For the longest time, I assumed I was fat. I’m not, and I never really was. I still am somewhat overweight and at times, chubby, but thinking of myself as fat was a cop-out. It was easy to chalk up my limited success with the opposite sex to my physical unattractiveness, so I did that by calling myself fat. Then I decided to do something about it.
I began lifting weights and running. In only a year, I was able to nearly double the amount of weight I was lifting. I am very short, but very stocky with a barrel chest. My ribcage is about 9-11 inches from back to front, and my shoulders would be large on a man a foot taller than me.
I had been working out for some time, and was definitely more powerful. I knew that my arms had bulged out, I had developed pectorals, and punching my abs made people hurt their hands. I fancied myself better looking than the year before, as well. Then I had a conversation which would replay in my mind often.
A friend of mine was listing people she found attractive and I asked her why she hadn’t mentioned me. The people who she had named were by and large short, like myself, but unlike me, skinny as hell. No offense to them, but I’m not talking attractive skinny, I mean, if they wore shirts too tight I could count their ribs and see the outline of their collarbones. I considered myself in their league as far as looks went: while they are oddly slight, I am weirdly large. She flatly told me I wasn’t attractive. (On another aside, someone seriously needs to teach this girl some social skills.)
This wasn’t the first time anyone had ever called me ugly to my face, but it was the first time someone said I was uglier than a skeleton. It was devastating, especially since I had worked so hard to remodel myself. I had used the “fat and ugly” excuse before, but I felt I had gotten to the point where that explanation no longer held weight.
What’s a guy supposed to do? Even before her callous observation, I wondered over what was “considered attractive” and recognized that I just didn’t have it anymore. The “largeness” of men like Elvis, Sean Connery, and Paul Newman had been replaced with a slimmer, boy-toy look. No one ever compliments my increased muscle mass, large shoulders, or flat but still powerful upper body because nobody compliments those traits in men’s physiques anymore.
It didn’t matter that I could bench press their body weight. They had it, and I didn’t. After a while, though, I came to a shocking realization—it didn’t matter to me. It was obvious from my reaction to my friend’s dismissal that I was proud of my body, else I wouldn’t care so much about it, and it didn’t matter what other people thought. Seeking validation in others is bound to fail. There’s simply no way you can feel good about who you are through the opinions of other people.
I’m damn proud of my progress, and I’m not stopping now.
You can too, and to hell with the rest.
—Photo credit: Spirit-Fire/Flickr