One of my mottos in life is nothing is a mistake if you learn from it. It means that every falter, misstep, or tumble has made you wiser, more enriched and more in tune with your path. Going natural at 35 was one of the best decisions I have made that I had complete control over, and was able to nurture and develop at my own pace. How many opportunities does a person have to do that?

I love my hair, I love myself, and I love my journey despite all the ups and downs it yielded, because it made me love myself even more. I will continue to grow and learn, and with each passing year I will make a list of what I have learned, and as my list continues to grow each year I always seem to add what I have learned about my hair too. These are the lessons that surprised me in 2014.

1. My hair can retain length

I may be a natural hair blogger but I have my own self-doubts and fears like everyone else trying to figure it out. I see the same pictures of some naturals with ear length hair on year one and hip bone length by year five and judge myself just as harshly as you do. I have questioned, “What is wrong with my hair?” when I unfairly compared my growth to others. In previous years I have stopped assessing growth and focused on the health of my hair while secretly yearning for long locks. When I jumped on the CG method (curly girl method) two years ago I began to see an improvement in my hair’s moisture retention and now I see the growth! I am excited because I secretly thought it would never grow past my shoulders but once I found the right recipe for my tresses it was rewarding. No length checks are needed as my hair slides down my back when wet. My shrinkage no longer upsets me because it prevents my strands from creating friction with my clothing, which then causes split ends.

2. Rinses give my hair luster and life

My hair shedding has decreased drastically since incorporating tea rinses after every wash. I have even started doing coffee rinses and the shine and strength I get is amazing! I have no intention of slowing it down with my rinses.

3. Silicones are not the big bad wolf after all

I steered clear of silicones when I first started the CG method but as many have learned, you may need to alter the method. Silicones offer tons of slip and benefits to textured hair. By eliminating them from my routine I thought I knew what was best for my hair, but once I tried them after two years without them I was surprised at the way my hair responded with massive movement and shine. It is nice and freeing and as long as I do not overdue using them. One of the products my hair enjoys is TRESemmé Nourishing Moisture Conditioner.

4. My hair loves blended oils

I was once a coconut oil nut (pun intended) but found it kind of heavy. It also left my hair dull when I used it as a sealer. Once I explored other ways to seal in moisture, I noticed that sealing does not always have to happen outside of the shower. I seal my hair by adding SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Reconstructive Finishing Elixir to my conditioner in the shower. With the shea butter, argan oil, carrot oil, and macadamia nut oil mix, I have found the perfect sealant in blended oils that also add shine and reduce frizz.

Read more: Benefits of Blended Oils for Healthy Hair

5. Even when dry, my hair is not suffering from dryness

Sometimes we forget what our true texture feels like and assume our hair is dry when it is not wet. Knowing one’s texture is vital to knowing when our hair needs water, oils, or even protein. Healthy hair has a feel and your hair’s feel may be different from another curly girl’s feel. I have mastered that and when I look at my hair and see it fully dry (not wet) and moisturized, I smile knowing it is nourished, happy, and beautiful.

Read more: You are Feeling Texture, Not Dryness

What did you learn about your hair in 2014?