I went for an entire year with absolutely no heat to my hair. After one session with a flat iron, I suffered heat damage. I actually went to a professional stylist to get my hair done but I don't think she was aware of natural hair properties. Luckily, she didnt straighten all of my hair but it still looks like crap. My curls look so voluminous and curly until you get to the damaged hair. The damage is more wavy and looks limp and flat. It looks like I have permed hair and transitioning all over again. Now I just wear styles to camouflage it but the ends are still straight so I'll eventually have to cut it.
I'm not trying to discourage you but just giving you a problem that I am still struggling with four months later. However, I've seen a few naturals straighten their hair with no problem. If you straighten your hair, try to use as low heat as possible with some kind of protectant. You could even do a non - heat stretching method. If your hair feels boring, try different styles. Look at some of the pictures and videos online. Ladies are very creative when it comes to different styles.
Also, I really wouldn't worry too much about what others think. Just like you, I received some negative feedback but I also received good as well. Sometimes people don't understand curly hair because they're not used to seeing it. They're used to straightened hair and anything outside the norm is considered bad. Other times, people say things out of sheer jealousy.
You may not want to let others dictate how you style your hair. After all, its your hair. Its not meant for everyone to understand and/or like. Its unique to you. If anything happens to your gorgeous locks, you're stuck with the consequences, not them.