Growing up is difficult and navigating those teenage years can be downright awful. Don't get me wrong, I have some great memories of that time, and the challenges I faced made me the man I am today. Damn it could be rough, though. Anyone who claims differently is either a liar or a complete douche bag. The latter is also likely the same person who claims high school was the best time of his/her life. Ironically, if I could've rocked the beard I have today during my teenage years, I'd probably be one of those douche bags. I would've been immune to the self consciousnesses and crippling self doubt that often defines our teenage years because after I grew my beard, I felt invincible.
It sounds silly, but bear with me: this beard is my armor. Seriously, the power of the beard is strong. It protects me from the harsh summer sun and keeps me warm in the winter. According to an article by D. Caroline Blanchard, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, beards also protect against physical violence:
Physical benefits aside, immediately upon deciding to grow a beard I felt a surge of confidence - negativity and self doubt magically ricocheted off me. The choice to "grow it out" can be difficult for many, especially if you work in a more conservative environment (which I do). Beards are often viewed as unclean and unprofessional, and, while increasing in popularity, they're still considered against the norm. However, once you take the first step towards beard-dome, it's extremely liberating. By growing a beard, you're signalling that you don't care what others think about your appearance or your choices.
That one, small step (the act of shelving my razor) triggered changes in other aspects of my life. Historically, I've been an indecisive person. Not anymore. I no longer fear the dreaded decision-monster. Now, even if I've made a poor decision, I have no problem owning up to it. I'm also more confident in my interactions with people. Since growing a beard, I've signed more contracts at work and established more meaningful relationships with clients. I believe its also turned me into a more patient husband and father. Beards, especially long, full beards, require time and effort. There are days where my beard looks awesome and days where it's a struggle to control those pesky fly-aways. The key is being patient and not making a snap decision to shave it off. Much can be said for the life of a family man. There are good days and bad days. Days where the kids are angels and marriage is bliss, and days where all hell breaks loose and the household is in shambles. As with a beard, the secret is putting in the effort and remaining even keeled. If you do that, good things will follow. So find your beard and let it grow.