Updated: Nov 12, 2019
"The many struggles brunettes face."
Do you feel like you need to put in extra effort in order to stand out in a world of predominantly dark haired people? If so, then you are not alone. The struggle is real! Especially when you are forced to stand beside a sibling or three who possess rare features that are the center of envy by many.
Have you ever heard the old saying that "You can't always get what you want"? I have more times than I care to remember. Around 11% of the world population have brown hair, 84% have black hair and the rest is history. And if you are like me, and wish to stand out and be unique, you may feel a little intimidated when you see yourself standing next to someone who was born with physical traits that are rare, and that is not an understatement.
You may receive comments such as:
“There are, like, so many brunettes. You probably don’t even feel unique.”
Me: "Seriously? I'm standing here with my brown hair. You know I just heard that, right?"
Someone asked me: why does your hair color bother you so much?
Well, the reason should be obvious. But, for the people who may not get why; I am going to spell it out here. It's called "Blending in a little too much."
If you lived one day in the shoes of someone who was born with average hair, you will find you may get ignored or even overlooked more than you care to know, especially with siblings who were born with rare traits. While all of my siblings got curly blonde locks and ruby red hair, I got the straight milk chocolate hair.
My hair didn't grow as long as I wanted. It wasn't thick. And it sure wasn't the "right" color, according to society's beauty standards. I will later demonstrate how I was taught to be ashamed of my dark hair, while my siblings were praised for their beautiful light hair and their loose curls.
Since straight brown hair was the most common among Europeans, and in the Western world; I couldn’t help but to feel like I was just another brunette in a sea of mostly brunette people, except for some 2 to 3 percent of the world population that weren’t. After all, people evolved to having blonde hair so that they'd stand out among a sea of brown haired people, right?
These negative thoughts about my hair didn't magically cross my mind, that is; until my first sibling was born. My little brother was blessed with that white blonde hair most people would pay good money for. Not to mention, he was the center of attention since day one. As an average looking little girl with a beautiful blonde baby brother, I did not yet understand what bias was about. But if you think that kids can't pick up on this at a young age, think again.
I realized more than ever before, after my little sister was born a couple of years later; just how tremendously valued these traits were. My little sister was beautiful. Her one hundred percent German blood gifted her with an allure that was rare and tremendously special. She was a European beauty, with the Shirly Temple white blonde thick curls everyone wanted, piercing blue eyes, and a pretty face that would turn heads at every corner. I saw how adored she was by family and strangers alike. It was almost as if she was given celebrity status because of her rare beauty.
My youngest brother, born a year after my sister; was also blessed with the rarest gift of all, the ruby red-hair the
media practically worshipped. Talk about being the center of attention. He was in the spotlight. Later his hair turned into Strawberry blonde. Still just as beautiful.
As strangers would pass by, they would center their attention around my siblings. At first I thought that it was just because I was the oldest. Yet I couldn’t help but to notice that my aunts, who were a few years older than me; were also praised for their loose red curls. I began to take note of this as well. I couldn't help but to notice that the mirror wasn't telling me that I had these qualities. I looked so different from all of my siblings. And when it came to me, it was a whole different reaction from people, and often times no reaction. I was practically invisible. It was horrible!
It was then that I began to realize why I wasn’t as adored or noticed as they were. They possessed these greatly coveted traits that so many desired. They were the ones who stood out among the rest. So why couldn’t things have been different for me?
Growing up, I was surrounded by this type of beauty. But for some unknown 'unfortunate' twist of fate, I was born with the average dark hair everyone else supposedly had. I always have been brunette and, although my hair lightened up with those sparkly sun kissed highlights, I still was that average amber-eyed brunette. Life just isn't fair is it?
After seeing how profusely my siblings were praised for their beauty, I honestly didn’t feel as valued as they were, especially after hearing strangers tell me: “Oh, and your hair is nice, too,” as an afterthought, suggesting that I wasn’t as cool as my siblings were. I felt like a tree stump standing next to them with my average dark hair, and it really crushed me.
At this point, I felt that life had cheated me because I wasn’t given this type of beauty! No one knew disappointment like I did, and I mean no one!
The differences in the treatment of my siblings and I, was not exclusively referring to how my parents or family treated me or them. I am, however, referring to the fact that society will treat the lighter-haired child better than the sibling with darker features. These types of things can be clearly seen by the siblings and can trigger inferiority complexes.
So did I think that it was because of my dark hair that made people not notice me standing alongside of my siblings? Not at first, but evidence was pointing in that direction as I couldn’t help but to notice how they were the very center of attention with strangers. So I began to ask my peers and family members if they preferred blonde or brunette hair, they almost always say blonde. It hit me like a ton of bricks! It was then I began to sheer off my hair without a care. After all, what does it matter?
I know I know, forget the European standard of beauty and learn to love yourself. But I find it very hard to take pride in something when others overlooked you because of it.
