Surveys have shown that 20 to 40% of men have body image problems. As with women, some men feel insecure about their physical appearance – whether it’s because of hair loss, weight, skin problems (acne, blackheads, or scars), or some other physical quirk or imperfection.
Hear the words “body image” in the media and it’s easy to assume it’s a female problem. Women have been dealing with it for a long time, that’s for sure. But with that comes more help aimed at women and less tailored tips for men who struggle with the same fears. Here we try to restore the balance, with information about why some men face body image problems and how to overcome them.
Causes of a negative male body image
The reason for male body image problems varies from person to person. However, there are a few causes that some men may have in common. For example, giving in to societal beauty norms and trends can cause men to have negative thoughts about their bodies. Yes, we would all like to look like Cristiano Ronaldo with our top off, but come on.
Toxic masculinity, feeling the need to exercise too much and feeling that men cannot be vulnerable are some other causes of negative body image that men often deal with. Whatever the reason, all men need to know that they too can overcome their insecurities.
To do this, it is important to understand the causes of negative body image.
Tease and bully
Those who were bullied for their physical appearance may grow up with ongoing trust issues. Unfortunately, children are most prone to bullying and are the primary targets of pests, especially if they are underweight or overweight.
Verbal insults and, in extreme cases, physical attacks, cast a long shadow. It doesn’t matter if it happened once or several times, growing up to be teased about your body can lead to self-esteem issues later in life.
The thing about superheroes is that they don’t have love handles. Or receding hairlines. Or acne scars. Cape or no cape, the alpha males in the movies are often portrayed as strong individuals with impossibly large muscles. That image of masculinity is burned into the collective consciousness, creating “norms” out of body types that are anything but normal. This concept is known as the superhero effect. The pressure to maintain a similar body type to famous actors can linger and lead to self-esteem issues for some guys.
Social media notoriously distorts the lives we all lead. With photo editing apps, we can now all remove our blemishes with a few taps and swipes. Our feeds are full of unrealistic bodies and heavily filtered lifestyles that only serve to twist our expectations and feed our insecurities.
It’s important to remember that people usually only post pictures of their lives that they want people to see — “me on my best day,” as one psychologist described it. Of course, it can affect the way you see yourself. To avoid this, consider a social media detox for a while. This will allow you to clear your mind and practice body positivity instead.
Before social media, there were billboards, glossy magazines, and TV commercial breaks. Advertising standards have long portrayed an unrealistic picture of what a man “should” be. Don’t like the Diet Coke man? We neither. Just as casting directors choose slim female models with a certain look, companies often use walking six-packs when a man is needed to advertise their products. Seeing this regularly can make people feel pressured to look like the models.
Things are changing slowly. Companies such as American Eagle, ASOS, Nike and others understand the importance of body positivity and include models of all body types in their campaigns.
Improve your negative body image
While it may seem impossible to avoid societal pressures, there are still ways to improve the way you look at yourself. Below are some tips to keep in mind when trying to improve your negative body image.
Be honest about vulnerability
To improve, you must first recognize what you want to improve. This means you need to be honest with yourself about your insecurities. Vulnerability can be intimidating, but it’s a necessary step to boost your confidence. Talk to your partner, a friend, or search for a support group online.
Be willing to fully express your feelings and don’t be alarmed if you feel upset. If you open up more than you are used to, you may suddenly become anxious. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel anxious or need someone to talk to.
Focus on your health
Prioritizing your health — both physical and mental — has numerous benefits. This includes, but is by no means limited to, improving your body image. If you are making an effort to maintain your health, you should take the time to practice good eating habits and be active.
If you’re struggling to maintain an active lifestyle, look for ways to spice it up. Don’t hesitate to invest in new hobbies – like buying new shoes for running, or shoes for the gym, or even new boots for walking. Take a moment to evaluate your current health status to see areas that need improvement. Even researching local fitness groups for beginners is a great way to focus on your health.
Talk about it
Whether it’s with a trusted friend or family member, or a counselor – talking to someone about your insecurities is a great way to overcome them. It can be intimidating, especially if there is a stigma surrounding men going into therapy.
Studies show that there are more than 6 million men in America and around one in eight men in the UK are affected by depression and other mental health problems. Other studies show that men are less likely to seek therapy than women. Part of the reason for this disparity may be that men often feel that attending therapy is not masculine and that it is a sign of weakness.
This is of course not true. It is important to know that it can be beneficial for everyone to talk about your feelings with a professional.
Embrace your body
Having the ability to embrace your body for all it is is a powerful feeling. For some it comes naturally, while others need help figuring out how to practice self-love. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when learning to embrace your body:
- Find ways to move your body that make you feel good
- Invest in fashion that fits your body perfectly
- Practice meditation to learn how to center yourself and become one with your body
- Read books about self love
- Wear clothes that make you feel good
- Follow people on social media who have a similar body type to yours and celebrate
Embracing your body is important because it helps shape your overall health. There is no lie behind the popular saying “when you look good, you feel good”. When you speak highly of yourself and learn to love yourself, you will notice positive changes in both your physical and mental health.
Challenge unrealistic media norms
It’s one thing to know that social media and blockbuster movies can influence negative body image problems in men. Doing something about it is another matter. Challenge unrealistic media standards. Help spread awareness about the importance of a positive body image using your social media platforms. It means not being afraid to be yourself and embrace your shortcomings for what they are.
Men deserve just as much as women to have confidence in who they are. They also deserve to talk about their struggles without feeling judged. By educating yourself on the importance of male body positivity and how to overcome body image issues, you can make a difference and help break the social stigma surrounding this issue.