I must confess, since joining the gym in West Hollywood, I’ve compared myself to other guys working out. It’s hard not to. I’ve even started conversations with other men about body image, literally about butts, botox, biceps & steroids. It got me thinking about how men view themselves in ways, which are mostly considered the realm of women. What I find most revealing is the stress, anxiety, and state of flux many men find themselves in today in relation to their body image. Mass media has much to do with this, depicting the ‘ideal’ person, and after so many repeated images on multiple platforms, it starts to seep in that we just aren’t ‘enough’. We begin to lose sight of what our bodies look like and begin to see what our bodies are not. It becomes something unworthy when compared to the countless ‘perfect’ figures that we know on some level aren’t real yet yearn to be.
Body dysmorphia (BDD) is an important issue for the gay community to address because it’s one that’s glossed over. It’s time we took a breath and questioned whether this quest for perfection is healthy and question why we think it will make us happy? For those unfamiliar with the term, body dysmorphia is a body image disorder where the person sees their body through a distorted lens. Flaws stand out, good isn’t good enough. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, social anxiety and OCD can cause or be the result of BDD. In the United States, it BDD affects 2.5% of men (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
From my experience in the gay community, the ideal person you’re expected to be is health conscious, incredibly ripped, washboard abs, great skin, perfect teeth, and just drop dead hot. Not to mention being a scintillating conversationalist. The feeling you get is if you haven’t acquired those attributes, you’re less of a man and far from being an ideal partner. Sometimes I feel anything short of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ statue would be considered less than the gay ideal. No wonder we are all on Lexapro and require validation morning, noon and night.
Being in the best physical shape is a great ideal to have and work towards, though we need to frame it in a way that doesn’t demand perfection from us. Many of us are holding up an ideal beyond most humans. Some men can look like that and good for them – but we shouldn’t denigrate their bodies either. For the rest of us who aren’t Fabio, our bodies shouldn’t bring us shame. It’s something to accept, perceived ‘flaws’ and all.
I’m a healthy, active 44-year-old man, I’m not 18 and I’m neither Peter Pan nor Dorian Gray. I carry a few extra pounds and I love my body for what it is — mine. I’m not an athlete or model. I believe in doing the best you can with what you’ve got. It doesn’t make you any less sexy.
However, it’s clear from the research that men are guilty of not only comparing themselves to other men but also commenting on one another’s bodies (we can be so queeny.) Whether we realize it or not, it has long-lasting, damaging effects that creep up in unhealthy ways. We need to stop comparing ourselves to photo-manipulated fitness model and get our priorities in order. Support each other. Accept ourselves for who we really are. It’s not the outside that matters – it’s what is on the inside. Practice positive affirmations every day. Know you’re good enough for anyone to love. Stop with the negative, damaging comparisons and remember that no matter where you are right now, you are perfect as is. You are unique, hot, and sexy. Who you’re looking for is looking for you, right now!
Gordon Fraser is a Career/Marketing expert and philanthropist. He is the President of Gordon Fraser and Associates, LLC and U.S. Executive National Vice President and Independent Consultant with Arbonne International, overseeing a network of 50,000 global consultants and retail buyers in excess of $80m across Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Poland. You can learn more about Gordon by following him on Twitter @gordon_fraser
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