During a recent conversation with my close friend Daryl, a very interesting topic came up. A topic that I've never really touched on, thought about or discussed prior to that conversation -- body image.
It's no secret that women have been battling this for years and even today, with all of our modern advancements, it's evident that we still have a long way to go.
With societies hand on the pulse of popularity, I'm often left to wonder -- why don't men ever talk about body image issues?
Would we be deemed sensitive or weak if we discussed the dissatisfaction of our appearance? Would we not be looked at as protectors and/or leaders if we honestly admitted that we have physical insecurities? Has pop culture demoralized morality and influenced masculinity to the point that men have disassociated themselves with the authenticity of vulnerability?
Again, I'm left to wonder.
Body image issues have never been an easy topic to discuss. Proudly, women have started fighting back against antagonistic criticism, while men have yet to admit that an issue actually exists. The problem is there are way too many men suffering in silence.
Let's face it, as much as men hate to admit it, we are very self-conscious about our bodies -- period!
As a trainer, I've helped countless men and women vanquish their self-doubt and regain their confidence. I've had male clients admit to their fears of being nude around women. I've had guys confess to having lackluster sex lives due to the anxiety associated with their perceived body image.
In fact, body image issues are very common amongst men despite popular opinion, and I'm no exception. I've battled my own body image issues from childhood into my adult life.
Growing up, I was always the short skinny kid. I like to think I was a popular child, but that didn't stop me from being singled out and castigated. Kids would jump in front of me in the line for recess and make fun of me because I was short.
I've gotten into quite a few altercations in my adolescent years because people thought they could intimidate or bully me due to my size.
Even as an adult I've faced uncertainty. I was never the guy that women swooned over. I'm not as suave as Idris Elba or as tall as Will Smith. During the conversation with my friend, he and I laughed about how we were always considered the cute guys -- only recently graduating to handsome. We're both members of the Under Six Feet Tall Club.
In fact, prior to adopting a regular exercise routine, I was only 128 pounds soaking wet with Timberland work boots on. If the wind blew too hard, I would be flying alongside pieces of debris (I'm exaggerating, but you get the point).
It was only five years ago that I started to embrace who I was. I saw what I didn't like about myself and I changed what I had control over.
When it comes to relationships, women tend to look for a man to be a provider, a protector, a leader and a partner. The typical woman's man is generally tall with a muscular physique. In the paleolithic age they would've been known as the hunter gatherers -- the guys chopping firewood, building forts and killing cattle.
But what about the 26-year-old account executive that's 5-feet, 9-inches tall, slim, toned and weighs 148 pounds? How about the 6-foot, 3-inch, overweight, 41-year-old construction worker? Have you considered the 58-year-old schoolteacher with back hair and an untrimmed beard?
Since they don't fit the conventional physical attributes that media would consider "hot," are they excluded from being protectors, providers and leaders? Not at all, but I bet some think they are.
Men often combat their dilemma with body image by becoming exercise dependent, which can lead to overtraining and increased injury. Some will indulge in steroid use or entertain ambiguous fad diets for quicker (short-term) results.
Others become immersed in their sorrows, seeking refuge from public events and social gatherings. Both are behavioral pitfalls that I've seen a number of times.
It doesn't matter what body type you fall under -- skinny, thick, tall or short, at some point I'm sure you have been self-absorbed with your body image. Stop being afraid to address it! Stop living in misery! Change what you can control and embrace what you cannot change.
It's okay if you don't look like an Abercrombie & Fitch model.
Body image is a psychological issue that needs to be addressed, not avoided. Men, understand that your manhood is not wavering because of your body image. In order for change to take place, you must first admit to the problem. Stop hiding behind your machismo and remember, it takes strength to be vulnerable. Be well.