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!

Work, Fundraiser Chocolate and a Social Experiment

The title of this article may be a little confusing, and in reality, it is, as those things do not usually go together. However, last week, I made it happen.

My wife is of Portuguese decent and her and my kids belong to a local Portuguese organization that every year holds a substantial conference. As a part of this, they usually have various fundraisers throughout the year to raise money and support what they do.  This year was no different, and one of the fundraisers was selling chocolate (‘World’s Finest Chocolate’ to be exact.). I am sure everyone is familiar with this big box of assorted chocolate that contains 60 bars that you are to sell for $1 each. And though we support this cause, we dislike selling chocolate or doing fundraisers, for things that are not well known or affect a lot of people (such as a fundraiser to fight Cancer or another disease). Because of this, we planned to just buy the whole box for $60 and give the chocolate away.

This is where I came up with a great idea. I work for a fairly large company that has kitchens on every floor stocked with free food and drinks. And although we have these stocked kitchens, anytime someone comes in with additional goodies, they disappear in seconds. So I decided to leave the box out, with 1 dollar on top, to see if people will pay for a bar, steal a bar or just ignore the box. On the 2nd day, I would put the box out again without the seeded dollar and on the last day, I would put out a sign asking people to take it all.

I have high hopes for humanity, however, I will be honest when I say I expected all of the chocolate to be gone the first day and less than 50% of the money. I was very wrong. After the first day, in which I seeded the box with $1, there were a total of 13 bars missing and I had $10. So only a few people decided to take a bar without leaving a dollar. I should note that there was no sign informing people to leave a dollar. Just that this is widely known fundraiser chocolate and there was money left on top.

The second day, I made the mistake of leaving the chocolate int he SAME kitchen. People saw the box, with no money on it, however, if they remembered it from the day before, then they may feel inclined to leave money again. And that is just what happened… sort of. At the end of the day, only 4 bars were removed from the box, yet another $2 was left. Had I left the box in another kitchen, then we could have potentially seen a different outcome.

At the end of the 2nd day, I put a note out on the box informing people the chocolate had all been paid for and it was now “Free” and asked them to help themselves. When I showed up on the 3rd morning, the box had 1 bar left. People had swarmed the now obviously free chocolate and taken what they could (which proved my initial point, that people wanted free items.

Obviously, this experiment was not perfect. I did not have a control group. I was not watching over the box, so I have no idea if someone perhaps left 1 dollar and then took multiple bars. I also did not have a way to know what people were thinking in regards to what was left. If I were to do this again, I would try a few things, such as using multiple kitchens with different signs ($1, Free, or no sign at all), as well as different options of watching what went on, as well as a different location (perhaps at my desk) or perhaps a note or some information on what the money was for.

This was by no means a perfect experiment, however, for me it was fun and interesting. I enjoy trying to understand people and their thought process. Do you enjoy little experiments such as this? Share your experiments below, or perhaps what you would have changed in mine!

Have you subscribed to my blog yet? Perhaps you have yet to follow me on Instagram? I hoping 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. … Also, please be sure to comment on this or any of my other posts with your thoughts or even what you want me to blog about next!

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.

New Year, New Me and New Goals

Here we are on January 19th, and I am just getting around to my first post of the year. I am sure by now all the real bloggers have shared their New Year posts, listing out all of their goals and resolutions for the year. And just as I predicted in one of my very first blog posts, I have already fallen off the wagon a bit and have been slow to post. The truth is, things are going much better in my life and I have not felt the need to “release” as much. I have noticed that the happier I am, the less time I spend on my computer or phone, the less time I spend on Social Media and in turn, the less time I seem to have to write here. Not that unhappiness causes me to do any of those things, I just seem to… seem to… I dunno, just seem to be more content in the moment.

However, just because things are going well in my life, doesn’t mean I can just sit back and relax and let it ride. No, I still have SO MUCH WORK to do (on myself). And I am not one that likes to set New Years Resolutions, so I do not. What I DO like to do is examine my life and take a look at what has been working for me and what is not and then focus on improving myself in those areas.

I know that at the beginning of 2017, my marriage was on the rocks and by the end of the year things were going really well. I want to continue working with my fe to improve our communication and our relationship.

