Addressing Male Body Image Struggles (And How To Overcome Male Body Image Issues)
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only young women who are often found struggling with negative body image issues. Did you know that according to some studies, it was found that almost 40% of men struggle with body image problems?
Similar to women, men also feel self-conscious about their body image – from hair loss and weight to acne and scars. However, in the media, there are only women’s body image issues that are talked about the most. While I agree that women have been dealing with negative body image more, men too struggle with the same anxiety and negativity, just very subtly.
In recent times, more young males are opening up about their body image problems, including eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia. Besides, it is found that men are less likely to open up and seek help for body image struggles and other related disorders.
It’s time we addressed the stigma surrounding body image issues in men, the causes, their impact, and how to help the men in our lives overcome their body image issues.
What Are The Causes Of Negative Male Body Image?
Some common reasons for male body image problems can vary from person to experience. Yet, there are still a few common causes of why men may develop negative body image problems.
One of the most common examples can include the unrealistic body image standards society presents. Another common example can be toxic masculinity, saying that men can’t be vulnerable and that exercising and working out is a natural part of a man’s routine.
While there are few other causes, the fact is that, despite the causes, men can overcome their body image problems and embrace their natural selves.
To do that, let’s begin with understanding the causes of negative body image issues in men:
Young men who are bullied while growing up, especially about their physical appearance, are likely to develop low self-confidence. Bullying and even teasing can cause many young men to develop negative body image issues.
2. The Superhero Effect
You can’t find a single superhero who has love handles, hair loss problems, or acne, can you? Whether we like it or not, all alpha males are represented in the media as flawless and perfect. This portrayal of masculinity has created norms that all alpha males need to look like a “hunk” and that beta males are all nerds. This superhero effect can be one of the most common factors of negative body image in men.
3. The Social Dilemma
Social media is the platform where you can’t find any imperfections. Thanks to photo editing software and filters, it is easy to remove the imperfections and present a picture-perfect image to others. This unrealistic body image we are subjected to almost every second of our lives can only feed the insecurities about body image problems in men.
4. Unrealistic Body Image Standards
Let’s forget about social media for a while and look at the advertisements we watch. Even the ads people present an unrealistic body image of what a man is “supposed” to look like. I mean, I haven’t yet seen a man with curves advertise a clothing brand. Have you? Similar to what women face, unrealistic body representations in advertisements can also cause pressure on men to look a certain way.
Male Body Image Struggles And Mental Health
Mental health issues in men are often not openly talked about and many of us seem to forget that men too struggle with unhealthy coping mechanisms, underlying disorders, and behavioral issues. In a study involving men, it was found that male body image problems are highly linked with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Young adults are more focused on their physical appearance and negative body image in men can cause suicidal ideation and can contribute to mental health disorders. Moreover, teenage boys who experience bullying because of their physical appearance can struggle more with body dissatisfaction even when they move into adulthood.
Negative male body image problems can also be the result of sexual trauma, childhood trauma, or other related experiences.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of social interaction and isolation has also caused an increase in eating disorders in men and male body image problems. In a survey conducted in Britain, it was found that the mental health of men has been affected because of body image issues.
Did you know that body image problems can also cause disordered eating, muscle dysmorphia, exercise addiction, and other eating disorders? Moreover, these struggles can also cause burnout and lower psychological wellness.
Negative body image in men can also affect a man’s social, personal, and professional life, causing unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse and addiction to steroids.
How To Overcome Male Body Image Issues?
Avoiding societal standards about body image issues in men can be almost impossible but there are ways you can overcome male body image issues.
1. Be Open To Vulnerability
The first step you need to take is, to be honest with yourself and your insecurities. I agree that vulnerability can be scary and opening yourself up can lead to potential hurt but when it comes to improving your confidence, you need to open yourself up and be vulnerable. You can do this with your partner, your closest friends, or join a support group.
2. Focus On Yourself
Prioritize yourself – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Take some time to have a good diet, stay active, and just be present at the moment. You can also take this opportunity to invest in new interests, evaluate your current health and see where you can improve, or even join some meditation or fitness classes to help you focus on yourself.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk
Whether you speak to a friend, a partner, or a counselor, talk to someone. Opening up with your insecurities is one of the best ways to overcome body image problems. It can be scary in the beginning as there are a lot of stigmas that prevent men from seeking help but with one step at a time, you can do it. Remember, seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness but strength. Talk to someone about your feelings, it’ll do you good.
4. Embrace The Imperfections
When you embrace yourself – the imperfections and all – you gain the ability to love yourself despite what challenges you. To overcome male body image issues, try to embrace all of yourself. You can try:
- Moving your body the way you like
- Investing in clothing that makes you feel good
- Practicing meditation and self-love
- Reading books on self-love and self-confidence
- Following people who have similar body image and celebrating yourself
Remember, “when you look good, you feel good” Embrace yourself!
5. Challenge The Norms
You know that social media and advertisements portray an unrealistic body image but you don’t need to conform yourself to those norms. Challenge those norms and spread awareness on positive male body image.
You can use your social media page, a personal blog, or can even join community projects in spreading awareness on male body image struggles.
If you find yourself struggling with negative body image and healing from body image-related anxiety, depression, and trauma difficult, you can always seek professional treatment. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness techniques, and other therapy approaches can help boost your self-esteem, reframe your thinking, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.