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  • Writer's pictureDavid Schlagter, LCSW

Men Who Struggle with Body Image Issues

Many kids begin to feel insecure about their bodies and how they look in elementary school. Girls who are pretty and slender will have much more of a chance of being accepted into social groups. It will be more of a challenge to be accepted if the girl is overweight and not as pretty. Boys who are good looking, strong, and athletic will also be more likely to be accepted than those who are not. This reality can have a major impact on how these children view themselves as adults. 

There has been a lot written and talked about regarding the overwhelming pressure women feel in our culture to look a certain way. As a result, more and more women are learning to accept and love themselves for who they are, not for how they look. Unfortunately, there has not been enough attention and awareness brought to men who struggle with body image issues

There has been some excellent literature written and research done by Dr. Harrison G. Pope regarding men who struggle with body image issues and how it affects their lives. His book, “The Adonis Complex” will be extremely helpful to any man who is struggling with this issue. But still, there is a lack of awareness and understanding of just how much a man can be affected from not feeling good about how he looks. 

More and more people are beginning to exercise today. Probably more than ever before. Exercise is a great thing. We can build stronger, leaner, and healthier bodies that include a stronger heart and a better cardiovascular system. It can have a significant positive impact on our mental and emotional health along with our self-esteem (how we feel about ourselves). However, more is not always better.

When Body Image Becomes an Issue for Men…

Some men started exercising because they felt they were too thin, too heavy, or not muscular enough. It’s certainly ok and beneficial to work toward looking and feeling the best that we can. It becomes a problem when our whole identity and self-worth as a person is dependent on how we look. For many men who struggle with body image issues their whole life and purpose is centered around building a better and better body and will pursue that at any cost, including using performance enhancing drugs. 

It is more and more common for young men and teenagers to begin buying over the counter supplements that claim to enhance their ability to get the results they want. They soon realize that other boys their age are making much better gains and they are not coming from the supplements you can buy at the local supplement store. 

Various forms of steroids are extremely common and easily obtainable today. They greatly enhance a man’s physique and are becoming more and more acceptable in today’s society. However, there is a downside to using them. They are known to cause aggression, anxiety, and depression and have been linked to heart disease and other serious illnesses. 

The unresolved issues of not feeling good enough will begin to surface whenever they see or perceive themselves as starting to lose the gains they made from steroids when they try to stop using them. Their identity that is centered so much around how they look will feel diminished in some way. The ego, or false self, needs to have an identity to survive. They become very anxious and dysfunctional when it feels like they are losing that identity. The anxiety can feel overwhelming and will likely push the individual back to using steroids again. In essence, it creates a mental trap that they don’t feel they can get out of. 

Men and Eating Disorders

Although it is not as common as with women, men can also develop eating disorders as a result of not feeling good enough about their bodies. They can become overly focused with how food makes their bodies look. For some men, it can consume their whole life becoming an obsession that they can’t stop thinking about. More extreme cases can lead to anorexia and bulimia which are much more serious issues.  

What is the solution? How can men learn to truly be grateful and at peace with their bodies?

The first step is to identify and look at the negative messages they received from others regarding their bodies. They may have believed those messages then but they don’t have to continue believing them now. They can create their own beliefs about who they are. Realizing that others don’t have the power to define them. Only they themselves can do that.

Next, look at the self-messages they tell themselves about their bodies. Are they accepting and loving toward themselves or are they judgmental and critical of their bodies? Make a choice to only have positive thoughts about yourself. Always lift yourself up, never tearing yourself down with negative thoughts. Realize that you are the creator of your reality and that happens with the thoughts you choose to have. Make a choice to never give anyone the power again to define you as a person.

Also, understand and know that we are more than just our bodies. That knowing of who we truly are will vary depending on how deeply each individual is willing and wanting to explore it. Begin to feel your feelings again. Work through any unresolved feelings you might have from the past that might be blocking you from truly being happy with who you are. 

Many men on this path of recovery have also become aware of their need and desire to begin exploring their own spirituality and what that means for them. Along the way, they begin to realize that they really are more than just their bodies and that there is a whole other aspect/dimension to who they are.

Today is the day where you can begin to feel good about who you are each and every day and for the rest of your life! 

Be the best person you can be in all areas of your life. Build your bodies in a healthy way to their fullest potential if you are inclined to do so. Always remembering that we are much, much more than just our bodies.

If you are ready to reclaim your life from poor body image, low self-esteem, disordered eating or eating disorders, reach out to discuss how we can help. Give us a call at 954-391-5305 for your complimentary consultation. 

For more information about David Schlagter, LCSW and his approach to working with men, women, couples and families, click here.

David provides counseling in our beautiful Coral Springs office and online therapy via our secure telehealth platform.


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