Search Results: Khadija Bilal

How My Natural Hair Journey Taught Me to Have Patience With Myself

kha mom

I’ve never had a perm, but from a young age, I was taught to have a problem with my natural hair.

I learned that, in spite of what my parents tried to instill in me, my hair would never be acceptable. My mom became the 4C curl whisperer out of love and admiration for what her hair couldn’t do. She always prayed for a little girl with hair just like mine. So she had no problem sitting down to do my hair on Sundays or impromptu nights out of the week for the first 13 years of my life. She took pride in my hair for the both of us, so it was no coincidence that she made sure no perm could even be in the same room as me.

When I got older, and my mother’s fingers got tired, the responsibility of what was seen in my eyes as “the burden,” passed on to me.

I’ll never forget the first time I tried to put my hair in a ponytail and tears streamed down my face when I couldn’t get all my hair into the Goody band.

(Cue the teenage dramatics.”>

It was always rough, untamable, massive, dense, and seemingly intolerable. I just knew I couldn’t do it, especially lacking the same creativity, excitement, patience and above all, love that my mom had.


From that moment, my natural hair journey had begun.

My mom had done everything for me and my strands until I was about 13 years old. Around that time, I started two strand twisting for my life. There were hardly any products — or at least, none that I knew of — at the time, so hair grease and water were my very best friends and I loved to experiment with the curling iron. Even though I tortured my hair, and I know I did, around the time that I started to do it myself was when I started to love it. I started realizing the versatility of my hair and just how far twisted styles could go. I taught myself how to flat twist when I couldn’t figure out how to cornrow and came up with elaborate updos to show off my skills. I learned how to blow-dry my hair; the comb attachment became my sidekick when it took too long to dry.

And while doing my hair was still an arduous task, everything I learned about the unruliness and unacceptability of it suddenly went out the window when I took responsibility for it myself.

laugh kb

With the rise of YouTube and SheaMoisture that came during my junior year in college, things did get a bit easier.

My natural hair journey so far has taken a lot of patience, risks, experimentation, innovation, a lot of creativity, and self-love. It has taught me strength and resilience, and what I’m truly made of. And while I can’t slick it all the way down, use just one Goody band, or even commit to a wash and go, it can do 100 things and more, and will always show me just what it’s made of. I can honestly say that my hair has taught a valuable thing or two about loving myself, and I remain open to more of its lessons.

Need more Khadija in your life?

Read: Why I’m Replacing New Year’s Resolutions with This New Practice

Follow: @thepoetessdij

Why I’m Replacing New Year’s Resolutions with This New Practice

While self-care has been an ongoing thing for me since my days in grad school, the process surrounding it constantly evolves with my growth as a person.


As my life changes and progresses, so does my routine to keep up with my ever-evolving life and experiences.

Because of the many changes that I go through, it’s important to me to maintain an up to date self-care routine. Over the last few years since making it a major part of my routine, I have sought out different practices to help further my overall growth.

What I’m doing instead of resolutions

With the start of the new year, I decided to do something different and place a few new and active parameters around caring for myself. Instead of resolutions, I decided to put into place active practices that allow me to track my progression and reinforce my self-awareness and self-love. The four actions that I laid out and put into practice towards the end of 2017 have allowed me to put my trials and triumphs into perspective and pushed me to move forward in the midst of varying struggle. The practices that I’ve put into place are:

  1. Practice little to no expectations
  2. Practice gratitude
  3. Practice patience
  4. Give yourself a break

Now, it may seem a little bit daunting to try to apply these four practices to every part of your life, but they are simple enough to be applied in any way no matter who you are or how you choose to live.

Expectations affect our experience

Little to no expectations can be practiced when entering different situations that affect the way in which we experience them. Instead of walking into a situation expecting a certain outcome, try approaching it neutrally.

Gratitude can be practiced at any time in any place

I’ll say aloud when I’m thankful for small things, like getting some extra time, receiving a text that makes smile or even being under my favorite blanket.

Practice patience every day

Patience can be practiced in the spaces in which we find ourselves most frustrated: on our drive to work, when a package hasn’t arrived in a timely manner, when the line in the store seems longer than we want it to be.

Be gentle, take breaks

I give myself a break by making sure to take time out to rest or being gentle with myself when I feel like I haven’t done all that I need to do to succeed. All of these things can put anything into perspective and smooth the road ahead.

With practicing each of these tasks actively comes a better understanding of self and can ease the way we choose to move through life. They are simple enough to be practiced and applied to all facets of life and strong enough to make an impact. As I’ve stated before, our self-care routines must evolve as we do and expand to cover the different trials and triumphs that we experience in our day to day lives. In 2018, self-care to me means more gratitude, more patience, and more growth by forming healthy emotional and encouraging habits that can carry you through this year and many more to come.

