Body image is how you feel about your physical appearance and how you think others see your physical appearance.
Body image was believed to be a problem reserved for women but right now men are feeling the heat too. The only reason it seems it does not affect them is because they have grown up with everyone telling them to man up, so they keep quiet about their body image issues.
According to a recent research 18% of adolescent boys are concerned about their image and another study found out that nearly as many men as women are unhappy with how they look.
There are two types of body image:
- Positive body image is when you see yourself clearly the way you are and you are comfortable with your body. When you need to make changes you do it because it is the right thing for you not because it is what everyone is doing and you feel it will give you respect, recognition and acceptance by others.
- Negative body image is when you are dissatisfied with your body. Again it is mainly about how you see yourself. It is not about making a healthier choice for yourself, it is how you feel people see your body and the unrealistic things you feel that if you can change about your body you will be happy.
We live in a society where we are told how to look, how to dress, the body size that is best, how to be manly and how to be a man’s man, whatever that means. The latest toys and action heroes are muscular and spectacularly handsome men. Clothes are getting tighter and more figure hugging.
All this put enormous pressure on men to conform.
Women have been shouting themselves hoarse that certain size women are not considered by major designers and they are not seen on billboards. Come to think of if, have you ever seen a plus size man in billboards and fashion magazine or cast in a leading action role in movies? No.
In the few cases you see them in lead roles it is in comedy.
What you do see are sleek, toned, 6 pack, muscular, perfectly oiled, and sprayed with no hair out of place men gazing back at you with contempt.
One client told me that the moment he sees this pictures he feels inadequate. That is not all. They deal with their performance and the size of their package which may lead to stuffing up with stockings.
Articles on who is an alpha male and how to become one add to their feeling of inadequacy. They go as far as listing the 5 things that will make you know that you are an alpha male!
So they go out of their way to achieve this imaginary body type. They go to extreme to work out and gain muscle mass without caring if they are using adequate and safe weights. I have seen guys in street corners lifting concrete cast weights. They shout themselves hoarse and when you do not get to the maximum weight the supposed “men” in the group have lifted you are labeled a sissy. To make it worse, for women what happens in the gym or in street corners stay there but for men oh no, it is the talk in the bar over a glass of beer, club gathering and phone conversation.
On your way to work next morning you may be surprised to find that you have gained popularity for the wrong reason. You are the official sissy.
Others have opted in for surgery after surgery to enhance and modify their features in greater numbers than previous years.
Still other men have embraced the illicit use of anabolic steroid to increase muscle.
The pressure gets worse. Have you ever heard women talking? They do not just talk about men; they talk about muscular men with admiration that is on the final step to covetousness. And the men, they feel they have to do something to get the admiration of the women.
One of my male clients Chidi embraced the bench press and bicep curls with a vengeance when the love of his life started making admiring noise about the 6 packs and muscular biceps of a popular Nigerian musician (Flavor). According to him, she will playfully pinch his stomach and say Fla …vor! He felt uncomfortable, self conscious and judged. He came to the gym and attacked the weights to redeem his manliness.
In a world where men are not allowed to cry, where parents and peers tell them to man up or be a man, it can be frustrating for them to also be subjected to the media definition of what a man should look like.
There has been a shift of how men are shown in movies and cartoon. Action heroes are not just muscular, they are ripped and sometimes it seems you looking at 8 packs instead of 6. Look at Thor, Captain America, Xmen – Hugh Jackman, Hercules – the rock Dwayne Johnson and you will see the shift.
Before now it was all about Richard Gere, Patrick Dempsey, Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino, the tough, slim and mean guys who said little.
Right now it is the more muscular you are, the more masculine you are!
Women have been at the receiving end of the media definition of how they should look for a long time that if they say of “serves men right” or “welcome to my world”, I would not blame them. Women are to believe that to really be a woman, you have to take care of everything in the house and office and still look like you stepped out of the page of a glossy magazine for your man and not for your own worthy self.
This leads to low self esteem and self loathing.
Well men are in for it too.
They are now drinking slimming tea, not for their health but to slim down. They feel judged when they try on a figure hugging shirt and their abs cannot get in and the store attendant looks at him like a failure.
Because of a society that does not allow them to show weakness, women are adapting better than them in this area. Some commit suicide; develop eating disorder and addiction to substance.
What can a man do?
# 1 Well, first, you have to recognize that your body is 100% your own and yours alone. Own it. Love it. You cannot take care of what you do not love and appreciate. That’s the first step.
# 2 Now that you know that your body is all yours take off your clothes and stand in front of a mirror. Take your time and find out if there is anything you can realistically change about your appearance and what you cannot change.
If you are not comfortable about your weight and the negative impact it may have on your health, you can realistically change your weight, build muscle mass and get a flatter belly.
You can do this by meeting with a professional to help you prepare a fitness regimen that is best suited for your body type, age, experience and goal.
# 3 Feel free to break up with people and avoid relationships that make you feel bad about yourself. Stay away from people who have been known to make negative and cruel remarks about your body.
Having someone tell you that ‘you are so fat, you are bursting at the seam, or somebody should lock me inside my house and never let me come out if I ever get as fat as you are’ is downright cruel and insensitive.
Learn to love yourself and be happy. Remember some of those beautiful pictures are airbrushed. Some of them are so edited that celebrities have come out to say that this is not how they look. Others have been caught in their Photoshop tricks.
You are unique and there is nowhere else that another you can be found.
Talk to someone if you need to, it does not make you less of a man. Celebrate yourself because if you don’t no one will.