What is perfection?
I state this as my own observation and thoughts. I know many will not agree with what I say, but such is life.
Additionally, I share my own story to shed light on my own journey, and show a side that is not commonly discussed, not for sympathy or praise.
Beauty and aesthetics go hand and hand within gay culture. We, as a community of men, are incredibly visual. We are naturally programed to see, want, conquer, etc.
It's this idea that, in my opinion, places such a strong emphasis on the need for things to be beautiful.
This notion of beauty within the gay community is something that is commonly discussed, but the idea of body image is something that often gets pushed under the metaphorical rug. However, the two are much more interconnected than we let on.
If one truly looks at just men, without an emphasis on the gay part, through the years, the idea of an Adonis has always been praised. From Greek gods, to medieval knights, to superheroes in graphic novels, the idea of a perfect physique has been glorified and looked at as the ideal.
To be fit, maintain healthy patterns, and create a lifestyle that is well balanced is an extremely important practice for everyone. However, it is not always these complete ideas that are discussed while idolizing these body types.
Throughout my years as a fitness professional and model, I have felt the pressures to be in great shape. It's simply part of the criteria when entering into these worlds, and I understood this when embarking on these professions.
In fact, it's part of what interested me in these particular fields. I saw an opportunity to interweave my passions and my career aspirations, so it seemed a natural fit. However, as fitness has exploded as a trend, I feel there are many things that are being overlooked, and not spoken about.
I will start by stating that, one must be the example in order to lead, and it's that idea that personally places the "pressure" upon me. However, my upbringing created a foundation for my future self. I've been extremely active, maintained a healthy eating pattern and diet and competitively swam for 15 years. I didn't just one day wake up with muscle tone and definition. My body is truly years and years of crafting, sculpting, hard work and dedication; and it's still not perfect.
I frequently get asked, "What's your secret?" My response is always, "Fifteen years of competitive swimming, and hard work there on after."
That being said, I think it's the lack of knowledge that many gay men have about the backgrounds of the men they physically look up to that create many of the problems that exist within the gay community. They simply see the results of years of hard work, and not the hard work itself, so it feels as if we should all be able to snap our fingers, and have that perfectly personified male form.
Additionally, if one is ever truly honest about what goes into a shirtless professional photo-shoot, it isn't nearly as glamorous as one would expect. Cutting out certain foods, dehydrating the body and working out additional hours become part of the formula to creating that idealized physique. Celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman and countless others have spoken about the more miserable side to acquiring their superhero character's bodies.
More recently, the idea of this "Spornosexual" has risen to the masses, and straight men have begun to feel the pressures of what most, if not all gay men have been feeling forever.
Twenty years ago Mark Simpson coined the term "Metrosexual", and as things tend to evolve with time so has this term. Simpson's new male ideal, the Spornosexual, is a bigger, burlier and more masculine guy. He looks like he plays rugby, or grew up farming. He was corn-fed and definitely doesn't hold a vegetarian diet. He by physical standards is bigger than his younger Metrosexual self, but still toned, groomed and maintained. He is a new-age Hercules.
As this super sexualized male becomes more in our faces through the oversaturation of image driven technology, it seems as if this is a new phenomenon. The truth is that the gay community has been plagued with these ideals for years and years.
This is not news to us.
However, as this movement is heightened in mainstream pop culture, it becomes all the more apparent in gay culture as well. I would even suggest this has become more popular in terms of an aesthetic for our community than ever before. More and more men (gay men included) are taking on extreme exercises like Crossfit, bootcamps and whatever the latest trend is to achieve a better, stronger and more god-like body.
In many ways I believe this is a move in the right direction. Healthy is becoming trendy, but a fundamental question must be asked. Are we actually becoming healthier, or are we resorting to more extreme measures to transform?
There's a desire to look like Greek statues, have perfectly sculpted bodies and be, for better or worse, perfect.
As gay men we have struggled with this notion of perfection since we were children to make up for the shame we felt with being "different." If what we physically put out was "perfect," maybe you wouldn't see our internal struggles.
However, perfection as we learn sooner or later is unachievable, and generally, the more we look to become perfect on the outside, the more we are avoiding deeper internal issues.
This idea of perfection has driven the gay community to resort to unhealthy means and behaviors for years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Steroid usage, eating disorders and extreme dieting have all become common occurrences, but things no one wants to talk about. They're uncomfortable topics, and we pretend as if they don't exist because to address them would mean that we aren't as perfect as we want to appear.
However, what we need to remember is that no one is perfect, and we do in fact need to discuss these serious issues. The struggles we face with beauty and body image are things that men and women face all over, straight and gay. We need to understand that that perfectly sculpted body won't fix the years of hurt we carry within us because we're gay. The stronger, more "masculine" bodies we're looking to create won't hide the scars we carry deep within ourselves.
As someone who works within the fitness and health world, I think it's a great thing that more and more people are looking to create healthier lifestyles, but that's the key, it needs to be a lifestyle, not a quick fix.
We need to remember that while we workout our exteriors, our interiors also need to be watered and cared for. We need to understand that the body we have is precious, and any "quick-fix" is only going to lead to years of harmful and rapidly deteriorating health. Fade diets, extreme exercising for short periods of time and jumping on trends are not healthy and sustainable ways to live.
It wasn't until I accepted my own flaws, and did internal work that I began to give up on the idea of perfection. I now strive to simply be the best version of myself.
Yes, I still subconsciously and consciously compare myself to others around me, but when I do catch myself doing just this, I remember that to compare myself is to set myself up for unhealthy jealously. Rather I remind myself I should simply be focused on building myself into a stronger individual mentally, spiritually and physically.
We should always have a desire to be the best version of ourselves, but we must remember to do it authentically with hard work and dedication. Let your body be brawny, but let your brain and soul lead you in your journey. Remember muscles don't necessarily equate to strength, nor does being thin mean one is weak.
When we stop seeking to manipulate our outside, we are that much quicker to find that the beauty we so desire is truly on the inside, and wholeness becomes the goal.