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Summer is a rough time for my body-image

Discussion in 'General Support and Advice' started by lottaotter, Jun 15, 2021.

  1. lottaotter

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    Early this year I had got to a place where I was feeling better about my body than ever before, but as soon as summer started so much of that has eroded, almost overnight.

    I love summer because of the hot weather and having more opportunities to go outside, but for the last year I have been living in an area with a lot of students (I'm a student too, but started age 25 so I'm around 7 years older than most) and it's so difficult not to be disheartened seeing everyone.

    Whenever I go out lately I just see heterosexual couples and their PDA and I'm starting to get really annoyed by it. I feel very jeaous and bitter. I've stopped running since I moved here since it seems everyone else who is jogging around here is not just doing it to keep fit (unlike in my hometown, where you see all 'types' of people exercising). Instead, they're wearing high-end kit and and are so much fitter than I am. It's so depressing. I should not that I'm not overweight- I'm actually struggling to gain weight (not underweight either, actually I'm perfectly healthy but hey society doesn't care about health, it cares about looks).

    Everyone here is tall, muscular, tanned, dark-haired and has nice, expensive clothes. I look like a disgusting mess in comparison. I don't feel comfy going out to a pub wth my housemates much here anymore since I feel so self-conscious. 'Lad culture' is soooo strong here at university and I don't fit into that at all. Actually it brings back a lot of memories of being bullied at school by those kinds of people. I've always felt like I'm not enough of a man and those feelings are multiplied by a thousand here.

    I'd love to list the things about my body and appearance that don't fit with my country's ide of ideal male beauty (OK, so my appearance is basically the opposite of that ideal actually) to vent but I won't.

    Anyone else having this issue?
     
  2. Ram90

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    I'm not religious, but I would say Amen to everything you typed in a heartbeat. I'm living in Canada right now, where I see fit guys jogging in their boxers on the street (Where do they hang their iPods!?!!) and I'm walking around in baggy tracks/pyjamas and T-Shirts ha ha. I've definitely gotten better at my self-confidence and body image issues, but I wish I could be confident enough to walk among the masses (On the beach) and wear good fitting clothes ha ha. But I can't.

    Having said that, I'm still happy at the progress I've made. Please don't call yourself disgusting. :hugging:. Everyone is perfect in their own way. I know that is stereotypically cliché, but it's true. Do you have supportive friends, who don't talk about the way you look or judge you? I wouldn't worry too much about not fitting in and stuff. I think the one silver-lining I've seen since 2020, is that pyjamas/track suits and T-Shirts have become more commonplace. I don't wear Jeans that often anymore ha ha, unless it's really cold. :slight_smile:.

    I'd tell ideal male beauty to take a hike. I know it's difficult when you see people displaying their "assets" in public and on social media, dating apps, et al. But they're just a small % of the actual people out there. Don't dwell on it too much. :slight_smile:. I just plug in my earphones and ignore people around me, I even jog with some friends sometimes. :slight_smile:.
     
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  3. pozistani

    pozistani Guest

    Well, I've never had a body that fits any ideal in the gay world, but it's the body I have, so ... I have to feel very comfortable with people to want to expose more of myself. That doesn't happen very often. Even in the heat of summer I wear long sleeves and slacks outside the house, but I also have to be careful of the sun - I prefer clothing to sunscreen!

    I also don't feel like I 'fit' where I live but that's largely because this is a family community and my family is my dog. There's lots of tech employment here: I bet some of my neighbors spend more on a dinner than I earn in a month - and that's not being facetious. But I can still hold a conversation with them when given a chance.

    It seems like there may be more than just a body image issue since you mention not fitting in to "lad culture" or having the "right" kit for jogging. So the choice is either to change something or accept who you are and try to be the best you possible. What's really keeping you from being happy with you?
     
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  4. clockworkfox

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    I have to second this...it seems like there might be a little more going on than just body image issues.

    You mentioned feeling bitter and jealous, and annoyed by the people around you who you suggested are typically younger, more conventionally attractive, largely heterosexual, and with more discretionary income that allows them to be well dressed. Are you suppressing any other insecurities, beyond the body image issues that you mentioned, that so much here is setting you off? It might be a good idea to try and process some of that jealousy and bitterness...why are you bothered by the guy over there, really? Chances are he's not out there to deliberately spark jealousy. Do you really want what he's got, or is it more a matter of feeling disconnected? In my own experience, not "fitting in" can create a lot of jealousy - not for the things themselves (the looks, the clothes, the confidence) but for the apparent connection to others.

