We often think of negative body image as affecting women only, but the fact is that men can experience it too. But the truth is that men have negative body image as well. In fact, one study showed that as many as 30% of the men surveyed had a negative body image. Perhaps men don’t bring it up as often because they have been conditioned not to. It may be less socially acceptable to talk about body image in men than in women, but it certainly does exist in men as well. In this blog, we will discover some triggers for men experiencing body image issues, how and when it starts, and how to know if you need help.
Common body image issues in men.
We see unrealistic images of women in advertising and the media (who are often underweight and photoshopped) and have realized as a society that this is detrimental to women and their body image. But the fact is the images of men used in the media can create body image issues for men as well. Men in ads tend to be tall, thin, tanned, with lots of muscle. They often have six packs and biceps that require countless hours at the gym (and sometimes use of supplements and hormones) that are not achievable for the average male, making the everyday guy feel inadequate. Just as we don’t often see plus-sized women in advertising, we don’t often see plus-sized men. And in TV shows and movies, just like with female characters, the main male star is usually thin, muscular, and tall. When there’s a plus-sized main character in the show, they usually fill the stereotype as the comical character, the marginalized friend, or the bumbling sidekick. As you can see, any of these scenarios can contribute to a negative body image for some men.
Facial features play a role too. Men may feel inadequate if they don’t have a perfectly chiseled jaw, or strong cheekbones or chin. This is becoming more and more the case as more men are opting for cosmetic procedures to create these defined features. Hair can also be a point of comparison and body image disturbance for men. Men in the media often have thick hair and if grey, it is peppered.
When does it all start?
Believe it or not, body image issues, just like in women, can begin in childhood for men. This is especially true for boys in the context of sports. They may feel the need to be bigger, taller, and more muscular in order to be better at their sport. This often results in an attitude of perfectionism, where they feel inadequate if they’re shorter, slower, or less strong than classmates and teammates. This scenario can lead to a lifetime of obsession with getting more “built,” or feelings of inadequacy when it comes to body features that they cannot change, such as height.
When to seek help
If you’re a man experiencing dissatisfaction with the look of your body, you’re not alone. When it comes down to it, one could say that almost everybody has at least one body part or aspect of their physique that they wish was different or that they could change. That’s normal. But when normal wishes for change turn into disordered-thinking or compulsive thinking, it might be time for some help. Seek help from a therapist if you experience any of the following:
- Obsession over weight or other aspects of the body.
- Intrusive thoughts of inadequacy or the idea that everyone is judging you for your body shape/size.
- Feeling the need to cover up excessively, often wearing baggy clothes to hide your true body shape.
- Obsession over working out and building muscles to the point it causes harm.
- Excessive supplement use of any kind, whether that’s weight-loss pills or steroid use to build muscle.
In general, if you feel like your body image is affecting your daily life in any way, you can benefit from therapy. Speak to your doctor for a referral or seek out a therapist who specializes in body image issues for help.