Gay Body Image Issues

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hot hairy manOne thing most gay men out there have in common is body image issues.  Be it being self conscious about how you look, how others perceive your body, or how judgmental you are about your own body.

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.

MAN-LOOKING-IN-MIRROR-facebookAs 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.

fuckable bearLooking 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.

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9 thoughts on “Gay Body Image Issues

  1. aguywithoutboxers

    Another very astute observation my blogging buddy. Too many in our community, and in society in general, strive for a physical form that just isn’t attainable. I feel we should all try to be healthy and accept ourselves as we are. Great job, my friend! Much love and naked hugs! 🙂

    • Absolutely, hence why I’m doing my best to work on just being healthier in my life and choices. It’s a fine line to walk, and is quite easy to get pulled into the strive for what some consider the perfect body.

  2. I have missed your blog. Excellent post. As a gay man, do we have to overcompensate on looks physically and what we wear on don’t. I don’t follow rules, but I do take pride how I look and what I eat. Balance, maybe, and the the media does see gay men in a very lucrative retail eye. It’s hard enough knowing who I am, so maybe I am not the image of a gay man. Chat soon Ivan.

    • IVAN!!! Thanks for popping in, and I’ve definitely missed your visits.. Hope all is well with you and we hear from you more often 😀

      Yes, it’s all about balance, and that’s what I’m working myself towards with my current gym/dietary routine and my desire to just feel healthier.

  3. In Britain, in the 1990s, Humphries and Metcalfe pioneered studies about the gay need for compensatory behaviors … i.e., hyper-masculinity. I think there’s something to do this, though not as much as once upon a gay-time. I think people are more inclined now just to be on the slim side, look good in their clothes, and tastefully turn the lights out while climbing into bed with a friend 😉

    • Although it may seem like people are just ‘inclined’ to be on the slim side, I think it’s a matter of perspective. As someone on the larger side, it seems like too much pressure is put by media/society to become thinner and thinner, and those that don’t fit a certain mold are shunned to an extent. I recently went to a very large discount clothing chain looking for cheap shorts for holiday, only to find they didn’t have sizes above a 36 waist, and the staff completely blasé about it. It’s almost become chic to discriminate against larger people as if they don’t matter, when it’s the opposite I think.

      • Hmm. I see your point … to an extent. Frankly, I don’t think the hard-wiring of the human brain is ever going to find very heavy attractive. It’s just one of those unavoidable things. I think it’s way too easy to blame the media, considering the extent to which women went in the 1700s and 1800s to fit into corsets and dresses. Even then, young men were considered attractive when they were thin … like Darcy, and … well … mocked when they were heavy, like Mr. Collins in the same novel.

        SO, yes … if you don’t fit the mold in some degree at least, you’ll just have to accept it as a problem. It doesn’t mean hating yourself, or loathing your appearance … it does mean finding fewer dates, fashionable clothings, etc. I have a couple of quite heavy friends, who seem happy enough … but I suspect they wish they were thinner.

        You’ll probably cut me from your circle for saying all of this, but I do think it’s true. Have you considered lap-band surgery? I have a friend who had it and he went from heavy to gorgeous in about six or seven months. I mean, truly, he’s a hunk now!

      • TO be honest, I think lap-band surgery is quite extreme, and most doctors will only suggest/prescribe that action if you’re extremely obese, which I wouldn’t be considered. I’d asked my doctor a few years back about a drug my old housemate was taking for awhile that worked as an appetite suppressant of sorts, but was turned down because my weight wasn’t necessarily considered a health-risk to them, more that I just needed to exercise more.

        I was recently reading an article about the supremely talented singer Sam Smith, who came out as gay, and about how he’s called fat and ugly.. all because he looks like an average guy instead of this thin, fit, muscular, media-created image of what a gay man should look like.. and the article even went so far as to say that if he was straight, then he’d be considered good-looking or hot while looking exactly the same. (I may use that article for a follow up to this one.. we’ll see)

        The point is though, as gay men, we shouldn’t have to be changing who we are or how we look to fit into someone else’s mold of what is considered attractive, and being confident in who you are, regardless of your size, is way more attractive to a lot of guys than if you have a six-pack or have model good looks. Personally I think we need to continue to challenge the stereotypes and help each other be ourselves instead of fitting that ‘mold’ (even if those that do fit the mold are damn hot LOL).

        Oh an btw, you’d be surprised how many guys out there do love a chubby or over-weight guy.. and the bear community is becoming more and more visible, even if the media does try to portray the muscle-bear as what an actual bear looks like.. but that’s a discussion for another day 😉

      • I definitely agree that we need to hold back stereotypes, and all of us are going to have many shapes and sizes in our lives! I don’t know who Sam Smith is, but I’ll search him out for a gander.

        I don’t mean to imply that one shouldn’t honor and respect everyone as well as his decisions, I only mean to say that every society his its norms … and perhaps it’s good to push against them from time to time !

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