I remember that when I was in high school I used to care a lot about what other people thought, and with that, how they judged me. I always wanted to be liked and accepted, so I did what I felt like I had to in order to fit in, even if it meant changing something about myself. In high school I would straighten my hair every day, damaging the curls I only grew to love and embrace here in college. I did this because I wanted to conform to the societal norms that perceived straight hair as beautiful. All the other girls had straight hair, so I thought that by straightening mine, I’d be like everyone else, not so different, not so weird.

Doing this every day was exhausting, and the damage I was doing to my hair was immense, but even though I liked my hair curly, I assumed I would be judged for being different so, I straightened it constantly. While I didn’t realize this at the time, taking social psychology has taught me that in high school I had been participating in normative social influence. I changed my look into something I thought would be more publicly acceptable, and although it meant the deindividuation of my own look, I did it anyway because I wanted to be liked.

Now in college I’ve learned to be accepting of myself and that I can have my own standards for what should be considered beauty. I’ve also come to care less about what other people have to say, and I’ve only been stronger since.

After having learned this concept I wonder just how much of what I thought in high school was actually true. Did others perceive straight hair as better because its “tamed” or was that just something I convinced myself was true because it’s what the pretty girls had? I think that if I had been made aware of this concept in high school I would have kept straightening it because “high school me” was stubborn. However, I do recognize how toxic normative social influence can be, and I can only hope that I am better about being my own person, for myself, in the future.

 

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