‘A uni professor gave me the worst career advice of my life: “Your hair is unprofessional.”‘

I remember my mother pointing out one woman with teeth that were too big, or another who’s face wasn’t symmetrical. Instead, she could have focused on the achievements of these women, their ambitions.That’s what adult women need to realise when they are dispensing advice to the younger generation. Even if what you are saying seems trivial at the time, it can have a larger impact than you realise.Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.The words of adult women shape the self-image of the younger generation. Adult women tell young girls what they are capable of, and how to present themselves. Let’s be careful we aren’t telling them to quiet down or change their appearance.Every time I’ve dressed for an interview or an important presentation at work, I’ve thought of my professor’s words.Each time, I pause, checking my reflection, and waver a bit on whether to leave my spirals falling freely past my shoulders or to twist them up. I hate that one person’s words have caused me to doubt myself, even for brief moments of time. But, I respected her opinions, and she was a feminist, right?I walked around for most of my life thinking that my nose was too big and my eyes were too small. I picked myself apart just like the adult female role models in my life did to each other. It took me a long time to learn to love my hair, my face, and parts of my personality.Once I did, I no longer wanted to hide any of it. I got my curls from my mother, and a few years ago I passed them onto my daughter. She also got my stubborn streak. Trying to restrain my tumble of curls would be like telling some of the people closest to me that I think they should restrain themselves.I didn’t straighten my hair for that interview, or for any I’ve had in the 15 years since. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times in my adult life I have straightened my hair.I’ve built a career where I am respected, and when I stand up to speak to a room full of people they are focused on my words and demeanour, not on the wildness around my face.The truth is that I wouldn’t want to work for a company that would choose not to hire me over something as trivial as my hairstyle just as I wouldn’t marry a man who didn’t love my stubborn streak. Instead, I will teach my daughter to love her wild curls, and how to harness her stubbornness.This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.


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