What’s your approach to New Year’s resolutions? Let us know in the comments!

Follow me on Instagram @thepoetessdij and my blog, The 90s Aesthetic

Are You a "Procrastinatural?" Here’s How to Deal With Your Hair Anxiety

Have you ever came home from work, school or some other event that required being outside but just want to lay in your bed with your hair still out?

thoughts caught in my fro

photo courtesy of @thoughtscaughtinmyfro

Do you find that your fingers and hands are too lazy to twist, braid, and put your hair away? Do you find yourself just lazily throwing a scarf or bonnet over your tresses from the day and calling it a night? Does the thought of picking a proper hairstyle or product feel you with crippling anxiety?

Is this you?

Then you have experienced a very common feeling among all naturals… everywhere.

You, my friend, were being a Procrastinatural.

Cue violin horror music.

While being a “procrastinatural” may seem like a daunting instance among any curly girl anywhere, it is nothing to be ashamed of or intimidated by. Just ask fellow naturalista Nyla Spooner, founder of the blog, Thoughts Caught in My Fro. She’s also the person who happened to coin the term.

Who — or what — is a Procrastinatural?

“A procrastinatural is someone who either went natural by accident, leaves their weave in too long, or gets overwhelmed with the maintenance of having natural hair and in doing so, tends to avoid all the things they should really do for hair upkeep,” says Nyla. “They’re not lazy, but more so anxious about the process itself.”

How the term came to be

“I was actively procrastinating washing my hair and waited 3 weeks. I don’t like spending too much time on my natural hair, and any style that takes longer than 30 to 45 minutes I just don’t have the patience for. I stay in a wig. The anxiety surrounding styling natural hair just forces me to procrastinate, hence the term procrastinatural.

Generally, when I am stressed out or I’ve had a long day. Also, if I have a protective style and I think it’s cute, I’m gonna ride that wave for as long as I can *laughs*. You’re afraid to do anything to damage your own hair. I’ve never really found a style that keeps my hair moisturized or any combination of products that I really love, so that adds to my anxiety around my hair. I procrastinate in every part of being natural. I just don’t like the feeling of hair stressing me out because it’s lower on my list of priorities.”

How to combat that feeling

“I find a good stylist that understands that I’m a procrastinatural,” says Nyla. “She’s going to help with upkeep and maintenance, and find a protective style that works for me. Once you commit to the maintenance, you must commit to taking it out when the time comes. I do feel better when I actually get my hair done. I think a big part of procrastination is building up all this anxiety around doing it, but doing it is what makes you feel better. Procrastinators use circular logical to defend the fact that they’re procrastinating, but as long as you just do it, you feel good.”

Don’t feel ashamed.

“Don’t feel any shame in being a procrastinatural, even if you can’t execute a style you’ve seen on YouTube or from other naturals. What is for you is for you, and you have to do what’s best for you. So don’t be shamed into trying something you’re not comfortable with.”

Ladies, weigh in in the comments.

Are YOU a procrastinatural? Does your natural hair give you anxiety?

Follow Nyla on Instagram @thoughtscaughtinmyfro

Strong Woman, How Do YOU Keep Going?

Back during the summer of 2013 I came across this dope cropped hoodie online.

I loved the look of it, real sporty and kinda fly, all me. I eyed it up until nearly the end of that summer when it, unfortunately, became completely sold out. Of course I was devastated, but in order to get what I wanted, I was still willing to ‘make a way out of no way.’ So, in my usual fashion–no pun intended–I scoured the internet for a similar hoodie. I finally found the one and decided I would just crop it to get the look I wanted, but it ran at $56. These were leisure funds I clearly did not have at the time. Being the broke recent college grad I was, I sat on it.

Later that same summer I visited my old high school teacher and friend in NYC for the first time. During my last few days there I was determined to thrift a men’s hoodie that I could crop to save myself the energy and money I stressed over before. Low and behold, I got this dope vintage UC Berkeley sweatshirt and made it into what I wanted–the results turned out even better than I even anticipated, as you can see.

I have always been someone who has figured out how to ‘make a way out of no way,’ even when I didn’t think I could.

Creativity has been the lifeline to my authenticity and love for life. These days, in spite of the proper credentials received, this idea of ‘making a way’ for my generation has become more of a hassle due to improper funds or the right job. As you would know it, there are not too many people giving out too many of those, even with the proper credentials in hand. Add being a creative to the mix–when you want to do what you love while making ends meet is that much harder.

It seems like more and more creatives such as myself and even some of my friends, cannot find the door let alone get close enough to stick our foot in one.

