“I can’t grow a beard.”
This response comes, inevitably, from each of my male friends when the discussion of facial hair is brought up. Other popular catch-phrases are, “I’d just look dirty,” or “people would think I’m homeless.” This kind of language would be expected from the sort of man who didn’t fancy cultivating a magnificent facial mane.
What I have found, however, is that this sort of thinking comes primarily from men who in fact want to grow a beard, but can’t get past the first obstacle in the path toward beardom: fear.
Growing A Beard is a Learned Behavior
The fear of failure is one of the most common fears in our society, especially among men. In a world in which so much can be expected of men, what man can genuinely say that he doesn’t fear coming up short? It’s no secret that our society has changed over the last several decades, and that the ideas of “manliness” and “femininity” are being constantly redefined. It’s also no secret, however, that many of these tropes and responsibilities are still bestowed among boys and men.
Boys are often told from a young age that they must be responsible for others. Boys are told that the physical strength that comes naturally to their form must be tempered by an emotional strength, one that protects others as well as themselves.
This wall can hinder a boy’s ability to feel real emotion, because the responses that those emotions might elicit can be frightening to others. A boy’s job is often to provide – even in a world in which the sexes are becoming more and more equal, the phrase “You have to be the man of the house now,” is still a constant fixture on weeknight television programs. Society has an idea of what being a man means, both practically and aesthetically, and because of that, men have an idea of what is expected of them.
Growing a beard is a thing that comes naturally to males. Most men have to try not to grow a beard. It has historically exemplified wisdom and embodied respect, and for better or worse has come to be synonymous with manhood and strength in our society. From images of burly lumberjacks to ideas of leather- and denim-clad bikers, the ability to grow a beard has become a sign of passage from boyhood into masculinity.
Still, most men in our country never allow themselves to attempt this transition, and for many the reason for that is fear.
If told by our fathers and our mothers and our lovers that we are expected to remain stoic against our emotions, stalwart in our responsibilities… Who wouldn’t be fearful of failing in that one defining, natural process that is inherent to the male body?
If a man’s two ideas about himself are that he must avoid failure at all costs, lest he be judged harshly by his family and peers, and that growing a beard is an essentially manly endeavor, why would he risk the embarrassment and potential rejection of failing in this endeavor? The solution for many is to simply not try.
Much of this hesitation comes from the cultural image of the “ideal” beard: thick, full, dark, high on the cheeks. Even otherwise attractive and famous men, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Keanu Reeves, are not spared from the cultural fallout of not living up to this ideal. If Neo and Jordan Belfort can’t maintain that level of beardom and masculinity, what hope does the average man have?
For a rare few men, the first few weeks and months of growing will produce a thick, dark shadow that accentuates their jawline and provides a masculine fullness to their face. For most men, however, this time will result in feelings of self-doubt and hopelessness. This period of beard growth is among the hardest to get past.
On the second or third day without a shave, many men might look into the mirror and find their new stubble a great boon to their resolve to keep growing. When inevitably things start looking patchier or lighter in color than they were hoping, however, the urge to shave or at least trim it down can be nearly overwhelming. Whereas the image of that dark stubble promised a thick caveman-esque face mane that left but the smallest sliver of bottom lip visible, a thin and light fuzz now rests in patches.
Perhaps the mustache is thinner than you’d hoped, or maybe it grows in halfs that leave a space under your nose. Patchy chin hair, low cheek lines, not the color you had expected it to be…There are many reasons that a man might be unhappy with the beard he finds growing on him.
The good news is this: those reasons, those things he sees that make his beard seem less worthy? Those problems aren’t problems. The only thing that can ruin a beard is you.
Patience and Confidence
Great beards are made up of two ingredients: time and confidence. Luckily, these things feed into one another. The most important of these components is time. Over a period of many months, your beard may cycle between something you admire to something you despise multiple times. As discussed, when your beard starts growing to any considerable length, you may not find it to be satisfactory.
It’s possible that this remains the case for the first few months. Even the most dedicated and learned beardsmen have struggled with bad beard days, during which shaving their face seems like the only logical course of action. Their patience keeps their razor at bay, and before long they realize what a mistake shaving would have been.
Too many beards have been lost before their prime simply because the men growing them couldn’t bear to have a less-than-manly beard on their face. The truth is, it can takes many months for your beard to come into its own, and if you shave it before then you’ll never know what could have been. Those patchy cheeks or thin moustache? It’s likely that those problems can be completely solved simply by waiting and growing. It’s remarkable the difference that two or three months can make in how your beard looks.
Don’t let a moment of weakness cost you what will likely be an amazing beard. Remember this mantra: when in doubt, grow it out! For every week that you’ve been growing your facial hair, wait at the very least one full day before shaving. If you have even the slightest inclination to shave, give it time. You’d be surprised how much confidence can be restored in just a few days time.
But confidence is a fickle thing. It may at times elude you, but that is precisely what your beard is there for. Think of the relationship between you and your beard as a symbiotic one. For a beardsman, it becomes necessary at times to lean on your beard for confidence. On days when you may not feel as strong physically or emotionally as you normally do, or on those days when things simply feel harder, you can look to your beard for a simple reminder of your dedication and strength. When you find your beard to be lacking on certain days, the confidence projected from your demeanor and attitude will shore up any flaws that you notice- perhaps hiding them altogether from onlookers.
Nothing helps build up your confidence better than simply living with your beard over time. Once it becomes part of who you are, you’ll find that it looks better and better all the time, and not just because it’s getting longer and thicker.
What You’re Destined to Grow: The Destiny Beard
The beard that you grow right now may not look the same five or ten years from now, but it will always be your beard. It’s the beard you were destined to have. Your Destiny Beard might manifest in different ways throughout the years, but what makes it yours isn’t just the fact that it’s your own face it’s growing on. It’s the confidence you have because of it, and the confidence it takes to keep it.
Right now you may not love the way your beard looks, but that will change. As it grows, so will you. You don’t have a beard like anyone else in the world, and that’s a good thing. You have your beard, and you’re the only person in the world with it. What now you may view as faults or shortcomings, in time you may find are the things about your beard that set it apart and make it wonderful.
So grow the beard you were born to have. Don’t worry about whether you should or could, or about whether it will look the way you want it. It will look the way it’s meant to look, and discovering the kind of beard you will have is part of the excitement of this journey. The length of your beard represents not just it’s own growth, but your growth along with it.
It represents every time you’ve fought the urge to pick up a razor, and every time you’ve shrugged off the comments you’ve heard or thoughts you’ve had that made you doubt it. Wear your beard like a badge of honor. It’s the only beard you’ll ever grow- you owe it to yourself to give it a chance.