I avoid the mirror. My clothing bulks out in certain areas. When I turn just slightly I can see my tummy through my shirt. When I smile my cheeks look filled with food and my neck fat looks like a turkey waddle. I get lines on my stomach after I’ve been sitting too long and my nose looks like a camel hump…
I didn’t think that my wife could actually love me when we first got married. I put so much on my own looks and how I felt about myself I thought my wife must have something wrong with her if she finds me attractive. That in turn made it hard to trust her initially because how could someone find me attractive when I see a disgusting person in the mirror. It wasn’t until I saw her react the same way to my compliments on her beauty that I started to see that there must be something deeper happening.
Lately in our culture there has been an emphasis on getting back to reality with female body images. Many women are standing up for themselves and other women by declaring that they are tired of feeling they have to look a certain way. There has been a call for women to be represented realistically in advertising and marketing. The pressure for a woman to look perfect or near perfect has driven them to taking drastic and unhealthy measure in attempt to achieve that look.
As I am in full agreement with women on this course of action and right standing, I also want to make sure that it is known that men, too, have body image issues. We may not be as vocal about them, but they are just as psychologically incapacitating as they are for women.
Growing up I had a certain idea of how a man should look. As I grew up on the heavier side of body type my perfect body type was that of a thinner person. I looked at skinny boys and coveted how they looked. Their ability for their abs to be seen through their skin, the fact that their muscles were easily defined, that their clothes fell nicely on their bodies. This was the image I felt was perfect. I have never been able to attain that body type. I have never seen my abs, my muscles, no matter how much I work them out, are not defined the way I would like.
I have never been able to look skinny, in fact I am pretty sure that’s a lie, but I’ve never seen it. Even though I can perfectly remember a time that I weighed quite a bit less than I do now, I still remember feeling fat. I don’t like taking pictures and I only look at ones from when I was younger, because I know I can’t ever look young again.
These aren’t typical things you hear from guys, because we aren’t good at expressing ourselves in that way. We consider a bad self-image a weakness, so we don’t talk about it but we do have it. My brother grew up very differently proportioned than I, he was skinny and suffered from the same image problems that I did. We never admitted to each other that we wanted to look like the other until later in life.
Our culture has fashioned for us the perfect look, that we will never reach. Even those models that make up the perfect look don’t actually look that way. We have become Arian in our pursuits of perfection, when in reality we are everything but. Instead of concentration camps where we keep our unwanted, we shame them into suicide, starvation or a constant pursuit of something else. We bleed them dry financially as they pursue every diet or surgery to change themselves.
We have no caution when we speak of people’s imperfections and often put them down to give us an edge over them. We don’t consider that when someone speaks ill of us that they themselves have things they hate about them. Will we ever become comfortable with how we look? I doubt it, but I do know that as I grow closer to God, the less it hurts when someone says something about the way I look. The sting is not as lasting. When God becomes more, I naturally consider myself less and that’s good. The more I spend time with my family and the things that mean something to me, I see that they accept me for much more than how I look.
I don’t have a magical cure to a good self-image but I can say with confidence that I am not alone. The more I realize that this is an epidemic in our culture the less I consider it a problem. I still look at myself sideways sometimes wishing certain areas were different, but one thing I do know is that the more I am looking at myself, the less I am focusing on God, and that is the worst kind of distraction.