It is true, in today’s society; this rare beauty is most valued and coveted. You see it everywhere. It’s why so many women chose to artificially create blonde locks by bleaching and destroying their hair. So if you have natural blonde locks, you should feel lucky, blessed even, that you don’t have to spend hours in the salon to achieve your natural blonde look. There is something special in the fact that you belong to the two to three percent of the entire world’s population that are natural blondes and fiery red-heads. And though I do have moments when I loved my hair, there was still something more mysterious, something more striking, something almost fundamentally appealing about possessing this rare beauty.
I wanted more than anything to be different, to stand out. These were the problems and issues that I had to face in my growing up years. But it is important not to stay in that way. But these are some reasons outlined as to why I struggled so much, and why sometimes I desperately wish I was born a natural blonde or red-head beauty.
The problem is that the world perceives those who were born with these rare traits as having a higher quality than those with the average dark features. I have noticed it since I was a toddler. I noticed how my mother would always dye her hair a lighter color, and how the brunettes in my family would also lighten their hair. It really sent a message to me, that in order for a girl to be pretty, she must have light hair.
Don’t get me wrong, do I hate myself because of this? No. But I did hate being devalued for being 'too average'.
So what can we do about this? How can we overcome these negative thoughts? I will tell you about what my mother did for me growing up, as her only dark haired child.
My siblings and I were inseparable, especially my oldest brother. We would always clash, and strangers would always ask questions.
Self-esteem does not exist in a vacuum. It is encouraged and reinforced by the people in your immediate environment, such as your family, friends, and those who are the closest to you. And your first teachers are, of course; your parents. And the more you learn about how to deal with bias at home, the more equipped that you will be to deal with it in the real world.
My mother always encouraged me to love myself and to embrace my natural dark hair. She never encouraged me to dye it and always bought me dolls that looked like me. She would doll me up, do my hair, dress me up and make me feel like a beauty queen. She would always tell me about how beautiful and soft my natural hair was. And as I got older, it did darken a bit. But I later learned to stop worrying about my siblings or what others would think of me, and focus on being the best version of myself that I could be.
When I got out into the real world, I began to notice how so many dark haired women resorted to the same insecurity and self-hate issues I faced. Many of them were not taught to love their hair. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most of them don’t like having dark hair, they hate it. They hate being overlooked and wish to stand out. When I found out that it wasn’t just me, but also a whole world of people out there like me, I began to realize how important it was to love your natural beauty, and to stop measuring yourself against other beauty standards and expectations.
You must realize, if someone makes a negative comment about your hair or dark features, it says nothing about you. Comments such as:
a) “You’re pretty for a dark haired brown eyed girl,” or
b) “There are like, so many brunettes. I bet you don’t even feel unique,” suggesting that you can’t be unique as a dark haired girl, or
c) “You must be jealous,” suggesting that dark haired girls should be envious of redheads or blondes because they are not pretty enough, or
d) “Red/blonde hair is rare, and therefore superior,” suggesting that you aren’t rare, therefore you are inferior to them. They may also say things such as:
e) “Your hair is nice, too,” after profusely praising your sibling or friend for his/her natural copper curls, knowing that they are the ones being praised and not you. They were just being polite by being inclusive (as curtesy to parents with red-head and non-redhead children).
Know that their biases are their problem, not yours.
Here is the die hard truth ladies. People are going to treat your recessive counterparts differently than you because they look different, especially in different parts of the world where there are not very many redheads or blondes. They are going to tell your recessive counterpart that they are prettier because they have light and bright colored hair. They are going to either ignore you or deem you as inferior because you have darker features. They are going to say you have bad hair and they have good hair, and so on.
If you have children, or if you were a dark haired girl with light haired siblings, the worst thing you could do is sweep this under the rug and not talk about this as if there are no problems, especially when you and/or your children are dealing with these issues. We need to talk about this. We need to talk to our children about this. Because when you get out into the real world, they will be treated differently. We need to be aware of the ignorant things that may be said to us when we are out in the world pertaining to our hair or physical appearance, and how to deal with them as they come.
The “We are all the same” concept is a cute idea and a comforting thought, and I’m sure that whoever put that slogan out there had good intentions, but the world just doesn’t operate that way. So I encourage parents to discuss this reality with their children. Be honest with them now. Because sooner or later, they will have to face this reality. This world isn't sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you down and keep you there if you let it. Its full of superficial people who will base your value on your physical characteristics. Its the sad truth.
The only way dark haired children will truly feel inferior to their light haired siblings is if their siblings are treated better by their parents. People will come and go, but it is the parents who play a huge role into what that child becomes. If parents help their kids understand their value, and that the bias of other people says nothing about who they are, they can also become confident with their natural look and beauty. After all, beauty comes in every color, and that is the truth.
Personal worth doesn't come from what society values more! And it sure doesn't come from a bottle. I can't say this enough. Let's not base these things on what the media says or on the biases of a few random strangers. Life isn't about pleasing the whole world! You don't have to fit into a certain mold to have value. You don't have to be the best at everything or look a certain way in order to be successful.
Know that its not your hair that needs to be fixed. It’s society’s view of quality and value that is what’s broken.