A few days ago I happened to catch an episode of MTV’s “True Life.” For those of you who’ve never seen it “True Life” is a documentary styled series that focuses on the trials and travails of young adults doing really fucked up things to themselves and the people in their lives. On this particular episode the three subjects were all steroid abusers. Admittedly, the show garnered my undivided attention simply because the first guy (for the life of me I cannot remember his name) was body BEAUTIFUL (Oh…My…God). However, as the show proceeded the final guy’s story, Brian, really struck a chord with me.
Brian was a young gay man with serious body image issues. Brian’s idea of being a self actualized person was having random people worship his body and tell him that he’s “hot.” In addition Brian also confessed to growing up with self-esteem issues and believed that if he could attain the perfect gym body he would be deemed worthy by those he seeks validation from (I’m assuming the patrons of gay bars).
Later on in the show Brian wound up hospitalized because of illegal steroid abuse (thus, in spite of his physical gains the roids messed up his mind and nearly sent him over the edge). Fortunately, he did not die but sadly his low self-esteem compelled him to keep using. I don’t believe there has been an update regarding his situation. Nevertheless it was truly saddening, no matter the result.
Needless to say Brian’s story truly resonated with me. Granted, I’ve never felt the slightest bit compelled to use steroids (It causes severe acne. Are you kidding? All of the product I buy to keep my skin clear would go to waste!); however, growing up I suffered with severe body images issues too (as a teenager I believe I dealt with some body dysmorphia). Moreover, it is not lost on me that the majority of men with body image issues are gay men.
In gay culture unless you look like Tyson Beckford or Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse from True Blood) naked then you should either…
A.) Get into the gym and achieve that “look”
B.) Kill Yourself.
I believe that everyone in the community has felt the pressure at some point or another. I know that I did. Many people complain about having weight issues. Most of the time it is about being to heavy. However, as a teenager, I was on the polar opposite end of the pendulum swing. My natural thinness was the bane of my young existence. People constantly teased me about my body, constantly. People would tell me that I looked like a bobble doll (because I was so thin my head looked too big for my body); a victim or HIV/AIDS; or a Barbie doll (the dumbest one. But it still hurt nevertheless). The teasing so relentless I started layering my clothing just to look like I had more bulk.
I used to fantasize about how my life would be so much better if I had the perfect body. If I had rock hard abdominals; juicy pectorals; 28 inch guns; and a booty like two ripe peaches; then I just knew all of my problems would cease to exist and everyone would love me. It didn’t matter that I had nothing physically wrong with me physically (i.e. just going through a hellishly awkward preadolescent stage). All that mattered to me was that I fit the standards deemed appropriate by everyone (including those who did not fit into it themselves)…
Thankfully, I grew out of that. However, some people never do. Some guys I’ve noticed seem to be on the endless quest to pursue this standard of perfection, even if it means bastardizing their online photographs to high hell with Photoshop (honey, we know that is not a really magazine cover, mmmmmkaaay?). Lastly, there is nothing more sad and tragic than a guy in his 40′s, with a spray on tan and the latest abercrombie Fitch fashion, wildin out in the club (high on crystal meth) like there is no tomorrow. It is almost Shakespearean level tragic!
Myself, I came to the conclusion that I’ll never have that type of body (The Tyson Beckford one). I hate going to the gym (I much prefer dancing, running, and doing a little yoga). I don’t eat a lot (I never go back for seconds). Furthermore, I’m a naturally diminutive individual. I don’t have this propensity for huge muscles (unless I roid it up). So, I figure, why not just accept myself and love what I already have?
I am a very healthy and physically fit person. Therefore, that is all that really matters (in my opinion). I feel extremely fortunate that I can jump out of bed running in the morning. Some people are bed ridden and cannot even move. So what if my abs aren’t rock hard? My stomach is flat, enabling me to fit perfectly into my jeans and T-shirts.
What I’d like to say today is that perhaps we should give ourselves a try. Maybe we would all be happier people if we did not beat ourselves up for what we don’t have and embrace our own natural attributes. Each of us is unique, different, and special in every single way. So why not take the time out to celebrate that and emphasize it?
Granted, I’m not advocating ill health. If you are anorexic or morbidly obese then you should seek medical evaluation and psychological counseling; however, if you are a natural big or small person–and you are HEALTHY–then love that.
Y’know, true my physique may not be the chic cosmopolitan universally accepted IDEAL; however, I think I’m fly nevertheless. I think in learning to embrace everything that I do have the longing for more has decreased. Instead I’m learning to channel my energy towards more constructive things.
It just makes me wonder, in the span of a few months, how much time have I actually saved not obsessing over body image?
Anyway, more power to all of those men who are dedicated–and can achieve–that Tyson body. However, don’t hate on me for loving being skinny. I feel good this way and my body appreciates it. That is what matters most.