Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Defining Natural (Maybe I'm a Dreamer, but I'm Not the Only One)


Lately, there's a lot of discussion among black women about what is considered to be truly natural. There's umpteen ways to flex one's "naturalness" from how you wear your hair to what you eat to what kinds of products you use.  While these discussions are useful to the extent that we are sharing our diverse opinions with each other, at the end of the day how can anyone else define what is natural to me or to you? We must define that for ourselves.

I urge you all to veer away from any divisive thinking and define natural for yourself, beyond the context of how you wear your hair, eat, dress, etc. What if we all thought of natural as simply being the characteristics that bring out the best in us? As we evolve and grow, these natural characteristics evolve with us. So, what felt natural and authentic to me ten years ago may not feel that way today.  Growth and change is natural, isn't it?  Diversity is natural, too.

Think about the harmony that would exist in the world if we were all intimately in touch with what naturally brings out our best while being confident enough to share it with the world. If we all put these natural characteristics, talents, and gifts to use in this way, they would benefit us while also complementing the harmony that we all wish to see in the world. Unfortunately, we get caught up in trying to define ourselves on someone else's terms. Am I natural enough? religious enough? successful enough? What about asking ourselves this question - am I ME enough???

Spending all of our time seeking validation from each other slows us down. Instead of giving ourselves fully to our own process, we keep criticizing others and doubting ourselves. What's natural about that? If we could stop looking for one definition that suits us all (because it doesn't exist) and trust our own instincts, we'd all experience self-actualization (the achievement of our full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.)

The most valuable gift you can give to the world and to yourself is the natural, unequivocal you.

Question: I'm obviously very opinionated about this idea of embracing what naturally flows from me and this topic often comes up in my writing. Awhile back, a reader on Curly Nikki left the following comment on one of my guest posts about defining what is "good" for yourself:
changing your mind about your appearance so that you accept yourself as you are (physically) is appropriate. we're all good from a physical characteristic perspective.

but that same logic does not apply to other characteristics - i.e., you may be naturally inclined to murder/rape/pillage - does that mean that "it's good" and you should just go for it? (I know that's drastic, but I'm trying get my point across based on your final paragraph).

what usually "flows" from us internally DOES need to be corrected and held up to a moral standard. this has NOTHING to do with how we feel about our hair.
She makes a relevant point. What do you all think? Is my idealistic ranting about being yourself at all costs too, well, idealistic???  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


BESOS LYNN said...

If your intent was to challenge people to be authentic and look a little deeper than the physical characteristics they posess, than you did that! The comment you posted is her perspective, but does not seem to be in line with the theme or thought that you were trying to convey.

GG said...

Well I'm glad the point of being authentic came across. I shared that comment as an example of how some people believe that we shouldn't trust that our "natural" instincts are "good"...that everything that flows from us naturally is not necessarily good and shouldn't necessarily be accepted. I think she has a point.

However, we all have to sort through our weaknesses as well as our strengths to discover how we can manipulate them to experience them in a positive way. Does that make sense???

Since she brings in extreme cases like people who instinctively want to do harm to other people, I don't have an answer to that other than those people at some point chose the darkness over the light. What makes some people experience tragedy and dysfunction in their lives and still choose the light, and others not? Is it genetics? I don't know.

Chai said...

I'd have to disagree with her comment suggesting that people have an intrinsic nature to hurt/kill/harm other people, my goodness. There are choices in life and then there's just pure evil. And, I know she's drawing a pretty drastic parallel, but there's absolutely no reach when talking about natural hair...IMO.
I've also been following the discussions about 'what it means to be TRULY natural...' and they continue to baffle and sadden me. There's an underlying divisiveness that we're not talking about, and until we do, we'll run in these same circles, pointing fingers & assuming instances we know little about. I love when you pointed out..."Diversity is natural, too" Couldn't agree more...

Alexis said...

I totally agree with you GG. As far as the reader's comments, I don't believe anything natural is evil. Someone may be compelled to commit rape or murder, but that is by no means natural. People who hurt others are hurt themselves. They become hurt by their experiences in the world. When they are not able to properly process or deal with their hurts, they lash out at others. Lashing out could be an argument or a murder. It all depends on the person. So being "compelled" to do something out of unidentified (as well as consciously unaware of) past hurts and pains is not at all "natural".

Kim Jackson said...

I would agree with Alexis. While there are a certain amount of inherent traits we are born with; many of the decisions we make as we grow are based on the experiences we have, and how our perceptions about the world are shaped by said experiences. Sometimes we try and engineer our future choices and experiences in the same direction as what we already know, and other times we aim to act completely counter to what we have known previously. In the case of those who purposefully do particular harm to others, it is often because some harm was done to them either physically, mentally or emotionally.

I'm not sure there is one right answer to your original question until we define what it means to be "natural". Is natural what is inherently "in" us when we're born? Or is natural the result of the choices we make based on what we experience? Or is it a little bit of both? And how do we know the difference?

GG said...

@kimmie: I think it's definitely a little bit of both! There's no sure way to know cause that just leads me to a whole different philosophical conversation about why bad things happen. Are "bad things" natural? I would have to say that they are, whether we like it or not. That's a can of worms, though.

Anyway, while I love my hair in its natural state, it was also natural for me to go through a journey where I came to really love and appreciate it. Who's to say that it's not natural for someone else to come to a different conclusion. Likewise, it's natural for some folks (@chicmommy1!) to wear 4 inch heels everyday. That's so not me! My point with this post was that "naturalness" is completely defined by each of us for ourselves.

Kim Jackson said...

Bad things are absolutely natural as they are necessary for balance. We would never know that something was "good" if not for the alternative knowledge of its opposite. And lol @ those heels. I think your point came through in both posts.

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