By Tyler Jacobson
Imagine you’re on a quick time-travelling trip to ask your great-grandfather if he could express his feelings about his own ‘body image’. What is the reaction? Perhaps laughter or a blank stare? Only a couple of generations ago, it was enough for boys and men to be healthy and male, with no pressure to have a ‘beach ready body.’ For years, people have been valiantly fighting against the media and industries like fashion, advertising, dieting and beauty, to establish a healthier beauty standard. The focus has been predominantly on women (for good reason!), but I want address the significant effects this idea of a “real man’s body” has on boys and young men.
Boys Are Searching For Stressful Perfection
First off, beauty standards for males and females are alike in their unattainability, but there are a few key differences. While women are held to a broader spectrum of ideals (physique, makeup, skincare, hair, etc.), men face pressure to fixate primarily on the body. Men’s fitness typically focuses on weight-gain over weight-loss, and it can’t end at muscle mass and strength – men must be sculpted or ‘yoked.’ Unfortunately, one of the big differences between genders it is less socially acceptable for boys or men to express anxiety over body issues or receive compassion for an eating disorder.
Lofty Goals Are Taking A Physical Toll
While fitness is a valuable objective, boys are starting to adopt unhealthy obsessions starting at (or even before) middle school. The health hazard here isn’t in weight lifting or cardiovascular stress, but in supplements and steroids. There is a lack of studies on the affects anabolic steroids and over-dosing of supplements have on developing bodies to allow teenagers to make responsible choices. Possible side effects could lead to stunted growth, low testosterone levels, and other unknown health concerns. In spite of these risks, nearly 35% of teenagers acknowledged using protein powders and shakes and almost 6% admitted to steroid use.
Depression Sets In When Goals Aren’t Achieved
Perhaps the most pervasive and troubling of all, trying to balance your self-worth on something as fleeting and unobtainable as physical perfection can lead to mental and emotional breakdown. Teen depression is a serious issue; affecting at least 1 out of 8 teenagers today, depression can cause feelings of worthlessness, persistent sadness or anger, loss of vitality and even thoughts of self-harm and suicide. For boys consumed with changing their bodies, exercise and diet can push aside family, homework, meaningful friendships and more.
Finding Balance and Happiness
Trying to overcome feelings of self-loathing is not an easy task, especially when society’s body standards are always present. However, taking it step by step can bring you genuine confidence and give you a healthy balance in your fitness routine. Confide in your friends and family about insecurities and eating disorders, change the way you see instead of the way you look, and surround yourself with positive influences that support your goals. When you have shrugged off a bit of the burden, find inspiration by helping the others who lack confidence. Together we can make this world a beautiful place – an honest beauty we can create without any influence from the media.
Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin?