Do you have body issues? Do you struggle with your self image? Do you believe that you're not pretty enough or skinny enough?
We live in a culture that as a twisted definition of beauty. Our starlets are photoshopped to look curvier and bustier creating this artificial standard that demands you sacrifice your self worth on the alter of Sexy. This culture tells you that you need a slimmer waist, bigger breasts, fuller lips, and shinier hair to be hot. Our movies and music tell you that you have to take your clothes off to to be valued. When you walk through the grocery store check out lanes, you are confronted with magazines that promise tips to have a better sex life, get the guy you want, and lose a few pounds - all while Katy Perry is the cover model ideal of perfection.
Very few people can live up to those expectations. Honestly, I understand how you could compare yourself to what our culture deems beautiful and find yourself falling short. And if you're following all those fashion tips and diet plans and still don't look like a Victoria Secret model, it makes sense that the way you view yourself suffers.
I could tell you that you should ignore those voices that are telling you you're not enough. I could tell you that you are beautiful just the way you are. Those are words that you've probably heard countless times before and will hopefully hear upon many more occasions.
Instead, I have a secret for you.
Guys struggle with our image too. We do.
We see the Calvin Klein ads featuring David Beckham with his sculpted abs. We notice you fawning over McDreamy while you watch Grey's Anatomy. We see the winning smile of Adam Levine as he's named the sexiest man alive. We watch as some of the strongest men on the planet pulverize each other week after week as we follow our favorite NFL teams.
The same culture that tells you that you're not hot tells us that we're unattractive. It compares our beer gut to Beckham, our receding hairline to McDreamy, our less than desirable appearance to Levine, and our physique to the Seahawks offensive line.
We can't measure up. We have body issues. Just like you, we often feel like we're not good enough. Between the expanding waistlines and the balding/graying hair, we're not the manly men that our culture expects us to be.
Our culture tells us that we're supposed to look like those shirtless guys on Abercrombie & Fitch posters. It tells us that we should be able to grow beards, eat bacon, handle a rifle with ease, and rebuild the engine of any vehicle we own. It tells us that hunting and fishing should be instinctual. It tells us that we should be able to hold our liquor. It tells us that we should be able to kick the ass of anyone that threatens us or our loved ones. It tells us to be a rock - an unmovable force.
Like pouring salt into an open wound, our culture takes this image issue with men a little further. When we can't be that guy, when we're a little chubbier, if we can barely change a flat tire, if we can't tell the difference between a .45 and a 9 mm, if the scent of alcohol makes us a little tipsy, if we choose to be a vegetarian or a pacifist, if we show any sign of weakness ... If we don't measure up to the ideal man, our culture tells us we're not allowed to be insecure. It tells us to man up. Throw some dirt on it. Bury your pain. Keep on moving on. Don't back down. If we admit any hint of insecurity, our culture somehow determines that we're less than a man.
This culture is unhealthy for you, but it's unhealthy for us too.
Sure, there's things that we can do to help or hinder your self image. We know that providing the wrong answer to "do these jeans make my butt look big?" can lead to disaster. We know that looking at porn makes you feel devalued. We know that you feel unloved when we forget to take out the trash. We could compliment you more. We could stop objectifying you in our movies and lyrics. We could be better boyfriends, husbands, brothers, and sons.
There are also things that you could do differently.
When you get together in your groups and engage in your girl talk, we hear you. When you're mocking your husbands and boyfriends - it might just be you venting with your girlfriends ... but we hear you. When we over hear you commenting about your husband's or boyfriends dunlap and widow's peak, it reminds us of our need for an extra couple of hours at the gym and a bottle of Rogaine. When we hear you laugh at jokes about your significant other's appearance, it cheapens the value we've placed in ourselves. If you are that mean towards the men in your life, we question what the women in our lives say about us when we're not around.
Insulting the way someone looks will never make them feel better about their appearance. Please stop. Just, stop.
You can do it. And us men, we can do it too.
ps: I realize this whole post is a generalization. There are men and women in this world that are perfectly happy with their bodies. To them, I say congratulations. I wish we could all be like you. I also know that there are women who could never imagine insulting their spouses while out with their friends. To them, I say thank you. We need more people like you in this world.