I’m impressed. Actor Justin Baldoni, known for his role in the TV show Jane the Virgin, has made a point of using his public platform in socially conscious ways. But you don’t often see young men in his line of work talking openly about their body image problems. One could argue that the TV and film industry is the biggest purveyor of false standards of physical beauty and fitness, and that Southern California, where Mr. Baldoni lives, is the epicenter of America’s culture of materialism. Yet here he is, sharing intimately about his own insecurities around his own body:
Two words you’ve probably never heard come out of a man’s mouth. I would bet that most of us assume that women are the only ones who struggle with their body image & feelings of low self-esteem. That assumption couldn’t be more wrong. As a man I can tell you right now that I struggle with my own body image & there are infinite layers that contribute to why. I grew up really skinny. I always felt like my T-shirts just hung from my neck because I had no shoulders. I wanted to have muscles because I thought that would make me a real man. I thought it would help me get friends & girls & be respected. I was wrong. Muscles don’t give you anything except the insecurity & desire of keeping them & making them bigger. I don’t think we have ever addressed the underlying reason why most of us really go to the gym & stay in shape. Why do we sacrifice eating the foods we want to eat, while spending hours, working on parts of our bodies that most people will never see? Pushing ourselves, sweating, buying billions of dollars in products & clothing that hide our problem areas while following influencers who spend their entire day in the gym posting about it and make $ off our secret jealousy? What does that say about how we feel about ourselves? Does it really inspire us or does it set an unrealistic expectation for ourselves & our partners? The truth is that I’m one of the many millions of men & women that have body dysmorphia. When I look in the mirror I’m not happy with what I see like so many of you. Yes of course you can all say what you want about me–but nothing you say can make the little Justin who was picked on, who felt weak and like he wasn’t enough feel amazing about how he looks. So to my dear friends… be patient with yourself. Love yourself, & be OK having insecurities. To my men, talking about your insecurities doesn’t make you less of a man… it actually makes you more of a man. We all have different reasons why we want to look the way we want to look… I just think it’s important we start being real about it–because our children are going to grow up not just looking at us but wanting to be like us.Don’t like ads? Become a supporter and enjoy The Good Men Project ad free
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Now as the photo accompanying the post indicates, I think most fair-minded people would classify Mr. Baldoni as a truly fine-looking man. But that’s precisely the point. If even he, whose livelihood and fame have depended at least in part on his having become an object of desire in an industry that trades in artifice, can speak candidly about the ultimate emptiness of our society’s obsession with bodies, then perhaps it helps empower more of us to have those conversations, too. As a man with similar insecurities (are there any American men my age, who grew up with He-Man, professional wrestling, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger in the ’80s and ’90s, who don’t share these issues to some degree?), I really appreciate his candor. No one can change Hollywood or the wider culture single-handedly. But Mr. Baldoni isn’t alone. There are conversations about body image in the bodybuilding community, among scholars, and here at the Good Men Project, for example. What makes me particularly encouraged in this case is that Mr. Baldoni probably has a broader reach than most. And having cultivated a social media presence that deals directly with the joys of marriage and fatherhood, the importance of male friendships, redefining manhood in a new age, and women’s rights and other important social justice issues, people seem at least as attracted to his willingness to be vulnerable and to his integrity as to his looks. This recent post about how he and his father responded to his daughter’s tantrum in a public place really seemed to touch a chord. It’s worth a read.
Most of us don’t have a following as large as Justin Baldoni’s. But each of us, in our day-to-day interactions and increasingly in social media, has a world of chances to encourage others; to speak and act with truthfulness, candor, and courtesy; and to raise the level of constructive discourse in our society. Mr. Baldoni’s efforts are a good example of how to read the reality of one’s own situation and make the most of it.
Another version of this post originally appeared at louisventers.com. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: Justin Baldoni/Facebook