Even with the vigor, the incessant need, and the desire to achieve and work our way up in a field we truly love, all of the obstacles certainly do not make it any easier. Many of us end up taking dead-end, never-ending soul-sucking jobs that prey on our inherent need to survive and make money while exploiting that valid need and draining the lights that fuel our want and need to create.

Many people do not realize that getting a job outside of fast track fields such law, medicine, or engineering hardly garner any real attention.

The job search has completely evolved since they were halfway giving out employment in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays you are lucky to get a call back from a company saying they do not want you. With the cost of living tripling over the last few decades, finding the means to support a livelihood stays at the forefront of our mind no matter what we may think our true purpose is. I hate knowing that after all the years I spent in school–which many people told me would guarantee me a job–in addition to the work I have done and the foundation I have laid for myself, I still have more ‘dues’ to pay in experience. It makes dreams and goals seem that much further away in the process of trying to attain them.

Aside from these inherently annoying aspects that come with moving further into adulthood, I am more than aware of my ability to make things happen regardless of the ever-mounting odds in front of me.

I feel behind all the time, like I didn’t pick the right major and program, I did not realize what I truly wanted to do soon enough.

And so, this uncertainty landed me in this precarious and agitating space that stretches me more than I’d like. I wonder all the time if I messed up along the way and if all of this strife could have been avoided. But I try to keep in mind that I’m right where I need to be whether I feel like I am or not. I am positioned right where I need be. And much like I did when I couldn’t get my hands on the hoodie I initially wanted, I am back to ‘making a way out of no way’ except this time… it is in regards to my creative purpose and life.

But that just makes the process and trip to the top that much more worthwhile.

I admit that recently I made the excuse of being too tired to do the additional work to truly ‘make a way’ after being in school for a thousand years and working temp jobs for what feels like a decade, but I realize it is an essential part of the hustle, and I can’t keep sleeping on myself and my abilities. I don’t want to just work, I want to work doing what I love. When you feel like you have been working your whole life, working from the ground up can skew your reality of what it means reap the rewards of your labor. It’s like, that’s why they told you to school, right? To be ahead of the game and have a job waiting for you, right? What happens when you do all that and you’re still struggling and cannot meet all the expectations set up for you to get a job following suit? You form a support system, build a network, putting yourself out there by knocking on all the doors, and you put your talent and ability on display for the world to see because whether or not somebody else recognizes it right away, you do first and that’s what I’m learning is going to reveal the door and get your foot in it.

This is a reminder to keep going…

No matter what your dreams are, no matter how old you are, no matter where you are in life or how far you have to go, you can get to where you want to go. I realized at the beginning of this journey, as long as I believe it, it is real and attainable. Faith in yourself and your abilities is going to be an essential tool on your journey, and as someone who is right in the middle of theirs, I urge you to hang on to that belief in yourself. That will be your light to guide you through your darkest moments. While others will slowly but surely begin to realize your light, your talents, and their depths, remember that you recognized it first and that’s what matters most. Even in the face of struggle and hardship, never forget there is always a way.

How do you keep going?

Read The Surprising Perks of a Positive Morning Routine

Follow us @NaturallyCurly and Khadija @thepoetessdij

This Simple Act Can Drastically Improve Your Mood

Now we all have our favorite pieces of clothing in the closet. We know the feeling of what it’s like to put on our favorite jackets, tops, sweaters or our best pair of jeans. As I’m sure you can tell, I constantly look for simple and easy ways to implement self-care because I know how challenging it can be figure out what caring for yourself may look like and how to get started. One of the many simple ways I have learned to care for myself is through the upkeep of my appearance–which includes getting dressed.

Would you believe me if I told you that getting dressed can drastically improve your mood and how you feel about yourself?

Sounds simple enough–right? It can become one of those things that slips our minds when going through our lives on a day-to-day basis. Whether you are headed to work or school, getting dressed may be the last thing you even think about. However, putting on a favorite piece–or even an entire outfit that you’re proud of–can drastically boost your mood and esteem in ways you couldn’t have even imagined.

Before I started my blog, I remember there would be days I would wake up and for whatever reason, I was in the mood to get dressed. I’d already have a look in mind or pull out one of my favorite items of clothing and create a look surrounding that, and somehow my spirits were boosted almost instantly once I had gotten dressed and looked in the mirror. I went through the entire day knowing I looked good according to me, which translated, immediately into how I felt about myself. It worked so well, other people would take notice, but even if they didn’t I knew that I looked good to me and that was what mattered most. 
You want to aim to make sure you’re constantly cultivating positive feelings for yourself, and getting dressed can definitely affect that.

While a majority of the time I wish I could be dressed like I am for my blog, I usually dress depending on my mood and environment.

