Body Image and Being a Dude: A Personal Struggle

Lots and lots is discussed when it comes to helping females with their body image. We talk for hours on end about how women in today’s culture are objectified and how God loves them just as they are and the right man won’t look for the “perfect form” and so on and so forth.

All good things! All correct! I love being able to “amen” that because it’s such an important thing.

But what about men? On the same grocery store checkout aisles and magazine racks are men’s magazines with guys with ripped physiques. In the latest film is some guy taking off his shirt to reveal a six-pack. Women see it and ogle and “ooh” and “aah.” I remember seeing the second Twilight film in theaters (bad idea) and hearing the girls shriek when Jacob took off his shirt.

First thing: guys aren’t innocent either. We have the same reaction when we see a good-looking girl. I admit that I’m sinful when it comes to this area.

But here’s what I’m driving at right now: dudes like me see that and hear those reactions and we think, “I wish I looked like that.”

For a long time, I have struggled with my body image. This stems back to when I started middle school and spent time in locker rooms changing before and after PE. I would see the guys that the girls liked and saw one reason why they liked them and not me. They were good-looking dudes.

I’ve always been a little on the chubbier side, ever since I was born. When I entered this world, I weighed nine pounds and 12 ounces. According to Google, the average kid weighs 7.5 pounds. When I reached high school, I was definitely one of the bigger guys. I always chalked it up to my height – I’m one of the tallest people in most situations. But I wasn’t exactly the healthiest eater and didn’t do a lot of exercising. So I had a little belly going on. I also went through a nasty stage of acne in middle and high school.

For that reason, I’ve always been self-conscious about my appearance. I’d wear long pants on a warm day just to cover up my legs. I’d wear hats to cover up greasy hair. I’d get self-conscious when people would point out chest hair peaking through the collar of my shirt. I hated going swimming because I hated people seeing my body without a shirt on it.

I remember back in middle school, somebody made a comment about me being sweaty one time and how it was gross. I took that and now I hate being dirty or sweaty or not clean in front of other people. I sweat a little bit easier than most people. So whenever I get dirty, my first priority is to take a shower. I want to be clean around people. It’s gotten to the point to where I just like being clean. I chalk it up to, “Oh, that’s just my personality,” but it’s deeply rooted in the idea that I care too much about my appearance. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be clean – it’s socially acceptable, it’s polite to others, so on and so forth. But it’s become such an identity thing for me.

This is deep-rooted. It’s like a weed. You can mow over it and it disappears, but the root’s still in there, it will just grow back. That’s how my body image issue is.

For the last five months, I’ve generally been eating much better – cutting out gluten and sodas, trying to cut back on corn, rice, potatoes, etc., starches. I’ve lost 30-plus pounds since November of last year. And that’s with little exercise! So I wouldn’t say I’m “in shape,” but I definitely feel better about my body.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m still self-conscious about my body. I seriously take 2-3 showers a day because I want to be clean because I don’t want people to think I’m gross. I see friends of mine who are in shape and I’m jealous. I wonder if girls will not like me because I’m not the best-looking dude.

Oh, I know what the Bible says about how God loves me as I am and I don’t need to change to be accepted by Him. I believe it and I trust it, and it gives me great hope. This isn’t necessarily a spiritual issue for me as much as a self-esteem thing. There are some pictures of me where my weight is clearly obvious and I can’t stand to look at them because I feel so bad about it. And I’m growing in it. But I think this is just something I’ll deal with for the rest of my life, and I’m OK with that.

But perhaps there are guys out there who don’t feel loved because of their bodies, whether they’re super skinny or they’ve got major acne or they’re overweight or whatever it might be. Dude, I’m with you. I love you. I care for you. And Jesus does too, much more than I or some girl ever will.

Transparency here: the inspiration from this post came from a blog I stumbled upon called “The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred” by Paul Maxwell, which caught my eye. I want to close with what closed that blog post (emphasis mine):

Whatever healthy stewardship of the body looks like, it is most healthy when it occurs in the context of the safe and loving acceptance of God, who is the one who gives, has invented, and ordains romance, authority, and friendship. And God is no rewarder of the jacked, the cut, the swol, the sexy, the built. “It is in vain you rise early [in the gym, on the trail, on the mat] and stay up late [on bodybuilding forums, in GNC, in the gym again], toiling for food to eat [and pre-workouts, post-workouts, creatine cycles] — for God gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

You don’t have to stop lifting or dieting or supplementing. And maybe you should start dieting and exercising. This isn’t a rebuke in either direction. It’s an invitation to perspective and intimacy — with ourselves, the opposite sex, the same sex, authorities, and God. Love is better than protein (Proverbs 15:17). In his abundant love, God delights in everything about you, including your body. Let’s remember what we’re really trying to accomplish, and let’s pursue the love of God and neighbor in ways that can never be attained through worshiping or hating our bodies.

This isn’t a post where I’m telling you some insight into following Jesus or being part of the church or whatever. This is me saying, “Brother out there who deals with this, I’m with you. Let’s dwell in the love of Jesus together.”

And maybe drink less soda.


2 thoughts on “Body Image and Being a Dude: A Personal Struggle

  1. Great perspective. Too often we only look at one side of the coin. I will say though as an aside, I think that female body issues are placed at more of a forefront because societal expectations for a woman’s appearance are higher than those for men. And from my observations, a girl is more likely to date a bigger guy than a guy date a bigger girl. That is not to say that I think male body issues are unjustified in the slightest. Just that it seems like in general the overweight guys will find a happy ending more quickly than the girls will.

  2. Ann, that’s a great point that I think guys like me read and have to nod our heads in agreement. I think the pressure on guys to “look good” is less because of that, and that’s mainly the dudes’ fault. And I think your observations are spot-on. You hit the proverbial nail on the head.

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