Lately, it seems as though the recurring theme among people my age has been to do whatever makes you happy. So, I did that and well, not everyone seemed to approve of my decision. These are the types of situations that really force you to take a step back and think about who (and what types) of people you’re surrounding yourself with. Before I get into that, I’d like to tell you why I decided to grow a beard and essentially change the way everyone looked and thought of me.
My father wasn’t an overly “manly-man” in any sense of the word, but I specifically remember one thing about him. He always had a beard. It wasn’t a big Duck Dynasty-looking beard, but it was there, and it was one of the few things I admired about my father. He was also bald. That’s going to come into play shortly.
In the summer of 2012 my bald spot had gotten progressively larger and my patience for trying to make it look like it was still there had dropped to an all-time low. So after spending an hour on the internet looking to validate my impending baldness by googling the term “handsome bald men,” I decided to head to the barbershop and utter the words that would terrify almost any adult male in his early 20’s, “take it all of.” Naturally, I walked home and took a selfie for the entire world of Instagram to take a gander at my newly smooth dome.
Now, onto the next part of the story.
I grew my beard out once before for roughly four months, and well, to say people didn’t like it was a severe understatement. So I caved and shaved it off. I got my first adult job as a Junior Graphic Designer at a local marketing & design agency that year and seven months later the company went under and I was jobless in a suffering economy. During this time time, I was also struggling with my identity.
Who did I really want to be? Of course, I had my religious beliefs and my morals, but up until this point I realized that I had never truly done anything because I wanted to.
That lead to my decision to grow a yeard or “year-long beard”.
Skip ahead another four months and now is where things really start to get interesting. I think I received every comparison out there. Family and friends felt compelled to tell me that I looked like any bearded person they could think of. Rick Ross and Kimbo Slice were among the most commonly mentioned names. Neither of whom are handsome in any galaxy, so thanks friends and family for the comparisons. But what really disturbed me was how willing people were to offer their opinion without it being asked for. I was constantly being told that I look homeless, people were going to think I was a terrorist, it looked like I had pubic hair on my face and that it looked like I never washed it. People even went as far as saying it made me look ugly.
For someone who was already secretly dealing with self-esteem issues, those words hurt a lot. I contemplated cutting it off many times, but my previous thoughts of doing something because I wanted to wouldn’t let me.
As it got longer so did my ability to let comments like those roll off my back. I noticed that it changed many aspects of my life. It made me look older, taught me how to really not care what people thought about me, and it helped me be confident in who I was as a man.
The only negative aspect is, depending on how you look at it, it made me look a bit more intimidating. I was already intimidating by a regular persons standards, 6-foot-3 297lbs is nothing to sneeze at.
It’s interesting to see how the simple act of growing out your beard can change your perspective on your personal freedom. I once read a quote somewhere saying something along the lines of “Show me a man with a beard and I’ll show you a man who is confident and doesn’t care about other people’s opinions.” Thats a very vague summary, but you get the point.
This piece wasn’t about the awesomeness of beards, although they are pretty great, but an encouragement to do what really makes you happy. Find something that makes your heart skip a beat and go after it.
Whether it’s sky diving or crocheting, just get out there and do it and don’t worry about what people are going to think.