Although girls and women stereotypically experience body image issues, it’s becoming increasingly common among guys, especially with issues around being big or ripped enough. Get the facts about body image pressures, how to identify whether they’re an issue for you, how to improve negative body image and what to do if nothing's working.
This can help if:
- you constantly stress about how you look
- you feel pressure to get bigger
- you want some tips to help you improve your body image.
Pressure around size
Image consciousness is easily one of the most common causes of stress in young men, but here are some factors to consider if you’re already stressing.
‘Getting massive’ is a socially driven idea
Start travelling and you’ll notice that the ‘ideal’ body size depends on where you are. In London, skinny guys are all the rage, and the fashion trends reflect that body type. Being ‘big’ isn’t necessarily the gold standard everywhere.
Bulking up at a young age can be dangerous
Taking supplements and building muscle mass, especially while you’re still going through puberty, can have long-term effects on your height, muscles, skin and even genitals. If you think you’re too small now, imagine stunting your growth for the rest of your life because you picked up weights too early.
There’s nothing wrong with you
Those big, ripped, shredded guys? They often face health complications later in life. Athletes, or guys who do manual work, have built their muscles naturally. If you’re a student and still young, your body isn’t being exposed to the daily effort of swimming laps or lifting slabs of concrete. Your time will come.
Is negative body image a problem for you?
Eating well and staying fit are important parts of a healthy lifestyle, but feeling self-conscious about your body can quickly become a problem if it starts to take over your life.
You might be experiencing body image problems if you:
- constantly feel inadequate about your body
- avoid doing certain things because you’re stressed about how you look
- are obsessed with certain physical characteristics (e.g. facial hair, muscles)
- constantly compare yourself with others
- constantly look in the mirror and criticise yourself
- feel self-conscious about having your photo taken
- use negative words to describe yourself, such as 'ugly', 'gross' or 'disgusting'
- obsess about the nutritional value of food
- blame yourself when you forget to exercise or you eat junk food
- use food or exercise for comfort
- take supplements or dangerous substances such as steroids and hormones to get bigger muscles.
How to improve your body image
While you might not be able to improve negative feelings about your body overnight, improving your body image is possible.
Find a healthy balance between worshipping and ignoring your body
Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eat well and stay fit, but don’t let either behaviour dominate your life.
Develop a personal identity that isn’t based on your size and shape
Recognise your strengths such as your sense of humour or athletic abilities, and use them to your advantage.
Appreciate how awesome your body is
Be grateful for what your body can do, as opposed to what it looks like.
Understand the basics of nutrition
Make informed choices about your food intake (including supplements) by reading up on scientific and medical-based information. Consult your GP or another health professional before taking supplements.
If you’re feeling inadequate about your body or about yourself in general, it may be worth talking to someone, such as a family member, friend, teacher or counsellors. Remember that you’re not alone: lots of guys struggle with their body image.