Guys struggle with healthy body positivity, too

Discover your own definition of 'perfect'

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We live in a self-analytical community where teenagers aim for perfection. I’m sure you, just as I, have heard the same statements from people around you about being devastated with any grade lower than an A. But, behind all of this academic pressure, there are students who face deeper struggles. They have trouble finding their true identities, and they see their bodies as imperfection.

Feminism and its movements are an integral stepping stone in our country’s socio-political advancements. That may seem like a mouthful, but with outstanding feminist ideas and actions merging with previous ideals in our society, a multitude of lessons in female body positivity have come forth. Therefore, ideas of increased respect for women’s bodies, regardless of their figure, have become a predominant part of our culture. Simply put, our world is changing, and in my opinion, it’s for the better. And while these ideas for women’s rights have boldly been introduced, it seems as though male body positivity hasn’t been given the proper attention it deserves.

According to a recent study done by Bradley University, 90 percent of the young male population struggles with anxiety and negative thoughts about their bodies. As stated in a study referenced in The Guardian,15.2 percent of men would give up two to five years of living their lives to have a perfect body. I don’t know about you, but this statistic makes my stomach turn. This study shows how mentally unhealthy a copious amount of young men are regarding body image and self-confidence.

Every person reading this article has their own view of what the ideal body is, but these definitions seem to be getting stricter as the days fly by. How can we know that what is perfect to us is perfect to others? And, does it even matter what others view as perfection?

It seems as though a majority of the pressure to obtain a ‘perfect body’ is based in the same regards for both males and females. Both sexes receive internal and external pressures from comparisons to peers around school or in the community, instances of body shaming, and toxically stereotypical models in the media. Yes, I’m talking about YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. You know, the holy trinity of fabricated ideals.

Stereotypically, and for an unknown reason to me, many men have been taught to disregard their emotional availability and vulnerability, unlike women. Therefore, male body positivity seems like unknown jargon  to them. It’s frustrating to know that much of the world’s population is taught values that can discredit parts of who they are. I mean, does that honestly sound fair? If a man wants to act in a way that some might consider feminine, he should be able to, without facing any one-sided stigmas. Just like if a woman wants to break gender-stereotyping and act in a way that some consider more masculine.

If I had to label the core of this issue, I would call it a toxic sense of masculinity. Men should be given the same emotional support and openness to shifting stereotypes and social pressures that women are given. Regardless, the fact is that not all people have washboard abs, a 90 degree jawline, or bulging biceps. Every person has the right to be comfortable in their own skin.

We can help redefine the notions of what the ‘perfect’ body is, and promote healthier and more realistic views of men. We need to support men in our community who are afraid or haven’t had the opportunity to speak up about their insecurities and provide them with proper support.

It is crucial to the safety and comfort of our fellow male friends, teammates, classmates, and acquaintances to make it clear that men’s mental health regarding body image is meaningful. Men’s bodies are just as important as women’s bodies, and no matter a man’s height, muscle mass, or body fat percentage, they are human, they are unique, and therefore they are ‘perfect.’