My beard is off. I shaved it; well it was clipped with an electronic clipper and then shaved with an electronic shaver. If you will recall (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/my-beard/) I had the beard for a little over forty days and it was developing quite impressively. Many people actually told me they liked the facial hair I was grooming. But it got to the point where it was uncomfortable, unruly and much too gray for me. At some points it felt a bit like barbed wire against my skin while at other times it caused an itch that drove me crazy. So I just had to get it off. I tried the old mustache look I had when I was younger but that modified tired old hippie look did not seem to work well either. It just all had to go and it did.
I feel good that I took it off but here is the issue. All those people who told me that they liked the beard, or that the beard made me “look distinguished” or that I “look so much better with the beard” – they all seem to have changed their tune. Every single one of those original staunch beard supporters that I have encountered since removing the beard have unanimously, some repeatedly, said that they are “So happy that the beard is off”, “You look so much better without the beard.”
Which is the truth? Did they like me better in the beard but since I took it off they are being polite now or did they dislike the beard the entire time I had it but they were being polite then by saying they liked it when I had it on? Were they simply lying or just being polite?
The answers may be found in the Theory of Social Acceptance which suggests that having a sense of belonging is important to our sense of well-being. It just might be that many individuals are overly polite about certain aspects of their lives because they are people who are accepting of others or they themselves need a greater sense of acceptance from others – Of course being accepted by others feels so much better than being rejected by them.
I have reviewed some of the data I collected during the beard growth stages. I found that most of those who said they liked the beard and subsequently changed their minds to liking me without the beard were roughly in my age group or younger. Those in different age groups probably had less motivation to want to feel that sense of affiliation with someone beyond so they were less diplomatic with their pronouncements. They could say how they felt much more openly. That does not mean that younger people were dishonest. I am sure that they were truthful at least on a conscious level. It does however mean they were more willing to overlook their true subconscious feelings when it came to such a trivial matter as my beard versus having a relationship with me. In some ways this is a small part of the theory behind Steven Pinker’s treatise in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature in which he reports on his research that each passing generation is more accepting of others then the previous generation. And, in the end many things are trivial when compared to feeling a sense of acceptance and belonging.