For my entire life, my hair has gone through different stages of being wavy/curly. When I was younger, I didn't really mind my Shirley Temple curls or the fact that every time I got a haircut, my hairdresser went on and on about how thick my hair was.

But when I got older and frizz became my worst enemy when I was 12 or 13, I began to fry my hair with my trusty straightener and curling wand (hello, heat damage). A bunch of my friends came to school with either pin-straight or beautifully curled hair, so why shouldn't I do that too?

Going into high school, I developed a definitive getting ready routine pretty quickly–wash at night, blow dry, wake up, straighten, then curl. The whole process took about an hour and as I did it more and more, I didn't feel like myself unless my hair was styled.

I never got my perfectly-done hair wet in the pool or at the beach, I took a long time to get ready, and my hairdresser always gave me side-eye as she trimmed my split ends. Sometimes, I'd go through week-long stages of keeping my hair natural. But I'd always convince myself that my curls weren't pretty before the day was over.

Right before senior year was over, I decided that I really needed a change so I cut 9 inches of my hair and got a blonde balayage. I was ready to graduate and go into college and in the theme of change, I decided to go completely natural. My shorter length represented a fresh start for me and I was excited to treat my hair the best I could. I put my straightener and curling wand away and started to do research on different products.

The first couple of days were rough because I wasn't used to seeing myself with natural hair. It was summer and I was rarely wearing makeup, so not having to do my hair saved me even more time. Before long, I began to appreciate my curls like I never had before. Now, of course, finding a good product to help control my frizzy flyaways helped me like my hair, but the real confidence came from inside.

Instead of changing myself so that I could be picture-perfect, I was embracing my sometimes unruly, thick hair. My curls are mine and are completely unique to me; I was born with them and it was time that I finally started appreciating them. Finally, I started to feel beautiful without spending an hour on my hair. All of my friends and family noticed my confidence too and made sure they told me.

Now, my hair has become part of who I am. While I still love to occasionally curl or straighten it for special events, most days I let my hair do what it wants. I no longer feel like I have to apply heat just to look pretty. No matter how frizzy or crazy it is, it's part of what makes me stand out and I wouldn't change it for the world.