Body positivity and self-love, these two phrases when typed into Google will return images with happy women of all shapes and sizes, articles about influential campaigns aimed at allowing young women to feel more comfortable in their own skin and profiles of social media influencers who are all committed to the task of helping legions of young women feel good about themselves. However, you may need to squint and scroll down through a few pages before you find much dedicated to ideas of male self-love and positivity. The ideas are there, but not really stressed upon very much, but now, during a time when male mental health is at dangerous lows, we should be pushing ideas of self-love before men, because now we need it more than ever.
When asked by my sister to write a blog post about male self-love, apart from wondering whether I was actually going to do it, my mind flashed back to the 13/14 year old version of myself. That boy was quite different from the one writing this post, small, rather scrawny and quiet, and though he hadn’t cared much for body image and self-love before, in recent times he’d become more conscious about how he looked. So come June 2014, he’d drafted up a home workout plan to follow, investigated what diets to use in order to bulk up and after a few steps (which hadn’t been fully figured out yet) he would be really attractive, popular and have no problems at all fitting in. The problems with this scenario are numerous, but the crux of all of them was that I wasn’t changing for me – but for an idea of some outside societal expectation that I had believed was normal from what I’d seen online. Needless to say I didn’t stick to my new health regime, and remained essentially the same person I was before, albeit with newfound self-loathing at my inability to “improve”. Although I attempted to revive the “bulking up” programs several times in subsequent years, none of them ever stuck – and I can attribute that to the fact my motivation was coming from the wrong place. As much as I heard about body positivity from my rather concerned older sisters, it always appeared to me as a strictly feminine issue, in my mind I deluded myself into thinking I wasn’t exercising because I didn’t like my appearance, but because it was it was just generally a healthy thing to do.
Now we look at where we are now – the person I am today is rather far removed from the person I was just a few years ago. Today I do the same as I did back then; follow an exercise routine, investigate dietary ideas etc. However now, by motivation is purely in the realm of self improvement. No longer am I concerned that I need to look a certain way in order to appease “societies” expectations, which I now know to be purely superficial, and only leads to a void, instead of actual happiness. Of course there are other factors of appearance that don’t just concern me but the wider male population – concerns of height, facial structure and facial hair are a few that often appear to those I engage with. I’d say I’ve eventually come to a point of being happy with who I am, I don’t strive to shape myself to the likeness of Michelangelo’s David, but I’d argue it’s because I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with company who have reassured me and shown me that I don’t need to be majorly concerned with appearance in general.
There’s been much writing upon the issue of male mental health, and the issue of male suicide is one that needs to be paid more attention to across the board. Self-love isn’t something that is often associated with masculinity, but in a time of crisis when men are taking their lives at an increasingly high rate, it’s more important than ever. Amongst guys, it’s rare to see any encouragement of each other, but simple jokes on appearance, if built up can have long lasting and terrible implications. For those with guy friends, I’d encourage this: don’t be afraid to complement them or generally share positive words. They may not let on, but they will appreciate it more than you may think. To my fellow men, let’s start to break down barriers preventing us discussing our insecurities. In fact, talking openly with friends about things that you feel insecure about can be incredibly cathartic. Ultimately, we must remember we aren’t alone in feelings of insecurity or doubts of self-love, because this isn’t a gendered issue – but a societal one.
Author’s Note: Oh yeah, something related to Valentine’s Day – it’s been over commercialised to the point it has lost any sense of connection to what it originally was so it’s dumb, bye.
Photos : Simi Davies Words: Joel Sodzi