    Let yourself process what you're feeling. Then, do something nice for yourself instead of beating yourself up. Buy a well-fitting pair of pants. Get a really good haircut. Drink the overpriced artesian water. Make a balanced meal. Get a tattoo. Get a massage. Wash your face. Go to the gym. Let yourself do something kind for yourself that counters those feelings of jealousy and bitterness, something that gives you a sense of self love, no matter how small. If you've become an expert at self-deprecation, this will feel weird, but it gets easier. And it's so much better than flinging your metaphorical arrows at everyone who has the right stuff.

    When it comes to the body image stuff, just remember there's so much more to beauty than the ideals. Sure it's hard when you know you're not The Ideal Masc, but what does it help to get too hard on yourself about that? Maybe a little healthy jealousy can motivate us to make changes, but it's important to keep grounded in reality too...personally, it's very difficult knowing that I'll never be any taller, because there's literally not a thing I can do to change it. Maybe for you it's a matter of the limits your body has on it's ability to build muscle, or to grow a full beard, or whatever - there's dozens of things we get hung up on when we scrutinize ourselves!! At some point though, we need to accept our limitations, and be happy anyway. If I beat myself up every time I needed to use a chair to reach the top shelf, I'd be a ball of human misery.

    Anyway, the ideals change based on time and place and individual. What matters is being the healthiest and most grounded version of yourself you can be - level-headed confidence is remarkably attractive, and so rare to find.
     
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  5. lottaotter

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    Thank you. I have been to Canada once and I know what you mean haha!
    Thank you. I have been to Canada once and I know what you mean haha!

    Luckily none of my friends judge me on the way I look at all. Sometimes I wish they would be more vocal about if something I'm wearing doesn't suit me, but they really don't care about that kind of thing (neither do I on other people, just myself).

    The stupid thing is that I don't find almost any 'conventionally attractive' features that attractive, personally, so I'm a hypocrite too :/

    Haha I suppose so, although round here it's the tightest designer branded trackies only. Personally I'd wear shorts every day if I felt it was acceptable :/

    The best way I can describe the way I feel about my body is this: if I'm alone in the house with my body and a mirror I love the way I look. I feel proud of myself and I feel sexy (I don't know why I cringed writing that last word?), but as soon as I step out onto the street I make myself believe that I shouldn't feel that way- that I should be ashamed instead. Like I'm an impostor. I think the reason I do this is a kind of self-defence: I'm pre-empting nasty comments about the way I look (from past experience) and so if get there first and make it clear that I think I look horrible, then the 'sting' is taken out of their comment- they can't get as much pleasure from degrading me if I got there first.
     
  6. lottaotter

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    Hmm well I've been trying to change things about myself non-stop since the age of 12 to be honest! Some successfully, some not. I even went for a plastic surgery consultation at one point. The thing is (and this sums up perfectly what I feel about my body) that if I was alone in a locked room I would love my body, but as soon as there are other people there I start to feel ashamed. I'm ot sure why that is or how to overcome it.

    I could just choose to like my appearance, but that opens me up to more of the shaming and hate that I experienced in the past. I think I must be very weak to not be able to do this.

    I just want to be respected as a human being.

    If I had the confidence my preference is for short-shorts and t-shirts haha, I don't really like covering up personally.
     
  7. lottaotter

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    Thanks for your reply. I'm not sure if this is the right answer to you question but there is definitely something more behind it. I agree that these people are not going out deliberately to make anyone feel bad. I definitely don't want the exact things they have (I actually don't find conventionalyl attractive to be attractive): what it is that I want the most - more than anything - is to be respected as a human being. To be accepted for who I am. To be loved and cared about as well. I feel really tearful writing that.

    I dunno if you know exactly what 'lad culture' means as it's a very UK-specific term that I couldn't really think of a good alternative for, but basically if you're a stereotypical lad you can get away with a lot. You can say and do what you like, and what's more, people will love you for it. You can show up and do what you please and still get acceptance. To a much lesser extent it's similar for women who fit the 'white girl' mould (a term with its own problems, but for now I think it describes best what I mean). It's about priviledges. Freedom to show up as yourself and not be mocked. I'd love that.