What I put on and how I get dressed drastically change how I feel about myself. You do not have to go all out wearing your best outfit everyday–I know I sure don’t–but you can wear those items that genuinely make you happy. Incorporate your favorite blazer into your business attire, putting on those jeans you have been dying to wear that took forever to arrive, create a look surrounding your favorite statement necklace or if you know you’re going to be sitting pretty somewhere maybe those amazing heels that are too cute to stand in.

Whatever it is, if it changes your mood for the better…wear it!

I know there are probably going to be some days when we don’t necessarily feel like putting a whole lot of effort into how we look, but on the other days try putting on your favorite item and see how it affects the way you take on the day. I honestly love it when I’m cute and comfortable. Even on my way to work if I’m comfortable and feel cute, my day goes just a little bit better knowing that I look good according to me. These are just simple things to help boost your overall mood. While appearance isn’t everything, certain enhancers fashion wise can certainly add to how we feel about ourselves. So take a chance and wear what makes you feel good, it only adds to your esteem for the better.

Want more from Khadija?

Read How to Watch and Listen for a Better YOU

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The Surprising Perks of a Positive Morning Routine

Upon waking up, many of us take on basic tasks to start our day.

You wake up and wash your face, check your phone, say a prayer, or anything else that may help you start your day in the morning. In doing so, you may not realize just how important having a routine is; it sets the tone for your whole day. And did you know that it can also double as a form of simple self-care? It’s true. The first things you do in the morning puts you in control of how to take it on, no matter what the day may throw at you. In starting our day we must make sure our morning routine serves as benefit to our overall well-being. A while back, I began actively implementing a positive morning routine, which drastically changed the way I approached my day to day living. I saw the benefits and positive changes in my mood that not only affected my day, but once I stayed consistent, my entire week.

Once I had a set schedule at my current job, I realized I was having a hard time throughout the day.

Waking up I’d grab my phone eager to check statuses, my timeline, or my messages, not realizing how heavily the early exposure of information weighed on me. While I was quick to grab my phone, I was dragging my feet on other common tasks such as washing my face, making up my bed or making breakfast, which were things that benefitted me. I dreaded even getting out of bed in anticipation of the day ahead. After a certain point, I found myself easily overwhelmed and too eager to reengage with with the outside world before the day had even started, leaving me anxious and unenthused about getting up. My mood was fairly low and the activities I found myself doing first weren’t helping me to wake up. One morning, I realized that some of my habits had begun to drag me down.

So with that, I sought to alter my morning routine to make it more beneficial not only to myself, but to my day as a whole, using the morning to carve out a certain level of me time and self-care that focused mainly on preparing me for my day

[I started] using the morning to carve out a certain level of me time and self-care that focused mainly on preparing me for my day.

Instead of picking up my phone first thing, I made it a point to challenge myself to leave it on the charger until I had done at least two tasks that benefited me.

That way, the focus remained on myself until I was ready to engage with the world. I started with merely washing my face and saying prayer. This forced me to refocus on myself rather than my phone or even the day ahead. After a few weeks I began to add on additional tasks that were further beneficial to me and helped in setting the tone for my day. I added stretching and implemented actively making breakfast (no matter how big or small”> into my morning routine; and before I knew it I was feeling more awake and positive and my phone was the last thing I was reaching for. Implementing my routine not only woke me up, but also shifted my mood to be better equipped to take on certain tasks during the day, whether it is my job itself or small tasks on the way there. 

While it seems simple enough, when it comes to how we should care for ourselves, we tend to forget how essential it is to implement something as simple as a positive morning routine.

I hope you use this article as a reminder to make sure you are taking care of your basic needs in the morning–it truly can shift your mood and set the tone for your day. I urge you, where you can, to take time for yourself; even in the simplest of moments self-care can be implemented and beneficial in shifting your entire day in the right direction. Do things that go beyond reaching for your phone or lying in bed for an extra 15 minutes; try laying out your clothes or doing a little reading, or try praying or saying a daily affirmation. No matter what method you choose to practice, you want to be able to start the day off right no matter where it may take you.

Read Why Solitude Should Be Your Fortitude

Follow Khadija’s blog, The 90s Aesthetic 

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Why Solitude Should Be Your Fortitude

 I feel like I learn the most about myself when I am alone.

I haven’t always felt this way; in fact I used to spend a lot of time hiding behind people and activities just so I wouldn’t have to be by myself. But getting older, I started to realize how much I enjoyed being alone. In not so many words, solitude became my solace from the world and I learned to embrace it. Those moments alone are where I began to learn the most about myself. Based on a multitude of experiences coming of age, I’ve started to realize how terrified most people are of being alone. And, honestly I don’t blame them, although it is not as scary as some think. I have definitely been there: latching on to people out of fear of having to confront my own boredom and insecurities. Not to say that’s the case for everyone, but typically people are afraid to face some form of themselves, good or bad, so we tend to use others as a distraction from that. 