I do enjoy writing these blog posts sometimes, so I hope to write more. I am not going to set a limit of “X posts” per week, but instead hope to share my life and journey with you. I am reading a new book now I will share with you shortly, as well as another “letter to myself.” I hope to also provide updates of what I am learning in therapy and how my therapist is helping me be a better person.

With that, I plan to continue going to therapy and learning more about myself and doing what I can to improve myself as a person, a husband and a father.

Lastly, I want to continue my journey to a new career. I took a few prerequisite classes this last year to prepare for school, but I have decided to push starting school back one more year. I am not afraid and it is not that I am uncertain. On the contrary, as every day goes by I want that career more and more (I am leaning heavily towards a Sports Psychologist or Family Therapist), but timing is a fickle bitch. Over the holidays and this last week we discovered mold in our house (that our insurance will not cover) and I got into a car accident (I am fine) which will raise my insurance premiums. My wife and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica (our 10 year anniversary is this year and after our last year, we simply deserve it) and there is a lot of stuff we want/need to do to our house. SO by putting school off, we can make sure that not only are we more in a financially stable place, but it gives us a bit more time to work on our marriage and really strengthen it to where it belongs.

I am looking forward to 2018 and sharing my journey and hopefully inspiring you along the way. Please share some of your goals for 2018 and life moving forward, as I would love to hear them!

Please subscribe to my blog and 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.

Letter to Myself: 14 Years Old

Not too long ago, I wrote an article here that contained a letter to a younger version of myself. The writing of it was quite therapeutic and in that moment I decided I was going to do this a couple times, targeting various ages and turning points in my life. The first post in this series was when I was 8 years old. I had just moved to California, leaving a lot of my family and close friends behind. In the year I moved to California I went to 2 different schools and lived in 2 houses, forcing myself to make new friends all around, a few of which I am still friend with today.

Deciding on the next age range to write about was not easy, as the next 5 years of my life were difficult, as they are for anyone. I made it through Elementary school with headgear and neck-gear, braces and retainers. I then got into Middle School, had my Bar Mitzvah and overall just had a hard time fitting in. Because of this, I decided to write to my 14 year old self. One year removed from my Bar Mitzvah and the end of my Middle School life in 8th grade and the start of High School and a new direction that would change my life.

Hello 14 year old me,

Life has been interesting these last few years, hasn’t it? As I write to you from your future, I know how difficult things were for you. To say you went through an awkward phase would be selling it short. But, who isn’t going through an awkward phase right now? You started off with a big growth spurt, taller than all of your friends, but then it seemed everyone else went through puberty before you… but don’t worry, you will get there.

Now that you are 14, life is really going to change for you. 8th grade will be fun. You will rule the school and be on top. You will also be on the basketball team, and although you will not play much, the coach will reward you for your heart and effort. Never lose that (seriously). If I could give you any advice, I would really say to pay attention to your school work, especially on the foreign languages. I know its not easy, but you will truly appreciate being able to speak another language later in life.

Aside from working hard in school, keep a good head on your shoulder. Sure this year you will be the king of the school in 8th grade, but next year it is off to high school where you will be the bottom of the barrel. High School will be an interesting time for you as you will hang out with the wrong crowd. Not that you get into trouble, but you actually think you are cooler than you actually are, and the people you try to hang out with, will often wonder why you are with them. You will give up all sports this year and focus primarily on swimming, which will be a huge decision. But these other swimmers are your friends and where you should be spending your time. They are all great students and they are your true friends. High School will be much better and enjoyable if you know your friends and your place from the start.

Continue to work hard, both in school and in the pool. You do not know it yet, but you are starting to set a lot in motion for your life. Your work ethic and attention to detail starts now, otherwise you will be working double time for the rest of your life. College will be easier if you learn more in High School. Have a little fun, too while you are at it. But school needs to come first, and then swimming. Know who your friends are and try to enjoy yourself. Understand what you want out of life, not what others want from you. This will go a long way to making you happier.

Talk you you again in a few years,
34 year old me (you)

Understanding who you are is a part of growing up, and if we had all only listened to our parents at that age and believed them, life would be so much easier. Obviously, I probably wouldnt have changed much, considering I am where I am in life thanks to all of this. However, if I knew then what I know now, and could still end up with my current situations, I think that would be the perfect situation, don’t you?

What would you say to yourself if you could go back to that age and have a conversation, or write a letter. As I started off this post saying, thinking about this is quite therapeutic and it allows me to explore feelings I had then and look back on how that all helped to shape me. I encourage you to do the same!

