellness.
My visit with Tricia awakened a curiosity to explore caring for myself. The self-care exploration began with taking the time to wash my hair. I used my nails to massage my scalp. I rinsed and repeated if necessary, and if I so desired. I rolled the ends of my hair between my palms. I conditioned and got between all the strands. I slowed down enough to discover what my body needs and wants in each moment, and then offer that to myself.
When I slowed down and paid attention to washing my hair, it offered an abundance of benefits and growth, including bringing me into my body and teaching me about myself. For one, it taught me presence. It’s quite easy to skim over what can appear to be a menial task, but when I paid attention, I got to feel the sensations and enjoy self-love. I learned what it felt like to massage each part of my scalp, all of the bumps and curves. I learned the texture of my hair. I discovered what it is my scalp enjoys, and what offers relief. I had been reserving the pleasure of a thorough hair washing for the bi-annual salon visit. While receiving the salon treatment is a delight, I learned that I could offer myself so much goodness in my bathroom. After learning about this avenue of care, it opened me to explore other roads, which has flooded my life with pleasure.
Furthermore, one crucial factor for my transitioning out of survival mode was the ability to feel sensations other than fear, panic, and worry. These new (to me) sensations, helped me to understand my body, which led to trust in myself and safety in my vessel. The better I know myself, the more likely I am to make informed decisions. Washing my hair was an approachable way to learn. It is incredible what a few quiet moments can teach us.
And even more, taking the time for self-love helped me to develop more confidence. When I give myself love for the sake of love, I walk into the world with my head higher, and I seek more quality. Self-love has helped me break rough relationship cycles because I showed myself the kind of love I want and deserve. Yes, through washing my hair (and then some)! The more confidence I grow, the more I explore life and savor my time here.
Caring for myself is not a perfected place of arrival, but a continuous check-in and evolution. Here I have a relationship with myself, which means I am always learning and sometimes failing to show up. There have been setbacks, and there will be more. Each instance of self-care offers data for all future moments. I can refer back to this gathered information as a resource to remind me what it feels like to be tender with myself.
Over time, this newfound attention to washing my hair inspired other self-love forms that I had not yet explored. I began to moisturize my face and body. I started taking the time to sit with myself and massage oils and lotions into my skin. I became attentive to my nails, keeping them clean. It inspired me to hydrate more, wash my face before bed, use face masks, wash between my toes. Eventually, it trickled into how I care for my living space. Much like my hair, I cared for my home when others would see it; however, eventually, I learned to keep a clean and organized home because it brings me joy and pleasure. We deserve pleasure!
Here’s the thing, for years, I created some illusion of cleanliness. I rinsed the top layer of grease from my hair. The self-love that I developed through my time alone in my bathroom as I care for my scalp has grown into a new level of confidence. I walk into the world with love to share, because love is exponential. I give it to myself, and it continues to reproduce. The equation seems simple, and maybe that’s because it is. Not all things are complicated. What ways can we all slow down to give ourselves some care and attention that we’ve always needed, wanted, and desired?