I knew what my issues were with myself, but who wants to spend time confronting that when there are people who can make you feel better about yourself without having to deal with the pains of growing?

I’ll admit it can be an extremely arduous task and I definitely understand why dealing with people who uplift you easily would be easier than confronting our own thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

College was my first lesson in solitude.

I will never forget my first year, making friends and, ultimately, having to make the decision to be alone. Freshman year you meet so many people who you think you are going to stay friends with the entire time, but that’s usually pretty rare (depending on the people involved”>. I’ll never forget calling my dad, complaining about how the people I called ‘friends’ at the start of the fall quarter had suddenly turned their backs on me later on. Upon expressing how hurt I was and not knowing what to do, without a second thought he told me, ‘Well, be alone’. I sat on the line in confusion, further expressing my displeasure and discomfort with the idea, which he only continued to reply with, ‘Girl, be by yo self.’ My fear only stemmed from the fact that at that time I didn’t know how to do that, and had a large fear of missing out on typical college memories. Later on, it became some of the best advice I have gotten to date.

These days, I am at my best when I have spent some time alone.

My dad’s advice has taken me such a long way in my adulthood and even allowed me to develop much better relationships with people. Most days, you can find me reading on my couch, listening to my record player with all the blinds closed, hiding and recharging from the world. My solitude gives me a peace of mind that no one else can give and constantly reinforces my overall sense of self. If there’s any time to do it, your late teens and 20s are the best time to learn yourself. I tend to do a lot of things on my own. Through solitude I discover new places, new movies, new hobbies, new interests, and new facts about myself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Contrary to popular belief, moments of solitude are when we learn the most about ourselves, and while people can be amazing, they can also be very distracting.

Do not allow loneliness to scare you–learn to embrace it.

It literally teaches you things you would never know in the company of others. Use your solitude to strengthen your self-awareness, needs and wants.

The moment I stopped letting it terrify me, it became my greatest asset and I learned more than I could ever imagine and, even better, people started to enter my life following suit. This goes for romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships, and more. My freshman year following my first run-in with solitude, some of the most amazing people walked into my life unexpectedly and I built some of the best friendships I have to date. The moment I gave up using people as a crutch to counteract my own fears and anxieties regarding loneliness, I evolved into a better version of myself. 

So go to the movies, download some music, go for a run, do your favorite activity, or cook yourself a nice meal. Whatever it may be, do something nice for yourself. Take some alone time, whether it be 10 minutes, 1 hour, 3 days, or an entire week, spend some time with you. As I always say no one knows you better than you do and the only way to know those things is to embrace your solitude…

When’s the last time you practiced solitude?

Let us know in the comments below and on Instagram @NaturallyCurly

Follow Khadija’s blog, The 90s Aesthetic and read more of her articles here:

Why You Need to Give Yourself the Gift of Love This Busy Holiday Season

How to Find Your Superpower Through Emotional Expression

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My 3 Favorite Protective Styles This Winter
Here are some hair care and style suggestions for natural hair during the colder months of the year.

For a lot of us curly girls, winter can be an interesting time of year. As much as we love to wear our hair out, with all the crazy weather elements that happen at this time of year there is no better time to put your hair away for it’s own hibernation period. During the winter months, I love to try different styles that give my hair break from the ailments, my hands, and myself. Below, I have listed my top 3 go-to hairstyles during the winter.


Head-wraps are a cute and cozy alternative to the various hairstyles we constantly see out. Given my religious background, I have actually been wrapping my hair as long as I can remember, but it was not until my final years of undergrad that I was able to take my head wrap game and transform it into both a fashion statement and a protective style. A great, alternative style that requires nothing but your favorite scarf and a little creativity, you can get just as creative with a scarf as you can with your hair (I mean, I am sure you’ve seen more than a few amazing head wrap photos on your timelines”>.

Some of the most amazing head wraps I have seen are by my favorite Muslimah influencers and bloggers; I suggest looking up a YouTube tutorial to give yourself an idea about how you would want to rock this particular protective style. Also, remember to use silk or satin material to give your hair the most protection during these colder months. 


Braids and twists are my go to styles during the winter months because they are easy and require low manipulation. I have frequented this protective style for years, and with proper maintenance, they usually last for prolonged periods of time.

During much my time in school, box braids were my signature look and go-to style; I guess you could say I was box braid veteran since I could easily put my hair away for 2 to 3 months at a time with the proper maintenance. Extremely flattering and fun to wear, braids and twists are perfect for the colder months when we are looking to protect our strands from root to end.