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Keeping Busy and Growing a Mustache

I know, I know, it has been a long time (again) since I last posted. I really am not good at this… haha… but hey, I warned you!

If you have actually been wondering where I have been, the truth is, life has just been busy. Work has been fairly busy as usual and the kids have also kept me busy. School has been a lot of fun but it has also been quite busy. I am holding around 100% in BOTH of my classes and actually have a final in my Personality Psych class this week. Because of the finals and classes, lots of studying is being done as well.

Outside of work, school and my kids, I truly do not have a legitimate excuse for not updating this, other than a touch of writers block, a touch of laziness and a whole lot of mustache growing. Yes, you read that correct, I am working on my MOVEMBER Mustache.

My family is not blessed with facial hair growing genes, so unfortunately, my mustache is sort of ‘pervy’ looking, but it draws attention and I guess that is the whole point of Movember. if you are not familiar with Movember, for the month of November, Men grow their mustaches to help raise awareness for Men’s Health issues such as Prostate and Testicular cancer. I myself lost an uncle to Prostate cancer a few years back and continue to fight on his behalf.

I normally do not like to go around and ask for money, however this cause is VERY dear to my heart and I would not be growing this ridiculous looking mustache if I truly did not believe.

I am not asking for much, I would honestly be happy if all you were able to donate was $5. Every little bit helps and I want to stand up and fight for all the men in our lives.

Please feel free to share your stories below or share my link with anyone you know.

Yesterday’s Therapy and Knowing My Path

At this point, it is no secret that I see a therapist. I have shared this before and I am not ashamed. I started seeing her at the end of last year to help me with some personal characteristics, my anxiety and anger as well as help me through some difficult times. Although things are going much better in my life I still try to see her weekly, to help with my anxiety and help keep me focused on how to get more out of my life. Yesterday was an exceptional day.

Lately things have been going really well in my life, but occasionally things come up that are hard to not focus on and anxiety can skyrocket. There was something I had had on my mind lately I was not too sure how to approach it. in my mind, it was a big deal and a huge hurdle. I was not too sure how to get past it and I needed help. My therapist didn’t even bat an eye. She helped me see this from a different point of view and took all of the “urgency” out of the problem. In reality, it was not a problem at all, and just something I had built up in my head. It is so refreshing to be able to speak to someone who helps me through this and teaches me how to view things in life differently. it truly is a game changer.

After my therapist and myself had talked about my life, marriage, work, and kids, the session was pretty much over. However, we went a little long, as we got caught up in conversation. She asked me about school and how it was going and I shared how exciting I was finding it. I have been doing really well in both of my classes and have been finding the content interesting. The hard part of doing my classes online, is that I do not get to engage in conversation as often with people about the content, but with her I could! We talked a few of the topics I had enjoyed and I was just finding it so interesting, especially when she shared info about her experiences working with people in such situations.  Through this conversation, I felt more at ease with my decision to go back to school and go after this different career. I not only enjoyed my conversation, I loved it. I loved the topic and hearing her discuss how she has worked with people. I wish I had done this earlier in life… but its never too late to go after what you want!

What value do you get out of therapy? I would love to hear some stories from others and what value you see, so if you would like, please share below!

Please subscribe to my blog and 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.

Letter to Myself: 8 Years Old

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post asking if your 10 year old self would be happy. I got a lot of great feedback from that post and ever since I have written it, it has had me thinking about. Thinking about my life, where I was as a 10 year old and how my views on life has changed. Because of that post, I have been inspired to start a new series of articles based on letters to younger versions of myself. My goal is to choose 3-4 ages when I went through something crucial and it was a big life moment. I want to provide words of advice to myself; ideas that would improve my life if I was able to do it all again. I should preface this with I love my life (for the most part) and things are going well. But if I could have everything I have now, which a few minor tweaks to improve upon, what would those be?

Hey 8 year old me,

How is it going? You hanging in there alright? Life has been pretty rough this last year hasn’t it? Last year you moved from Tuscon, where all of your cousins lived (including your best friend/cousin) and everything you have ever known, for a small suburb outside of San Francisco. Your family rented a house last year and you finished off your 1st grade year at a new school. You are now in 2nd grade and yet again, at a new school. You have also recently gone to the orthodontist for your major overbite and now walk around with headgear…. its been rough.

