I have always said that over recent years we have been seeing more of the pressures felt by women for decades, concerning body image, style and appearance, now being felt by men. Although in many ways this has sparked a revolution within men’s style, as many fashion-conscious men have risen to become top authorities within the industry, this has also resulted in a new wave of body image issues and insecurities in men across the world.
Before I continue, I should state that these same insecurities have plagued women and still do to this day. Furthermore, I in no way support the tendencies of brands to promote unhealthy ideals of beauty whilst actively shaming those who do not fit these same trends in either female or male society. This is something that affects all people at one time or another in their lives and can lead to both physical and mental health issues in the long run such as depression, body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia and even suicide. So today I wanted to step forward and put my own insecurities out into the world, not only to prove to you that they exist in all of us, but also to prove to myself that I need to recognise and resolve what I dislike about my own body.
I Hate My Body
It’s a pretty painful thing to admit and even harder to write down. I hate the way I look. I dislike how my skin looks, my eyes look, the way clothes look on me and how I look in photographs. Around about now many of you will be wondering (as am I) why I went into style blogging if I hate the way I look? You’d be surprised how many of us have similar insecurities built up in our minds that we battle through with each post.
I go to the gym 2-3 times a week for a 40-60 minute workout, every evening I’m not in the gym I do floor exercises at home for about 30-40 minutes. Why? Well, if I skip a gym session or don’t do exercise in an evening I start feeling thin and weak. I once told a friend of mine that I actually think I look less fit and toned after one day of not doing exercise. ONE DAY! I am punishing myself for resting and so when I next go to the gym I end up pushing myself to extremes. The question is: why do I feel this need to push myself towards some deluded idea of perfection? Why can’t I be happy with being me?
Where Did It Come From?
I grew up in a house with a father who wanted us to be healthy, he was a runner (something that he is still enthusiastic about and great at in his late 50s), an ex-martial artist and he irregularly enjoyed a strenuous game of squash. My mother was also very keen for me and my brothers to eat healthily, keeping us away from takeaways and fast food and always ensuring we ate fresh food.
I am, without a doubt, incredibly thankful for both my parents’ approach to health but, even from an early age, I remember forming an idea of what I should look like as a boy/man. Sitting in the barbers near my home in Liverpool, I remember reading GQ and seeing the male models in fashion ads who showed off their chiseled jawlines and muscular figures. I had to look like that. I, like any teenage boy, wanted girls to find me attractive and I thought this was the only way to do it.
I started doing push-ups and sit-ups in my bedroom when I was 14, I joined a gym and had a very clear idea of a perfectly toned, muscly physique that I had to achieve. Yet no matter how hard I pushed myself or how hard I tried, I could never look like they did. I felt like I was doing something wrong or maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Now I realise, it was during that period I started hating the way I look and I’m sure many men and women have similar stories.
Skip forward to when I was 19. Despite being broke and effectively living one weekly pay-check away from my overdraft limit, I had bought myself a barbell and dumbbells set from Argos. I used them religiously, doing different workouts every night until I was sore. By the time I had left university I was so afraid of letting myself slip into “bad habits” and thus looking “worse”, that I was doing some form of exercise every evening.
In short, I was addicted to punishing myself. I still am.
Impacting My Own Work
As a style blogger, you regularly need to do photoshoots, style posts, outfit photos and even selfies. I have a lot of admiration for people who post selfies with confidence. To love the way you look and post it out to the world with pride is incredibly valuable regardless of what the critics may say. I can’t post with confidence. I spent an evening last week running through photos from a recent outfit shoot and hating the way that I looked in each one. I didn’t like the way my smile looked in some, how stiff I looked in others. I didn’t like the persistent bags under my eyes or how my arms looked far too thin. I was jealous of how other bloggers seemed to have this effortlessly stylish silhouette.
In some ways blogging has helped resolve some of my issues with how I look. Having lived under the thumb of individuals who were highly critical of the way I dressed, I began to realise that personal style and confidence comes from wearing what makes you feel good and not satisfying others. However, it has made me even more critical of the way I look in photography. Every line and flaw is painfully obvious to me and gnaws at my confidence.
I’m Not Cured, So What Next?
For the past year I’ve been talking to people about my issues, trying to get to the root of my own insecurities and work through them. Attempting to re-build my confidence on being satisfied with the way I look and not pursuing ridiculous extremes obsessively. I’ve had fantastic support from a variety of people who have all been both understanding and many of whom have confessed similar insecurities. If nothing else, I am beginning to understand that these models and movie characters are distorted extremes, photoshopped beyond recognition and trained to unhealthy levels whilst eating insane amounts of protein.
The thing that continues to give me hope, and what will hopefully do the same for others who are suffering, is that I am not alone. There are entire communities based around helping people of all ages with their own body insecurities. The Body Dysmorphic Foundation has a website filled with resources and advice on dealing with body dysmorphia. Buzzfeed recently released a great article entitled “8 Things No One Tells Guys With Body Image Anxiety” which is well worth a read. More and more people are talking about this topic so there is a lot of information available to anyone looking for it.
If you want you can comment (anonymously) with your own experiences with body image issues and what you have learnt from them. Maybe you’re still working through them. Maybe you don’t want to confront them. No matter what the situation, know that there is support out there and it starts with talking to someone.