Now, I know what you may thinking. “Really, sis? Wigs?” But hear me out! Besides head wraps, wigs have to be one of the easiest low manipulation styles out there and as of late, they have become extremely popular within the natural hair community as an affordable alternative to other protective hairstyles such as weaves, braids, or twists. They also give you an opportunity to try a lot of different hairstyles without having to do a thing to your hair, but braid it and cover it with a cap. As a recent newcomer to the wig game, I seriously urge you to give this protective style alternative a try this winter. I remember thinking about how bad I wanted to cut my hair to get the pixie cut look and without the shears or the immediate regret I was able to get the look I wanted with the right wig as you can clearly see, lol. With so many options, you have an endless array of hairstyles to choose from while not having to permanently commit to any. As with the head wrap tutorials, there are plenty of women on YouTube with the skills and reviews to teach you how to find–and slay–the perfect wig for you. As always, I urge you to do your research, but I would also recommend wigs for any and everyone looking to try something new as a protective style.

To sum it up

All the above styles are great ways to give your hair a break and promote growth during the harsh winter months wherever you may be living. Again, think of it as a hibernation period for your hair, as well as a chance to try new things. Maybe you’ve got a few scarves in the closet you have not worn in awhile, or maybe you have been looking for a new protective style that changes up your overall look, but not your hair. Either way, these three options are great ways to give your hair a well-deserved break until your curls are ready to bloom again in the Spring.

Which protective style have you worn this season?

Post a pic on StyleNook and let us know in the comment section below.

Read 3 Top Trending Crochet Braid Styles (And How To Maintain Them For Over A Month”>

Life After Damage: Coping While Recovering from Heat Damage
Having been natural all my life and knowing the powerful reversibility of my hair, I was completely unfazed by the threat of heat damage.

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My 4c coils could not hold a straightening to save their lives, so when I made the conscious decision to get my hair pressed after nearly 4 years, you can imagine how cool my demeanor was as I sat in the salon chair. I had even come to the shop with my hair already washed and blow-dried. Not since I found myself in my best friend’s kitchen right before undergrad graduation a few years back had I even seen a hot comb. I honestly did not even think it would hold, but after extensive research and a rather detailed conversation with a hairdresser at a black hair salon in LA regarding my natural texture, I figured I would give it a chance.

Since I am only used to my hair in its most natural state, each time I get my hair pressed I can hardly recognize myself.

I walked out of the salon feeling brand new, admiring my actual length in every window with full hair flips every chance I got! Heat damage was the furthest thing from my mind. After about three weeks as expected, my curls began to make their way back on the scene, starting with my edges and then my roots. The hairdresser told me I used too much oil in my hair last time and if I decided to come back she would agree to wash it for me. This way, the straight texture would last longer. Feeling a bit arrogant about the versatility and bounce back of my hair, I decided, why not? I made another appointment to see just how straight my hair could get. Part of me underestimated the hand of any hairdresser going up against my curls.

Long story short, I walked out of the shop again with weightless feathery flips and curls that showed off my true length once again.

It lasted for about a month, which was longer than I had anticipated. When I grew tired of it and was ready to wash, the horror that was heat damage quickly ensued. Needless to say, I was absolutely mortified! Scraggly and partially straightened ends with not a real curl in sight was now my nightmare. I immediately blamed myself, contemplating reaching for the scissors as punishment for arrogance and neglect.

I immediately blamed myself, contemplating reaching for the scissors as punishment for arrogance and neglect.

One of my friends had to urge me to find other alternatives, just so I would not cut it. Before I knew it I found myself back on the computer doing the same amount of extensive research for treatments as I had done to find a hair salon in the first place. I watched what felt like a thousand videos and pulled a few protein treatments to counteract the damage. After a few weeks, slowly but surely my curls began to come back but a few ends on the right side of my head were still straight. I knew that there was no coming back for my ends since I hadn’t had a trim in quite some time. I knew they were pretty much dead and gone.

Following acceptance, I began to get innovative with my techniques to manipulate my hair and slowly grow it back. I knew because my ends were straight that they seemed never ending. I took mini perm rods and after twisting my hair I’d put them on the ends to create the illusion of curls.

I knew they were pretty much dead and gone.

To my surprise, everybody liked the end result, including myself.

You would be surprised to see what happens when you get creative and find different ways to counteract the after-effects of heat damage. The first thing to remember is that it is not the end of the world, and there are many ways to combat heat damage. You can freak out initially – you need that time to panic and process what’s going on – but do not stay there.

My advice to you

Calm down, breathe. Put your hair away and place all that energy built up from the panic into your research.

