I’ve always had a difficult time growing facial hair. It’s mainly because I’m blond, but it also has a little to do with the fact that there are two places on my face that refuse to yield more than a single tiny hair every now and then.
Call it self-consciousness, call it vanity, but I’ve always wanted to be able to grow a beard. Or, at least, to have the option of growing a beard.
I’ve tried growing a goatee (which, due to the parts of my face which remain bare, turned out to be what is technically termed a Van Dyke) but I always had mixed reactions from myself and others. If people close to me noticed it and acknowledged it, I automatically took it as an insult, even when they were just pointing out that they could see it, despite how blond and invisible it was to most people.
But I realized I was letting others’ opinions cloud my own perception of my facial fur. And not even just their opinions, but my hypothetical thoughts of what they must be thinking. I was personally able to see it, and I thought it fit my face, but I didn’t think anyone else shared my opinion.
The pilot episode of Community—one of my favorite TV shows—is not a very good first episode relative to the rest of the series. However, there is one really huge nugget of wisdom towards the end.
Troy (played by Donald Glover) is attached to his Letterman jacket from high school, where he was the star quarterback. He comes to Jeff (Joel McHale) to ask for his advice on the jacket, because he gets made fun of for wearing it well after graduation.
So while Troy doesn’t consistently wear the jacket after that first episode, he at least realizes that if he wants to wear it, he should wear it. But he should wear it (or not) for himself.
I took the same lesson and decided, screw it, I liked the facial hair. So I grew it out, and I’m wearing it right now. No, don’t ask for a selfie. Just trust me.
It became a bit of a pet project from there on. I learned how to groom it properly so it looks intentional. For instance, I never realized I’d have to use scissors to trim along my top lip, and I realized that the chin-hairs don’t look good at full width nor full length. Basically, my face has become like a little bonsai tree that I work on every few days to keep it looking in order. I’ve also realized that, ironically, this has inspired me to shave more often, since the hairs on my cheeks and neck just end up looking gross and distracting.
I have also shaved it off randomly. I don’t remember why, except I think I was starting to feel like I looked like my own evil twin. However, as soon as I did so, cashiers and bartenders suddenly started asking me for my ID again.
I set a rule for myself when I did this, too. I would not ask anyone for their opinion on it. Partly, this was to avoid ridicule, since I was sure to run into people who would lean in close and squint and go “Oh, hey, you do have a little mustache there!” Smartasses. But all in all, the point was to remind myself that this wasn’t for other people, but for me.
Anyway, I’m talking an awful lot about my facial hair. This post is not about that. It’s about doing things because you want to. For yourself, not for anyone else. If you make yourself adhere to what other people want, I believe you lose a little bit of yourself and you give others power over you.
I think people wear shirts with funny sayings on them for other people. I think this is okay, and I have a couple of shirts like this that I wear for a laugh, mostly because they confuse people—a teacher once pointed out that he couldn’t tell how sincere my “Thanks, Obama” T-shirt was, and I told him, that’s the point. I think if you dress the way you want to dress, do your hair the way you like it, and you do it for yourself and—most importantly—you OWN IT and project confidence, then you’ll gain a lot more agency in your day-to-day life.
This goes for more than just dress sense and grooming. If you want to play Pokemon but other people tell you it’s for kids, then play Pokemon. If you want a pick-up truck but you’re worried people will think you’re compensating for something, then get a pick-up truck. People aren’t judging you as much as you might think.
Of course, the opposite is also true. If you want a pick-up truck just because all your friends have pick-ups but you don’t and you feel left out, then maybe reconsider whether you actually want it.
A YouTuber named Boh3m3 (pronounced BO-HEEM) went on a long rant about something like this years ago, though he has deleted the video. I understand why, because it was pretty negative and about all the kinds of people he hates. But there was one part that stuck with me, which I will paraphrase to the best of my memory: “If you wear Crocs because you think they’re cool, I hate you. If you don’t wear Crocs because you think they’re lame, I hate you.”
So I guess it all comes down to conformity. As long as the things you want to do are not illegal or dangerous, then go for it. But do it for yourself, and not because you think it’s what other people want. Be your own person.
Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.