The image of myself has always been less than admirable; I didn’t have a lot of days in my life that I loved myself.
I have been what’s considered “big” for most of my life. I was the kid that had to get his pants from the “husky” section of the store. Even then it was no secret what the word husky meant–you were the fat kid. No matter what Grandma said, even she knew it.
It’s been a near constant struggle; I have gained and lost more weight in the last twenty years than I care to acknowledge. I was always told things like, “you’ll grow out of it” or, “you’re a boy, you’re supposed to be bigger” or, my favorite, “you just love to eat.” No kidding, really?
The image of myself has always been less than admirable; I didn’t have a lot of days in my life that I loved myself. I don’t remember ever having one where I loved my body.
I see it in other people now, too. When I am at the gym, especially. I see new guys come in who are overweight, and I can see the sheer terror and panic in their eyes. I know what it is because I have always dealt with the same feelings. The tugging on the shirt, the weird gait in their walk because they believe everybody in the place is staring at them and secretly judging. The side glances to see who is telling jokes about the way they look in their exercise gear. I did all that and still catch myself doing it today.
The saddest part of that is, just like I used to, most of the time they come for a day or two and never return. I know the despair in that, I know the additional feelings of failure that are piled on top of your already destroyed self-esteem when you give up.
Men aren’t supposed to think about body image that way. We are supposed to take everything in stride and not care about what people think. I was just supposed to keep my shield up and wade through the unending jokes, stereotypes, passive aggressive comments, and fried chicken commercials without showing any weakness.
I got pretty good at it too.
Truthfully, like myself, a lot of men deal with body image issues. It’s not something we talk about with each other or anyone else. It eats at us just the same, though. But it isn’t just us fat guys that think about it, it’s men from all walks of life and all sized frames. Men who have things about their bodies they can’t stand and feelings that they raise we don’t want to admit.
Men do obsess with their bodies. I am not just talking about looking good to go out on the town or while getting ready for a date. What I am saying is that men are starting to think about how they look as much as females. I can’t tell you how often I get mad at myself for eating too much, or how often I thought about diets and new exercise ideas that I could have tried. For years, I was stuck between hating how I looked and being too lazy to fix it. On the other side of the coin many men who aren’t overweight live in a near constant fear of gaining weight.
We hate the way we look in clothes. Nothing fits was something my wife heard many times from me when I was in our closet trying to get ready for some function. The truth was, it usually did fit I just looked like a fat guy in it. I would find myself changing several times before leaving the house, and by that time I had already decided to have a miserable time. I know guys that were skinny that would complain they always felt like they were wearing their fathers clothes. So when you wonder why we like t-shirts and basketball shorts, it’s because that’s our protective costume!
We sometimes think we’re fat. Even when we aren’t, I’ve looked back at pictures of myself when I wasn’t nearly as heavy as I am now and realized that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. At that moment, though, I could have never been convinced of that. In my mind, I was the fastest guy in the room. What was just a little gut at that point to me seemed as though it would sufficiently fill a Santa suit.
We really aren’t fan’s of the jokes. Sure, you’re funny, and we laugh, and we even tell them about ourselves. In reality, though, they suck, they sting and sometimes we just want to knock the hell out of you. Big guys know all the mobility issues they have without you cracking about it, and skinny guys have heard the bird remarks before. We have to quit projecting our insecurities on everyone else–especially with those who are obviously dealing with their own.
We cry about it. Yes, there are times when we get to the end of our rope and no longer know what to do, and we break down. Rarely in front of anyone but it happens, after so much humiliation, disappointment, rejection, self-hatred, and failure, we cry. Mainly because, at that moment, it’s all we know how to do, we are human beings with emotions after all. The triggers vary, sometimes it’s being bullied once too many, or it may be that word of encouragement from a loved one that just came out all wrong.
Society has always raised or lowered someone’s value based on their looks. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In today’s world, we face even more opportunities to be exposed to the judgement. Everything from Politics to Music is based heavily on image, talent and knowledge just don’t rank as high, unfortunately.
The pressure on men to conform to a certain set of standards are now just as noticeable as it is for women. Everything from your health to your parenting ability is often judged solely on how you look. Promotions at work, social activity invitations, and opportunities for romance are too often based solely on looks.
The world isn’t likely to change anytime soon, and certainly self-responsibility has to come into play. Being unhealthy, no matter what form it takes, is never something to be proud of. You have to be comfortable with yourself and where you are, not just accepting. You have to truly believe you are in the right place for you, physically, emotionally and mentally. If you can get to that place, no matter your size, you win. Husky doesn’t have to be a badge of shame.
Photo: Flickr/ sriram bala