Second, keep in mind that it is going to take some time and it won’t be instant; so practice patience with your hair. It will be hard at first, but I promise it will get easier as you move on number 3. 

Third, take this opportunity to give your hair and your hands a break to try out new protective styles. When your hair is away, you will definitely spend less time worried about it because you won’t even see it, so just go ahead and get the twists, try crochet braids or find a new wig. Try to choose innovation and patience over panic and sheers, in the end it is just another journey, which means another opportunity to learn and be inspired.

You’re beautiful either way, and I can see it from here.

Follow Khadija on Instagram @thepoetessdij and follow her personal blog, 

Why You Need to Give Yourself the Gift of Love This Busy Holiday Season
I believe we should all be striving to go on a journey spent outside of others and more in tune with ourselves. 
Khadija Bilal

Doesn’t it sound cliché when people say “love yourself”?

After hearing it time and time again, it becomes an almost obnoxious phrase–condescending, even.

“Oh girl, love yourself or nobody else will.”

But what does that love look like, and how exactly do we do that without the help of others?

How I realized the importance of loving myself

In discovering the importance of self-care, I learned that the way in which I cared for myself was directly linked to my love of self. Even more telling were the ways in which self-care simultaneously built up my self-worth. You may be wondering how this is even possible but honestly, when I took the time to care for myself, I began to see much of the value that others saw in me. Self-care forced me to get to know myself in depth and, in many ways, on a deeper level than I was used to when I spent a lot of time avoiding or neglecting my own needs.

when I took the time to care for myself, I began to see much of the value that others saw in me.

Recognizing my individual powers

The more time I spent learning myself and what I wanted, the more I was able to recognize my own value on an individual level. I knew what I was putting out into the world personally because I was now showing that same attention to myself. It was no easy feat to say the least, and it took what felt like forever to get there. Still, the journey has been more than I could ever ask for. I am still learning more about myself everyday. I believe we should all be striving to go on a journey spent outside of others and more in tune with ourselves.

Why I started Self-Care Sundays

During grad school I started up Self-Care Sundays for myself; it was a day for me to take the time to do various activities by myself. I headed out to new shops I had never been to, discovered new music, went the park or picked up new books to read. In getting comfortable with doing things by myself, amazing things started happening. I was able to get acquainted with myself on a much deeper level that allowed me to better articulate and assert certain feelings that I would have had trouble expressing previously.

Reaping the benefits from self-love and self-care

Typically, when we constantly find ourselves surrounded by the thoughts and feelings of others, it can be difficult to drown them out and figure out how it is we truly feel. As human beings we tend to be impressionable, using outside opinions to formulate our own. Although this is completely normal, what happens when nobody else is around to interfere with–or cloud–our own judgment? We are literally forced to sit there and confront those feelings on our own accord. Without the distraction of wanting other people’s approval or agreement, I was finally able to stand tall in my own personal beliefs.

While I am by no means a guru, I speak from experience when I describe this link between active self-care and self-love. I can honestly say it works and I’m reaping the benefits of it.
Khadija Bilal

All the things I found myself wanting from others, I started to do for myself. I took myself to the movies, went to different museums, wrote, read and dug deeper into who I was as a person. I challenged myself and sought to think beyond what I already knew. After doing that for about year I realized my interactions with people started to look different. I valued my time and energy a lot more because of the amount of work I was putting in to care for myself.

I valued my time and energy a lot more because of the amount of work I was putting in to care for myself.

It had become so prevalent that I began to find it easier to cut out what encroached upon my well-being any time someone made me question my own feelings about something. I stopped wasting time and hoping they would understand and instead, took the time to firmly express myself. I finally started feeling brave enough to tell people how I felt, and I was no longer ashamed to do so.

Why I value my relationship with self

My courage and self-worth mounted through the time that I took out to value myself, and other people started to notice. During my going away luncheon at my last job, everybody shared the same sentiments regarding their admiration of my ability to be unapologetically myself. I honestly had no idea I was projecting that, because at some point I slowly stopped worrying about it. I was too in tune with myself to let other people’s perceived notions of me cloud my judgment about who I was becoming. I knew me better than anyone, and not only that, but I was constantly doing the work to continuously grown and evolve. 

Remember to take care of yourself…

In taking care of yourself, you must remember that it is bigger than just treating yourself to some ice cream or taking some down time; you are literally pouring back into yourself what you constantly give out to the world. In taking the time to do your favorite activities, you create your own happiness and learn yourself in depth. This is how you are placing the overall value back into who you are as person. And in time, you will start seeing your personal value double and even triple so much so, you will not need another person to see you because you see yourself. So please take care of yourself… Your mind, body, and spirit, I promise you, will thank you.

