Body Image Series: Men Suffering in Silence
#Body #image is the mental representation that we create of what we think we look like; it may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us. Body image #issues are often treated as if they were only a problem for women. When you think about Body Image Issues, what picture forms in your head? For most, it is that of a girl or young adult that is either very overweight or one that is anorexic. But men suffer from many of the same debilitating problems caused by warped perceptions of their bodies.
It’s estimated that about 45 per cent of Western men are unhappy with their bodies to some degree, compared with only 15 per cent some 25 years ago. Research suggests that homosexual men, models, dancers and athletes may be particularly vulnerable to poor body image or feeling insecure about their bodies. This is because they are more likely to be in situations where they may be judged (or believe they will be judged) according to their appearance. Some of you ladies reading this may sneer and roll your eyes thinking "Welcome to my life!" Yes, women have had to deal with this sort of scrutiny for much of their lives, but we shouldn't be under the assumption that men don't know the feeling. Truth be told, we are all victims of the media. No one is safe.
We are told to conform to impossible beauty standards, to fit a certain body shape and that if we don't look a certain way, we aren't beautiful. We have diet trends and fads thrust upon us to try and encourage us to get that "perfect" figure that everybody seems to want and we are picked apart by the media and told to rebuild ourselves in their perfect ideal. Males are shown images of young men sporting muscles and a perfect ‘six pack’ stomach. They are also given the 'perfection' blueprint in media directed to them. They are told they should be strong, muscular, and show no emotion. They are told constantly to "Man Up" and to "Be a Man."
I'm often left to wonder -- why don't men ever talk about body image issues? Would they be deemed sensitive or weak if they discussed the dissatisfaction of our appearance? Would they not be looked at as protectors and/or leaders if they honestly admitted that they have physical insecurities? Has pop culture #demoralized #morality and influenced masculinity to the point that men have disassociated themselves with the authenticity of vulnerability? Body image issues have never been an easy topic to discuss. Proudly, women have started fighting back against antagonistic criticism, while men have yet to admit that an issue actually exists. The problem is that there are way too many men suffering in silence.
#Men often combat their dilemma with body image by becoming exercise dependent, which can lead to overtraining and increased injury. Some will indulge in steroid use or entertain ambiguous fad diets for quicker (short-term) results. Others become immersed in their sorrows, seeking refuge from public events and social gatherings. Both are behavioral pitfalls that I've seen a number of times. We should understand those men who do suffer from body image issues and eating disorders; we shouldn't be scolding them because we've had to experience this cruelty for longer. As a whole, we all need to understand the damages the media can cause. If we can do that, we will be well on our way to a more body positive society for all.
Undue #pressure is put on men by women, their friends, other men and their parents, especially their fathers. "Be a Man" is something that is easily said, but carries a lot of weight. Slamming a man with this phrase is telling him that he has to bury his emotions and his feelings, to take life on the chin and to never show #weakness. If he cries, he is weak; if he is kind, he's a wimp. This simple phrase has the ability to be crippling. Telling the young man this will give him extreme feelings of inadequacy. It insinuates that he's not man enough, he's not strong enough.
It doesn't matter what body type you fall under -- skinny, thick, tall or short, at some point I'm sure you have been self-absorbed with your body image. Stop being afraid to address it! Stop living in misery! Change what you can control and embrace what you cannot change. Whatever your gender, we are not safe from low self-esteem and poor body image caused by much of our society and our media.
If you suffer with health problems caused by any type of eating disorder, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help.