As a perpetual worrier about what people think of me, I have a pretty full-on work ethic. I have been super driven about attaining my achievements and always wanting people to believe in me and my work. The pressure that self-builds and rests on my shoulders can be pretty debilitating and stressful.
Along with this, I have a few decades of lacking body confidence to also contend with. Ingrained and visible to most, it is hard to hide, and when I do manage to hide it, it can sometimes feel like an exercise in mental self-harm. My polished smile and jovial attitude can sometimes just mask the pain that I have pushed to the back of my mind.
For me it has always mattered if I was “liked”. I think that years of bullying set me up for a lack of confidence in my own self. As an adult I was drawn into a friendship to which I was dependent on their social skills to have friends, and they were dependent on something else entirely… their dependency I would often be told was because of the pressure of having to “put up with” me.
I’ll be honest (that’s what I’m here for afterall) and tell you that sometimes I still believe it, to this day. And this sort of thinking, does not pave the way to a healthy relationship with yourself, whether it’s in the workplace, the home or out in the wider world.
The wear and tear, of this sort of thinking can really begin to tire you out. You can begin to fray at the edges and eventually fall apart at the seams – so I decided to try (you can but try) to change my outlook, lose some of the stress and enjoy spending some time with me! (Something I have detested for all of my adult life).
Firstly, I changed my attitude to work. I banned myself from checking my emails more than twice a day! In order to achieve this I put a structure in place that simply involved letting my boss know that if he needed me for anything that couldn’t wait til I got back to work (which never really happens) he could call my personal mobile. This was more for me than him – but this did make the transition a little easier to deal with.
Next I stopped focussing on the letter X. When buying clothes I would choose the item that I liked and pick it up in three sizes. I would then try on all three in no particular order and the one that fitted best, I would buy, without looking at the size again. Online purchases were more difficult – but I would always search by the measurement and not the dreaded sizing (which to be honest means absolutely nothing – but that is a whole other conversation!).
Thirdly, I wanted to try and get a better representation of Male bodies into the ether. I began to seek out brands who valued my body shape and my personality above a six pack. I decided to put my image out there to sit between the Greek Adonis, the bodybuilders and the models, so that other men might bravely put themselves out there too. Maybe this would be one small step to changing the shape of masculinity, blur the edges of what it is to be a Modern
Lastly, I could not post only the pics where I am all sucked in and and shot from a flattering angle in good light and with a filter. I had to also post images where I don’t like how I look. Where my chubby belly hangs out, where I am grimmacing, and where I don the panda eyes of a parent who will never catch up on their missed sleep!
I think you’ll agree that these were all pretty small changes (mainly just adjustments in the ways that I think) but the results have the potential to really change my relationship with myself – and that is what has been at the heart of my body issues all along.
This is not a formula to achieve self-confidence all of the time, far from it. It’s always going to be a daily challenge, but I have begun to notice a difference. Leaving work stress at work and instead using my time to bounce on a trampoline with my son, or to read a book, or to write my blog, or to sing at the top of my lungs. I was then much better prepared to to deal with my workload and approach the work place with a genuinely more chipper attitude.
When I tried to stop focussing on the size of my clothes I began to enjoy wearing them much more. I actually considered whether or not I liked an item properly, and I bought what I liked and not what I thought I “should” wear. I knew that everything that I bought fit me and I felt confident wearing it – not because of the size label but because I like how it fits my body.
In my Instagram search of a more varied representation of Male beauty, I not only discovered brands who value the same things as me, but I e-met other men who didn’t fit the mould (for a variety of reasons) and whom were battling their own demons. People who have a lot to offer just not the physical attributes that society seems to prize above all else. And so I put my image out there (many times) and I actually began to care less. It wasn’t about the likes that didn’t come or the brands who were not willing to work with me because I’m too fat (they didn’t say this of course – but it was exactly what they were thinking!) It was about me showing myself who I am, and that the world probably didn’t care!
The last section was the hardest. Putting images out there -that you are super critical of yourself – can sometimes feel like you are kicking yourself in the nuts! The trick to it, was finding at least one factor that you did like about it, even if you hate everything else! That thing can be the lighting, your smile, you bulge in your @kenniesuk boxer-briefs or really anything at all – instead of perfection you are simply searching for one redeeming quality! The pressure is off!
The biggest difference is that I feel that my mood is more stable, I have maintained my productivity at work, I enjoyed clothes shopping again, i engage with family time differently and I am less scared of what people think of me.
I worry that I will never quite feel that my friends are fully mine – there is always a fear that one day they will wake up and realise that they can’t remember why they like me, or that I will do something to damage our friendship beyond repair. I will probably forget to stop judging myself and I will definitely keep hiding behind Instagram filters! But if i can believe in myself and keep challenging the image of What it is to be a man, then I think I am in a much better place – a place where I come first (at least some of the time).
Not posed – looks like natural old me!
So I set you a challenge… post a pic of yourself that you are not 100% happy with, tag @thatisbeyond and caption it with whatever quality it is that you love about it. Or simply comment below with the pic!
Perhaps together we can change the shape of beauty on social media and prove that a little change can sometimes make a big big difference.