I know it is cliche, but guess what: things are gonna get better. Your best friend across the street will one day be in your wedding. The house you live in now, your parents will not sell for another 20 years! You will not only grow up in this town, but you are going to thrive… for the most part.

Kid, its not a secret that you are a bit odd and awkward, but you know what, that is ok. It is a part of who you are and nobody should ever change that about you. I hope you understand that the way you are is not a problem. You have great character and you are a funny kid. Don’t worry about anyone else and what they say or think. be you. Do you. Know who your friends are, and do not worry about being the “cool” kid or the “popular” kid. Those guys do not really want to be your friend, and that is ok. This will be an ongoing lesson for you in life, but trust me: be yourself.

Anyway, continue to learn, and have fun in life: it goes way too fast. I will talk to you again in about 5 years.

Best, 33 year old you.

 

I know it is a little cheesy and other people have done this as well, but I have to admit, it is a bit liberating to write a letter to a younger version of myself. To be honest, I cannot wait to write another one!

In the comments below, feel free to share something you would tell an 8 year old version of yourself. Or write your own blog post and be sure to link to it below, and I will be sure to check it out!!

Please subscribe to my blog and 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.

Finding Time to Enjoy Life

Two weeks ago (in my last post), I explained my absence from blogging, citing life had been busy and I also had no idea what to write about. Well not much has changed since then. Life is still extremely busy, and finding things to write about is hard for me… so I figured I may as well just update all of you with what it is I have been doing with my time.

My time has been very limited lately, as I work full time for a software/tech company, I am a dad to two amazing children, I am a devoted husband and I am now also a part time student. This does not leave a lot of room for anything else. Although while I do not have much extra time on my hands, I have been very focused on enjoying that time. Far too often in my life I have spent my extra time doing any number of things, but often I would spend it doing yard work or just laying around, napping and watching TV/ And while napping and watching TV are VERY needed at times, I am trying to spend more time doing things that make me happy. I now pay someone to do most of my yard work, which frees up a lot of time (although I still enjoy doing some of it). I also try to get my gym works outs in before work while everyone in my house is still asleep. Why waste time when everyone else is awake when I could be spending time with them?

Time management has become extremely crucial to me these days. Whether it is going to the gym early in the morning or studying for a test after everyone has gone to sleep, everything I am doing these days is all about maximizing my time, building relationships and enjoying my time with those I love. My wife and I had gone through a bit of a rough patch recently, and we have been working very hard lately to mend fences and improve our relationship. I have also been working on my relationship with my kids. It was a strong relationship before, but I am trying to be as cognizant as possible about what I say and do around them, as I know everything can affect their lives in one way or another. But above all else, I am just trying to enjoy all of my spare time as much as I can. Games with my kids, a good TV show now and then, and a good date night with my wife every couple of weeks at a minimum (last week we went and saw “IT” in the theaters. I am not normally into those types of movies, but it was a fun movie, and definitely super creepy).

Life is flying by and its a waste to spend it doing things that do not make you happy. My wife makes me happy. My kids make me happy. Doing things I enjoy make me happy… so I have spent my time with them, doing the things that make us happy.

What makes you happy? What sorts of things do you enjoy doing? Share your thoughts or comments below!

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Busy Life and Writer’s Block

Some of you may be wondering where I have been lately. Others perhaps think I have finally caught up with myself and the blog train is ending. Well, I have enjoyed blogging up till now and I want to continue, but to be honest: it’s hard. Between work, school, parenting and being a (probably the world’s best) husband, I find myself with less and less time. On top of that… I have no idea what to write about.

I am currently finishing up another book that I hope to write about. I could write about school, but I am not too sure that anyone would care all that much or find it helpful for themselves…. But I am sure something will come to me.

The last couple of weekends were the first time in a LONG time, I was able to go and do some stuff for our house. We went to IKEA and bought my son a new bed… as well as about $400 worth of other stuff too. We also organized the house a bit, helps some family move, and enjoyed a little (very little) relaxation time as well (oh and I took a Personality Psych Mid Term… it went fairly well, I knew my stuff I thought, but ran out of time on the last question as I spent a little too much time on the multiple choice… but you live and learn).

Well for now, I think that may be all I have… I know, I know, a little boring, not very helpful and possibly pointless, haha. But please share with me some topics you feel would be great to blog about. What do you want to hear from me??

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