Masculinity and Body Dysmorphia

Not too long ago, I reviewed a book by Lewis Howes titled The Mask of Masculinity.  This book was a look into the different masks men wear to hide themselves and give the impression of their idea of masculinity. It is a great read for both men and women, and it is a book I look forward to reading again, as it truly spoke to me.

Growing up, I was relentlessly picked on for being smaller or skinnier than everyone else. Even to this day, people comment on how skinny I am and how “lucky” I am that I can eat whatever I want  and never seem to gain weight. What they do not understand, is that for me, this is not a compliment. I struggle with this, just as someone who struggles to actually lose weight constantly feels every time they look in a mirror or step on  a scale.  After years and years of being picked on, never being able to gain weight, and personally thing sin my life, the last couple years it all came crashing down on me.

I was a high school and collegiate swimmer and was always in great shape. Sure I was skinny, but I was fit. Now I am a father of two and I workout most days of the week, but I do not feel the same. I SEE that when I step on the scale I am near the ideal weight I always wanted. But when I look in the mirror, I have trouble seeing what I am supposed to see. My arms are skinny, my tummy looks like pudge and I just do not like the overall look and form. Because I grew up playing sports and the athletic kids were always the popular ones, I somewhere along the way combined them together and now I struggle with untying my masculinity to strength, physique and athleticism. I often fight the urge to cry when I see myself in the mirror, and just hope that somebody notices how hard I have been working in the gym, or provides a genuine compliment that lifts me up.

I think it is strange for many people to think of body dysmorphia in this way, as for most, it is an issue with trying to lose weight and always seeing themselves as overweight. But the truth is, the ectomorphs (such as myself) struggle with this too. We struggle with how we look. We struggle with our masculinity. We just simply struggle with all aspects of weight gain, loss and muscle.

So the real question is: why am I sharing this. Where is this pointless narrative going and what does it have to do with who I am as a person and bettering myself. Well for one, as one of my daily struggles, I want to share with others that men struggle with this too. And not just overweight people, but skinny people too. Also, I am hoping to inspire others to work their system and find the truth in it all. I know that my masculinity is not tied to this (as hard as that is for me to believe), but more than anything I do not want my kids to feel the same way. My daughter is 6 and my son is 4 and I want them to always have a positive image of themselves and not let others get to them. I want to show them that even if lacking muscles, I am strong in my heart and strong in my head, and hope to lead by example for them too.

Do you or someone you know struggle with body images, or have a story similar to mine? I would love to hear how toy work on this and steps you take to keep a positive mind. Feel free to share below and help to inspire others who are struggling and want to better themselves too.

Have a great day!

Book Review: The Mask of Masculinity

A couple years ago, I started listening to a Podcast titled “The School of Greatness.” I discussed this podcast in one of my previous Book Review posts, as the talent behind that podcast, also wrote a book of the same name. The podcast itself was fantastic as it provided motivation to myself to better myself and find my best me. As I struggled on my journey to find happiness, the podcast and book itself helped guide me and for that, I feel I will always be grateful to Lewis Howes.

Through listening to his podcasts and following his stories on Instagram, I learned a lot about a new book he was working on, that explored men and their problems with masculinity. To be honest, at first I wrote it off. I was picked on a lot as a child and a teen, but felt I ultimately got  over most of it. However, with everything I have been dealing with in the past year, a lot of the problems resurfaced, and through therapy, it was determined that a lot of this landed in the realm of masculinity.

It got to a point I was asking my wife to give me compliments because I felt so low. I am a male, battling body dysmorphia and feeling very un-masculine and I am struggling with it. So with these issues coming to the surface, I decided to read the book. Having now finished the book, I could not be any happier with my decision to do so. The book explores the different types of “masks” we wear as men, by relying on humor, or stoicism. The mask we wears as athletes, husbands, fathers and sons. Each chapter I felt myself finding little things about myself I never realized was an issue. From what you think of when someone asks you to describe a “man,” to how you perceive yourself.

When I was in High School and college I was a competitive swimmer and spent a majority of my time working out and from that was always in shape and had unrealistic ideals of what I should look like. Being around certain people and wanting to be around them has given me the wrong idea of what a “man” is and how those though processes are damaging to not only myself, but my children as well.

As the father of both a son and daughter, I feel it is my duty to better myself to teach them both what a real man is. A real man is not a body builder or a bearded grizzly man that can fix anything that breaks. Not every man can fix a car, or every plumbing issues. Not every man an bench press more than their weight or sleep with every woman he meets. Men come in all shapes and sizes and what is most important is that a real man is a father to his children and a husband to his wife (or husband). A real man treats other people with respect and leads by example. I want my kids to know how a man should act. If my children end up with a man as adults, then I hope that man treats them right, the way I show them by treating my wife. If they have kids, I hope they know how a man should treat his children.

Now a lot of this sounds obvious, but I would not be surprised at how many men know this but still struggle with the various masks that “masculinity” makes us wear. Every man is battling something to overcome. For me, this book was a beacon that helped show me the way to practice what I believed and to be a real “man.”

If anyone is interested in reading this book, I would strongly recommend checking it out on Amazon, or in your nearest book store. This book is also NOT just for men, as women can benefit fromt his as well, especially those that support or want to support their man and help him through all of this as well. Lewis does a great job at the end of every chapter highlighting ways to overcome the various masks and how the women in our lives can assist us as well.

Have you read this book or perhaps “School of Greatness?” If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Or perhaps there is another book similar to this you recommend? I would love to hear about it! Also, please be sure to check out Lewis on Social Media (he is very active on Instagram.)

Please subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.