Read about The Moment I Realized Skipping Self-Care Was Not an Option

Follow Khadija on Instagram @ThePoetessDij

The Moment I Realized Skipping Self-Care Was Not an Option
The world as we know it revolves around this idea of women being socialized as the number one caregiver… but who takes care of us?

The world as we know it revolves around this idea of women being socialized as the number one caregiver: we are the nurturers, the caretakers, and the emotional support–but what happens when the role we are forced to encompass overshadows our own needs? Who takes care of us? In our lives, we tend to be the support that is constantly demanded of or required to give.

But who knows our personal needs better than us? As women, we are socialized and expected to take care of those around us, and this can naturally throw us into a frenzy of neglect and under appreciation from those who we assist the most. Throw the idea of ‘blackness‘ in the mix and the playing field becomes tilted at a 180-degree angle.

We should know to take care of ourselves since we are able to take care of everyone else, right? Wrong.

Let’s admit it–many of us hardly know where to start when it comes to focusing on the importance of self-care. Back in grad school I found myself struggling with a bout of depression and anxiety that I could not seem to get out of. I slept a lot to avoid a majority of my problems and yet, I still felt exhausted. I found myself struggling to get up to do simple tasks. Not only did I suffer alone, I suffered in silence.

I felt that speaking my problems aloud would only burden those around me. Nonetheless, I stayed in spaces I felt most uncomfortable and tended to the needs of others while ignoring my own. Things finally came to a head during a break from school when I broke down about the overbearing emotional burden I was carrying. I could not find relief anywhere–not in my favorite things, my work, my loved ones, and definitely not myself.

Following the recommendation of a friend, I went back to school and sought the help I needed to sort out my overburdened mind.

My mind had become cluttered with all my problems, past, present, and future, and I could no longer seem to find a place to put all of it. That, along with the mounting anxiety I felt regarding my place in life, pushed me into a corner I could no longer hide in. I spoke to a therapist on campus and the unbiased recognition of what I was carrying somehow lifted the emotional cinderblock sitting on my chest for the last year.

For the first time in years, I felt like I could finally stop hiding.

Opening up set the tone for what the rest of my journey and advocacy would look like. She helped me set up steps to take a break out of the week and care for myself, telling me all the things I felt were very much real (I had not properly given myself a break from life”>. I honestly did not know that was even possible, but she reassured me that there were ways to do it.

We started small: she advised me to go to the gym 3 days a week. From there, later on I chose a day to do whatever I wanted by myself. It was a strange feeling at first since I had always been heavily reliant on the company of others to enjoy things, but I decided to give it a try anyway. As I worked self-care into my routine, I slowly began to reap the benefits of it.

I got into better shape, built a stronger connection to God, and even became more in tune with myself.

Before I started self-care I would look to others to give me what I needed or gave to the world. I selfishly figured that if I could do these things for people then people should be able to do and be there for me. However, what I failed to realize was that I had the capacity to care and support myself better than anyone else did. There is already an expectation of me to take care of a hundred people, so why couldn’t I do the work to take care of the most important person to me and make sure she was okay?

what I failed to realize was that I had the capacity to care and support myself better than anyone else did.

I took the necessary steps to ensure that what I provided others with, I foremost provided for myself.

As black women with so many expectations placed around us, it is easy to put ourselves on the back burner constantly without even realizing it. I have watched my mother, my friends, even my friends’ mothers do it. I wondered why we felt so obligated to forget about ourselves in the midst of pain and struggle? I mean, historically, the facts are there–but we have the capacity to change that narrative for the sake of our own mental health and well-being. It does not have to be this big ‘I am taking care of myself and y’all better let me’ party! It starts with us simply making the conscious decision to do what is best for us when life situations become too stressful.

I gained the most valuable asset in making the decision to care for myself.

I had a heightened level of self-awareness and a doubling in myself worth, because I knew intimately that the work I was putting in to take care of myself and become a better me.

I watched my mom pick up the habit of going to the gym every other day for a year and I beamed with pride when she hit her one year mark. She had suddenly felt a great sense of accomplishment that was separate from her role as mother, wife, employee, and friend because it stood as recognition of self that she gave. Realizing that we are people outside of our daily roles is essential to maintaining our well-being and importance. As a black woman, we are already carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, from unsolicited opinions to negative comments to police brutality, and all this coupled with the exhausting expectation of having to care for everyone while still being criticized. We owe it to ourselves to give ourselves the same effort we put out into the world. The best relationship we can have is the one we build with yourself. Self-care has taught me that no matter what people say and no matter what they do even, in the face of adversity and devaluation, I am valuable and I matter. This is not because of anyone else, but because I said so.

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Get Ya Mind Right: Let’s Discuss Black Women And Mental Health