The Body Issue

Every time I take off my shirt, I feel it. I feel intensely nervous. I feel betrayed by my body, by my self-image, by societal expectation of what masculinity is supposed to look like, by the fact that the prevalent conceptualization of manhood is a sculpted frame which I lack. I feel like I need to hide my body behind Photoshop when I look at it in the mirror. I have always felt uncomfortable in locker rooms changing in front of other male bodies, I have always felt uncomfortable in bedrooms removing my shirt in front of female bodies. I have always felt uncomfortable looking in the mirror at my bare chest, it has never felt like it’s enough when contrasted with pop culture’s depictions of what a real man’s chest is supposed to look like.

I haven’t wanted to write about this because I feel like if I do, then I have to nuance it in terms of the general advantage I carry by being skinny in a generally fat-averse culture, but this culture is not often as kind to those of us who are skinny as some would have you to believe. Even as fat-shaming is a thing, as it pertains to men and the precarious nature of our body images those of us who are skinny are often bombarded with images that can and often do wind up assaulting our psyches and in that regard, I think the ideas of the culture as it regards both fat or larger people also in some sense applies to skinny people. The idea that you need to gain or lose weight to be “normal” or to be considered “sexy” or a “sex object” is indeed an assault on the positive self image of both the skinny and the large person, and it may even be more of an assault for men, as we are virtually expected to never voice any malcontent about body image.

I haven’t wanted to talk about this because it exposes my own insecurity about my body, about my physical attractiveness and it exposes the idea that I have been effectively conditioned by society to hate my own body because it will never be seen as enough, it will never be seen as something that can adequately protect me or others and although I may not be met with the same kind of or intensity of vitriol that a “fat” person would be met with, the fact remains that I still feel inadequate because society has normalized that the muscle bound man is the norm for masculinity and anything outside of that is then deemed abnormal. It’s an ongoing struggle to continually love my body despite what society has programmed me to think about my own body.

I’ll still feel inadequate when I take off my shirt, when I take a shirtless picture, when I’m in an intimate space, but I’ll still do it because I don’t want to show my insecurities. But here I am, showing my insecurities to virtual strangers. This will be an ongoing struggle to see my body as enough, to overcome the societal expectations of the male body, but I suppose the first step is to acknowledge that I have a body image issue. But, I will struggle on with it until either society welcomes us all, or I simply welcome myself.