Last year, we started hosting candid conversations with black women in our community, through which we explored their relationships with their bodies and the experiences that have shaped their perceptions of beauty and self. In this excerpt from our conversation, Dymonica Hurdle reflects on how pivotal decisions like shaving her hair and going to counseling have changed her life for the better.
What are some of your earliest memories or experiences that shaped your concept of beauty?
My mom was a hair dresser, so my second home—my third home—was at the hair shop. I think a lot of what I saw in women was around their hair. I saw people get the perms, the weaves—and seeing that was like “oh wow, these women are beautiful.” I was very privileged to have a mom who did hair—I got my hair done every week. I found myself like, getting really upset when I didn’t have my hair the way that I liked it. I just always felt like if my hair wasn’t done, then something’s off. And so I think my first experience with beauty was in a beauty shop, and like just women getting their hair done and they come in there stressed, but they left feeling great. And I was like wow, I want to be like that. Not just the look of it, but the feel of being beautiful.
I went natural my freshman year of college [laughs]. I looked so crazy! I don’t know why people let me out. I had like the straight pieces in the front, but everything else was short natural in the back. But I wanted to go natural because my mom wasn’t there—like I couldn’t get my hair done as often as I had, and my first experience seeing a natural-haired woman, I was like “oh my gosh, this is so effortless.”
I’m not trying to show up as anybody else—I’m showing up as myself.
Now, going bald the first time? Well, I would say fading my hair very low the first time, it was very impulsive. I do a lot of impulsive things, where it’s like, I’m just gonna rebel against myself and whatever thing that I’m feeling. I’m a very A-B-C-D-E type person. It’s hard to get me to just go with the flow. So sometimes I just get rebellious against myself and I’ll get piercings and tattoos, and all this stuff. My hair was something that I could control, but it was also very like … I’m really about to have no hair. But I did—I just cut it. I cut it off, and I loved it. It was very freeing, it was like I didn’t have to put on for people. This is who I am. I don’t have no hair to hide behind, I’m not trying to show up as anybody else—I’m showing up as myself.
Usually it takes me a couple of hours—if I’m on the fence about a hairstyle—it only takes me a couple hours to get used to it and I’m like cool, I love it, it’s great. But with my bald haircut, it took me three weeks to actually take a picture, to actually—you know how you be ready to post on Instagram, take your little selfie [laughs]. It took me three weeks to actually take a picture. And in those three weeks, I was really grappling with like, I don’t know if I’m a woman, because I’m bald. Because when I think about women, I think about all this hair and—again, going back to when I was real little—beauty was all about a woman's hair and so I was like man, I don’t have no hair. So does that mean I’m not beautiful anymore? I was just going through all these feels. And interactions with people since then have been crazy. I get everything from “are you sick?” to “you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”
What are some pivotal moments or defining truths that have changed or are changing the way you see yourself?
Counseling. Shaving my head bald. I think those are the two biggest things that have shaped everything. Again, being bald has just freed me in a way I didn’t know I needed to be freed. I didn’t know I carried this weight, and I still don’t have words for it, but I carried this weight—even having a faded haircut—I felt like I had some type of security with hair on my head. And when I cut it all of, it was like wow. I could breathe.
But going to counseling has literally saved my life. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t start that journey last year. I’ve been going every week for one year. And man, it’s just. I knew I was complicated, but I didn’t know that—I thought I was just complicated by myself. But the Lord is okay with me being complicated, and I’ve really been figuring out that the Lord wants to do this with me. All the things that I’m grappling with in that space, the Lord wants to be with me through it. Whether that’s with my weight, whether it’s about family, or relationships—I don’t have to do it by myself. It’s really vulnerable, and I’m still learning how to do that. Though I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I didn’t realize I was relying on myself in all these areas. It’s been beautiful, it’s been ugly, it’s been annoying, it’s been frustrating, it’s been confusing. It’s been a lot of things, but really focusing on my mental health has been my priority and probably will be my priority until I get to Heaven [laughs].
When did you know you needed counseling?
I was becoming more physically anxious and I was recognizing that. I think I’ve been anxious all my life, but I was seeing physical signs of it. My birthday is in March, and it was probably the December before turning 25 that I started feeling all this anxiety like I don’t got my stuff together, and I’m dropping the ball. I spiraled into depression. A couple of friends had gone to counseling before I did, and they were like it’s crazy, but it’s been helpful. I was like—listen, I need to do something because I don’t feel God. I don’t feel myself. It was really scary for me. So I made the call, I sat in the chair, and I was like, I don’t know why I’m here. She talked through it with me, and it was a very hard. That was a hard day to come to terms with the fact that I’m not as put together as I thought.
Was going to counseling a difficult decision for you to make? First as a Christian, and secondly, as a black woman?
It was first hard as a Christian, because I remember that first day I was like “I don’t even know why I’m here. Me and Jesus should be getting it together real soon here” [laughs] “we should be getting together here soon and straightening this all out.” I go to a Christian counselor too, so that’s been helpful. But I definitely felt I got pulled with the “I’m supposed to be letting Jesus all in my problems, and figuring it out with Him,”… but there was a disconnect somewhere, which led me to sit in that seat that day.
More recently, I’ve felt the struggle of being a black woman and going to counseling, because I’ve been really thinking about this ... this “black woman superhero syndrome.” I didn’t know that I had that until recently, but it’s this “I need to have everything together, I need to be perceived as having it all under control.” But going to counseling says the total opposite of that, to me. It says I’m falling apart, I don’t have it together, I don’t have it under control, and I need help. I’ve recognized that black women as a whole feel like we have to carry the load for our family, our friends, whatever. And we forget about ourselves while doing that.
I can continually ask for help as much as I need it and not feel bad about it. I’m not wasting no time doing that, this is part of my time.
Now, being a Christian and going to counseling, I don’t grapple with that as much as I did in the beginning, just because I know that is where God wants me. He wants me to be in counseling, He wants me to let someone that is not biased be in my space. Because I don’t do that. I don’t let people in my space like that. So He’s been teaching me through that process to let Him in and to also let someone else help me. It’s okay to need help.
And that’s probably the hardest thing to overcome. It’s something I’m still overcoming—this sense that I can continually ask for help as much as I need it and not feel bad about it. I’m not wasting no time doing that, this is part of my time. To be in this process of healing, of being whole. It’s something I’m still in, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the end of that. But I’m definitely just in this space of, I’m going to ask for as much help as I can. And it’s okay to do that.
I’m not wasting no time.
To learn more about this project or read our other interviews, click here. Then, join the conversation! Use the hashtags #aboutfaceproject and #blackgirlmiracle to share your own stories of beauty and becoming with us.