    I even feel angry writing this. Please don't think I'm intentionally 'flinging my metaphorical arrows at everyone who has the right stuff'. I'm tired, I'm fed up and I just want some support and sympathy. I want some acceptance.

    It's that feeling that I can never keep up with the status-quo, but that I'm also never alternative or edgy enough to fit into the other crowd either. I have been fairly obsessive over personal hygiene since I was a child so I am on top of it that way but with clothes I just can't keep up. I buy something nice that's in fashion and a week later it's not, or I spill something over it and ruin it like the idiot I am. I have preferences for clothes but my tastes change a lot.

    One thing I like to do is sunbathe in the garden. I feel good when I do that, but also very guilty. I don't want to be seen as the ugly old creep in this area where it's mostly younger people. I don't know why I think that or why I wrote it but I'm just trying to get my thoughts straight. Sunbathing in shorts and shirtless feels very good on a health - even wellness - level to me. There's something about being shirtless in public - like at a beach - that honestly makes me feel good about myself. Maybe that is because on a deeper level I do love my body, or at least want to. It just feels 'right'. I'm just thinking out loud here.

    I remember some instances where I've felt really good about my body. I feel like a perv for writing these positive things about my body and forcing strangers online to read them but here goes anyway, maybe it will help me:
    1. When, after years of thinking I didn't fit into the cub/bear/twink etc. weirdly specific boxes that gay men have created for our own bodies, I found out about the term 'otter' and thought "Oh sh*t, that's me! That's my body, right there! And people actually like that!? Wow!". This might seem very silly to write, or maybe it's TMI, but it felt important. It still feels very good to think back to that. I know those terms are a bit stupid but it really buoys me up a lot
    2. After being bullied for having facial hair in early high school, I was able to grow a full beard at the age of 18 just as my country was having its beard obsession phase. Oh, the redemption! I finally understood what 'smug' meant
    3. I went on a date the other day, and as I'm walking up the steps out of the pub ahead of the guy I'm with he says to me "Wow, you really fill those jeans". It's kind of become a running joke in my friend group since I had to tell them about it. It was extremely validating. I don't know if that makes me a bad person.
    There, I've listed some things. I feel horrible for writing those things but it has made me feel a bit better.

    I'm really sorry it's such a long reply. I use EC as therapy sometimes. I'm sorry if it's TMI too. Thank you for your reply.
     
  8. pozistani

    pozistani Guest

    Please don't give power over your life to others, no matter what the reason might appear. For example, you mentioned plastic surgery. If you did it for yourself, then it's empowering. If you did it because you feel society wants it of you, then it's pretty much the opposite. See the logic?

    Choosing to like and love oneself is not the cause of shaming and hatred. You are not responsible for other people's mistakes, bad decisions, bigotry, etc. Don't give that kind of power away, keep it for yourself and be comfortable with who and how you are. That said, it takes a great deal of strength to be able to swim against the tide and it doesn't sound like you are there yet. So make some concession to society that you are comfortable with. If wearing short-shorts is a taboo, then save them for when you're on your own or with like minded friends. Does that make sense?
     
  9. clockworkfox

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    Firstly, I went through and bolded a few of your words that I think get straight to the heart of what's really going on here. It's absolutely something that so many of us in this community can relate to - the need for acceptance, for the freedom to show up as we are...for the ability to just be. Our anger and frustration always seem to manifest as soon as we walk out the door, and see just how carefree everyone else appears to be. Don't you hate that?? Like you're checking yourself in the mirror, and then you head out into the world and you see someone just living their life and for whatever reason, you feel deflated. Small. Isolated.

    Believe me, it took me ages to figure out what was going on there. Because I get it, it's not necessarily about "the good stuff" - the looks, or the clothes, or the friends. We are members of a marginalized community, and as awful as it is, the playing field isn't level for us...it takes a lot of us a very long time to comfortably exist in public, because in some way or another, we're carrying the weight of the shame that society has projected at us. And for literally no reason, right?? We're cute! There's nothing wrong with us! You said it yourself, that when you're alone, you're very happy in your body. But it is very difficult, navigating life from the fringes. No human was made to be at the fringes. Your anger is valid, in that it is an appropriate feeling to have as someone who has often been made to live life from the sidelines.

