I’m a health and fitness consultant who works with men and organizations on a professional basis, yet I’ve struggled with the relationship with my body.
For a decent chunk of my life, I’ve had insecurities about my body. Despite substantially changing my body throughout my life for what many would deem as an ideal look, I still didn’t feel enough.
Where did this start?
Playing shirts and skins in basketball during junior high.
Every day, I held my breath as the coach split the teams ― one would be shirts and the other skins.
I took my shirt off and had what one would call “man boobs.” A few of the fellow players would flick my “man boobs,” and it was even worse when girls would walk into the gym.
I use to feel bad and less of a man because of these body image issues. After all, I was programmed to think that it was only an issue for women. I needed to “toughen up” and “man up” until I felt good.
Body image issues are even more prevalent in today’s world due to the hyper-connected world we live in and the glorification and delusion of perfection. Being involved in fitness, I know firsthand about the deception and tricks involved in photos to look leaner, muscular and more fit. The general public doesn’t see the behind the scenes deception and manipulation, they just see a polished individual under great lighting.
However, there’s a growing awareness for men and their body image issues. In one study, American men were just as likely to feel unsatisfied with their bodies. Another study found that adolescent boys who feel displeased with their bodies may be more likely than girls to feel stressed and hyper-critical of themselves.
For ages, women have been fed this message of not being enough, and now the spillover is happening to men.
Hate sells more than love. Fear sells more than assurance. A magic diet pill and detox sells more than a six-month weight loss plan built on sustainability and practicality. This pill can make you a stallion and last all night sells more than improving your diet to make your libido improve. This muscle gainer powder to look like The Rock sells more than a 12-month muscle building program built on actual science and realistic expectations.
This is marketing 101. Marketing messages are to tell us we’re broken and weak, but their solution can help us.
Not addressing this body image issue leads men to stop having sex, stop changing in the locker room, stop going to the beach, stop dating, and stop buying fitting clothes. Not addressing your body image issue leads to feeling unlovable, developing a porn addiction with an accompanying unhealthy masturbation routine, unhealthy and often times dangerous diets, and buying clothes that are too big to hide your “imperfections.”
Overcoming your body image issues isn’t cured overnight or by reading this post. But by reading these three points, you’ll be started on a healthier path to healing and becoming a saner male.
1. Start with honesty.
Look at a 12-step program or any other type of addiction program and the first step in the process is admitting that there is a problem. The process of healing and recovery starts with being honest with yourself.
With me, I had to admit that I felt less than in my body despite the reflection given off in the mirror.
It’s damn hard to look at yourself in the mirror and be vulnerable with yourself. But vulnerability is actually the true demonstration of courage. Hiding your feelings or pretending is nothing but false bravado that only causes more issues.
I unhealthily compared myself to people on the internet and on television. But it’s important to realize that we’re each on our own specific journey. We each have a unique body, set of genes, and aren’t designed to look exactly like one another (plus, that would be a boring world).
Developing self-awareness about yourself is your greatest asset in becoming a better man.
2. Try to identify the root cause of your insecurities and shaming.
My creative self-worth was damaged for two decades because of art class and early schooling. My work wasn’t “pretty or good enough,” and this stayed with me until I finally left medical school to pursue my dream of writing and making the world healthier.
My body image issues started with playing shirts and skins in basketball and only heightened in college when I saw the guys with muscles getting attention from the women I wanted to talk to.
Maybe yours is an obsession with the way celebrities look and how they’re praised. Whatever it is, it’s vital that you take the time to investigate where this lack of being enough came from. Once you get to an answer, try to go even deeper by asking “why” multiple times.
3. Understand that you are more than flesh and bones.
In this day and age with online dating, Instagram, and other countless media outlets, it’s easy to become enamored with the superficialities of life.
Don’t let yourself think you aren’t fit enough or handsome enough for the world because you don’t look like Wolverine during his shirtless scene (he doesn’t look like that normally).
Don’t dismiss your fitness, but also be aware that you have your emotions, thoughts, values, and unmistakable traits that make you unique and valuable as a human being.
It’s not easy, nor will it be an overnight feat to let go of your shame and insecurities. But letting go starts with taking it head on and then taking baby steps to get out of those familiar stories that have been programmed into you for years. You won’t be able to make these thoughts completely go away, but what you can do is to realize that these are just thoughts—not hard truths.
This article originally appeared over on The GoodMen Project.
Check-out my free course, Simple Weight-Loss for stress-free advice.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.