Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Steve Wilson, the author of beards.org . Make sure to check out his manly site! It inspired me to grow my first beard this month.
Growing a beard is an affirmation of manliness and masculinity. The beard itself is a physical characteristic that separates men from boys, girls, and women. In a culture that has downplayed good old-fashioned masculinity, growing a beard shows that you are not afraid of being a manly man. You can reclaim an aspect of manliness that is too often lost by growing a beard.
How to Grow a Beard
Go ahead. Break free from the shaving trap  and grow a beard. If you are ready to step up to the challenge of growing a beard, it is time to start growing. The key to a successful beard-growing effort is commitment. Just make a decision to grow a beard and stick with it. Do not be swayed by naysayers  or lapses in your own confidence. Do not let a transient period of itching send you running for the razor. Just make a commitment to grow the beard and stick with it. Make it non-negotiable and always remember that. It helps to set a commitment date. Be sure that you allow yourself at least six weeks. Then, stick to your resolution not to cave and shave prior to your commitment date.
It can often be helpful to choose a bearded role model to serve as a source of inspiration while growing your beard. This could be someone you know or it could be a famous or historic bearded figure. While growing your beard, if at any time your commitment and confidence falter, just remember your bearded role model and realize that he successfully grew his beard and realize that you can, too.
Self-consciousness is often heightened during the initial beard-growing phase. Do not worry about it! Man up! Be proud that you are asserting your right to grow a beard for all to see. If self-consciousness is tough for you, try starting the beard while away on a vacation or holiday break. When you return to your regular environment, remember your commitment. Do not be shaken by the reactions of others. After all, it is your decision, not theirs. It also helps to take positive comments as supportive statements while disregarding negative comments as being irrelevant.
Picking a Beard Style
You will likely wonder which style of beard  will best suit you. There is no need to make a hasty decision. You might think that you should find out what the latest fashion trends  are and make your choice of beard style accordingly. Forget that. Growing a beard should never be about fashion. Growing a beard is about being yourself. It is about being a man. Grow the beard that you want without giving fashion any thought.
There will be one controlling factor in selecting the proper beard style for you. That would be genetics and the amount and configuration of beard development you have been dealt. The main rule here is to make the best of what you have. While a beard is definitely a manly thing, the ability to grow a beard varies widely among men. Some men have abundant and profuse beard growth, while others have little or even none. Most men find themselves somewhere in between. Those with scant beard-growth potential are no less manly. Let me be clear about that. The amazing variability in beard-growing ability is just one of the mysteries of the beard. The beard is a gift and gifts differ among men. Those who have the gift of the beard should share that gift by growing the beard for all to see.
For those who are physically able, I highly recommend growing the full beard. The full beard is the classic style, the iconic beard image. If you cannot produce the full beard, choose a style that makes the best use of your beard-growth pattern, be it the goatee, the chin curtain, the chin strip, or another variation.
Whichever beard style you choose, be sure not to make the most common mistake in beard-growing: premature shaping. For most beginning beard growers, it is preferable just to stop shaving altogether and let everything grow for the first four weeks or so. For many, the scruffy look during this period is too hard to bear and they yield to the temptation to clean up the look by defining a shape to the beard. The trouble is that early attempts at shaping frequently result in too much of the beard being taken off — going too high up for the neck line or going down too low on the cheek line. The resulting awkwardly-shaped beard usually does not look right and often gets discarded as a failed attempt at growing a beard. If you really cannot afford to stick it out and avoid premature shaping, at least approach your shaping effort with the objective of taking off too little rather than too much.
Many a new beard has been sacrificed for the desire for relief from itching. Do not let itching deny you your beard! After being accustomed to shaving for so long, the growth of a beard presents your skin with a new environment. Sometimes it causes a period of itchiness. Do not give up because of this. Keep growing, knowing that the itchiness should pass as your skin gets used to the presence of your beard. Remember your commitment! Meanwhile, you can soothe your itchy skin with a moisturizing lotion or other skin-care products that are used to relieve itching.
How To Care for a Beard
As your beard grows into a real beard, you will need to learn how to care for your beard . Many guys take charge of their own beard maintenance, not trusting the care of their beards to anyone else. It can be tough these days to find a barber who really knows his stuff when it comes to beard trimming. If you cannot find a barber who is sufficiently trustworthy to trim your beard, buy a beard trimmer and learn to use it. Most men find that maintaining a beard is much easier than daily shaving.
Growing a beard is an adventure that can be a surprising process of self-discovery. And it certainly is a manly thing to do. It’s even manlier to grow a beard and keep it. A recent comment sent in to beards.org puts it nicely: “Beards are just the best way to live life.” For all the information, support, and inspiration that you might need to make your beard-growing adventure a success, visit http://www.beards.org.