    The second thing that I wanted to point out is the guilt and the shame that is coming through in the parts of your reply that I underlined. That's a tricky thing to dismantle...I noticed that even with those words, there's quite a bit that you're projecting. Feeling like a creep, or a perv, or a bad person for saying affirming things about your appearance...take a moment and ask, who's idea is it really that you should feel that way?

    You're certainly not any of those things for sharing your moments of body euphoria with us. So much of our wellbeing hinges on the ability to see the good in us, to bask in the validation that we've received, to let ourselves say (as weird as it feels to do so) that we feel a little sexy.

    Business thrives on reinforcing our insecurities, and as often as we point out the terrible ways that companies market to women using insecurity, the fact is that they do the same thing to men...if a little differently. You also mentioned childhood bullying. These are the things that influence us on a subconscious level...of course wearing this specific body spray won't make you ruggedly handsome, and Timmy Johnson isn't following you home every day making fun of the sneakers you loved and thought were super cool (apologies in advance to any Timmy Johnson's out there). In reality, any grown adult who would deliberately try and shame another grown adult for the things they can't help or the things they love is...not really that grown of an adult, honestly. But once the worry is already embedded in us, shame becomes normalized.

    Fight that shame, because it's toxic as hell. It's the ugliest kind of social control, to allow others to put the idea in us that we're somehow less deserving of the love and acceptance that we need just as badly as any other human being does.

    Lastly, forgive me for the comment about the metaphorical arrows...I often catch myself doing just that. I didn't mean to imply anything at all about your feelings or their validity. Recently I've been trying to do better to not fling my arrows, but instead remember that nobody really has it all...it's more productive to focus on your own wellbeing, is all that I meant.
     
    #9 clockworkfox, Jun 16, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2021
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  10. lottaotter

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    Yeah, I eventually decided not to get plastic surgery, and I'm glad I didn't.

    I'm not expecting you to have the answer, but HOW do I get there? I'm 27 and I feel like I've wasted enough of my life already. Will I ever get there? I am a very weak person to be honest.

    Thanks for your reply.
     
  11. lottaotter

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    Yes- this describes how I feel precisely. After I have psyched myself up getting ready and then I actually head out and it's gone in seconds.

    This is exactly how it feels to be born gay and non-conventionally attractive, just like being born any unpopular minority group.
    (Not sure if this splitting your reply up into quotes will come out right, I struggle with figuring out this website)

    I've spent some time thinking about this and I'm sorry but I still don't get it- I know it's stupid, and you don't have to reply but what is the answer to this? Me? Society? Sorry to be so stupid- this is the main reason I haven't tried therapy for shame/guilt again- I can never know if what I think the answer is is the right answer they wanted!

    Thank you very much, I thought it probably wasn't meant in a bad way.

    Thanks for explaining more, I am exhausted at the moment from lack of sleep, anxiety and an ongoing issue with my neighbours which is probably going to end with the police being involved. Life is sh*tty enough as it is without this shame all the time. And I've been putting off coming out to my parents for over 2 months now (stuff like family birthdays and Father's day and this neighbours issue that I needed their advice on just keep coming up). I just don't think I'm a very strong person to be able to go against it all. I'm just venting now.

    Thanks for your help. I'm not sure what I'll do about shame and stuff. I have realised recently that people-pleasing is ruining my life. I life every frigging day to try and please others who criticise me anyway whatever I do. I'm fed up of it all.
     
  12. pozistani

    pozistani Guest

    I was pretty angsty when I was around 30. For me, the problem was knowing what I wanted and not feeling like I could get there. Ultimately I had to readjust my wants and set realistic goals for myself, but the key was to remove outside drivers and definitions. We're constantly programmed from a very young age to be this, achieve that, etc. At some point we have to say enough and look at who and what we are - then realign our goals more accordingly.

    The hard part is it can be hard to see how our thinking is creating the problem. For example, people don't make me mad. I allow myself to get angry because ... Do you see the difference? It's okay if you don't initially, since this is part of the programming. How often do we hear this expression? Yes, it might be "an expression" but what is it really saying?

    So, we have to start with control of our emotions. This doesn't mean sublimating everything. On the contrary, it's all about owning and understanding why we are feeling a given way. I used anger as an example, but for many of us - those who feel they aren't quite living up to expectations - it's all about anxiety and fear but what we fail to realize is that we've internalized external fears.

