I know I do. I’ve always been a short, chubby guy who’s felt awkward around others who looked more like society’s so-called ‘norm’. And regardless of how well my life is going at the time, I’ve always felt a bit of inadequacy or that perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough when comparing myself to those around me, both personally and professionally.
According to psychotherapist Matthew J. Dempsey, the body image issues most gay men have are actually masking other deeper, more complex underlying inadequacies that we all struggle with, including feelings of inadequacy. There are many out there who base their self-esteem on how others perceive their physique, and fixate on trying to fix their appearance to appear more attractive to others.
Through the media and our own community, we’ve created this image of what a gay man should look like – tall, handsome, fit, charming, and so forth. And a lot of us have bought into that ideal so much that we spend most of our free time trying to change how we look to please those around us.
Of course that doesn’t apply to everyone, as there are many people out there who are quite happy with how they look or where they are in life and are not consciously trying to change their appearance to appease others. And that’s not to say that being physically active in order to become and feel healthier is buying into the stereotype either.
As explained in the below video, we tend to be overly critical of our own bodies when there are other issues at hand, and by doing this we are avoiding dealing with whatever issue is actually bothering us at the time. Instead of trying to fix our problems, we’d rather ‘fix’ our physical appearance because that is something we think we can have more control over.
I know I’ve stood in front of the mirror many times and looked at my body, wondering why I look the way I do, berating myself for not taking better care of myself when I was younger, and wondering how someone could find this rotund body attractive. It’s negative thinking at it’s worst, and though some may call it being self-critical, it’s very destructive in the long run.
Changing our outward appearances will not fix or negate the underlying issues, but instead will mask it and give ourselves a false feeling of achievement… Though feeling good about how you look or how your body feels is an amazing thing, and it should be felt all the time regardless of your body shape.
Yes, I currently go to the gym several times a week and have been watching my diet, but it’s mostly to feel healthier as a whole not to specifically look a certain way. Obviously I do hope that in the long run I will lose some weight and feel more comfortable with my body, but that’s not the main goal of going to the gym.. If anything it’ll just be a very welcome side effect.
I sometimes have to stop myself lately when looking in the mirror when trying to find signs that the gym is having a positive affect on my body. I need to consciously remind myself that physical appearance is less important than how I actually feel inside.
Looking a certain way will not necessarily improve your life on a whole, nor will it truly bring happiness. Sure, it may get you more dates, but are you getting those dates because of how you look or who you are as a person?
It’s not an easy thing to get past when you’ve spent years berating yourself over your appearance, or subconsciously calling yourself names (fat, ugly, disgusting, undesirable, etc). It’s difficult to change how you perceive your own body, and try to see yourself through other people’s eyes.
It’s hard, and it’s not something that will change over night, if at all. But it’s something I know I’m consciously working on.