    To go back to body image, I would love to wear a kilt. I don't know why, just would. But I also don't have the confidence to pull it off mostly because "nobody wants to see my legs". Okay, so let's unpack a little bit. First off, how do I know "nobody wants to see my legs"? Well, certainly my inability to tan is a huge component and that comes from years and years of being told "you need to get more sun" and of course all the advice on how to do that. Doesn't matter, I've never been genetically predisposed to tan. Can't change that.

    In some ways, I have to say this is where I've learned a little something from Drag Queens. When some asshole throws a snide comment their way, do they run home and take off their kit? Or do they respond in kind? I'm not saying to get into a fight with some idiot, sometimes the comment is just made to another friend, "Wonder who he gets his hand-me-downs from ..." See, the point is the queen allowed her detractor to take no power away.

    It's not easy and I'm not sure I've explained it very well. Also this is only a brief introduction to some pretty weighty concepts. Alas, sometimes the way to acquire such skills is through some form of therapy (which I know isn't always popular) but often a therapist can help us look at thought patterns, unpack them, and then look for alternative strategies that work for us.
     
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  13. lottaotter

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    Yes I have been trying not to get stressed about things as much, and making a conscious effort not to clean up after my housemates after they leave a mess and feel bitter about them. Just yesterday I told my housemate I didn't want to come to this free festival things she was going to that I didn't want to go to. Even her usual intimidation and guilting tactics didn't work this time. I went hiking instead and had a great day.

    It really does feel like the people who were popular in high school set the rules for all of us for our whole lives. I think those are the 'external drivers'. It's like how my parents were rarely openly expressed homophobia or a disgust for sex but I still managed to absorb those messages from them at a very early age simply because they weren't talked about.

    The 'timeline' of things I should have achieved by age 27 is a big one for me, even though I don't want a house or a car lots of children and a dog. It's so prevalent. I feel quite scared to say 'who I really am', and I'm not sure about it either. I'm scared it'll be the wrong answer and I'll be mocked.

    I know it's a cliche but I really respect drag queens. I've only recently started interacting with drag queen-related media and to be honest I get a lot out of it. It has hugely, hugely helped get over some of the internalised homphonia and masc4masc tendencies I had when I was younger.

    To be honest I'm not a very intelligent person, so I'm sure you've explained it fine, it just takes me a very long time to understand. I have been thinking again about therapy. This would be the 4th time of trying it. I'm quite scared of failing at it- being told everything is my fault and even if it doesn't work, being told it's my fault (society has this belief that therapists are always excellent at their job, always upstanding moral examples to the rest of us and always right, I'm getting angry just thinking about it).

    I don't know if any of that made sense. You must think I'm very needy and maybe I am but I'm in a bad place at the moment and struggling, when all I want is a break from the world and some REST. Thanks for your help anyway.
     
  14. clockworkfox

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    The interesting thing is that there's no hard answers to things like this, it isn't like calculus! It's not really so much about The Answer, but rather about trying to find, to whatever extent possible, the heart of the matter.

    In my experience, shame and guilt are often imposed feelings, not intrinsic ones. Some of us internalize them more readily than others, for whatever reason, but I find it hard to believe that any one of us starts our own cycle of self-belittlement.

    For example, I was a pretty rowdy, confident kid, until I started school. Something about that environment knocked me down quite a few pegs...I was teased a lot all through grade school, over all kinds of things. Stuff I thought was cool that other kids thought was lame, picking up on concepts more quickly than a lot of other kids (and so being called "show-off-y"), and maybe it's all in my head but it's like they can sense it if you're queer. I didn't put all the pieces together until I was around 20, but I was definitely not a "normal little girl", and the kids knew it, and they used it against me.

    After a while the doubt starts to kick in, and even though you're just trying to live your life, you start thinking that maybe you are a weirdo. How ridiculous is that?? So then we start masking. We start worrying more about what other people are going to think, and we try and head them off. And it's funny, because the more inauthentic we're acting, the harder it is to come off as cool and collected and interesting, and we end up reaffirming that doubt and shame.

    That's how I see it anyway, although other people are more than welcome to have their thoughts on the matter. The key then, I think, is to grow self love. And it feels weird, I won't lie, but it's the only thing that's cut through all that nonsense for me.
     
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  15. lottaotter

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    Thank you, that makes sense. I am more honest with other people at university and yet I'm pretty well-liked there, however at school I completely shut off myself from sharing any information about myself outside my friend group, and was treated like a freak anyway, so that makes sense.

    Thanks.