I am uncomforable in and with my body

View previous topic View next topic Go down

I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Conreezy on Mon Jul 31, 2017 2:15 pm

This is a messy stream of conciousness, but here goes:

I'm finally admitting it, though I'm one of the last guys in the world who should have them.  But I've gone from one side of masculinity to the other and find myself chafing in what is generally a societally-approved look.  

As a kid, I was always short and scrawny.  Bit of a late bloomer physically because I didn't hit 5 feet tall until 9th grade.  

My stats now: Between 5"8 and 5"9, so not short, but not tall.  A solid (but very proportionate) 200 pounds, with about 12% body fat, and the type of body expected of my strength sports and fencing: big lower body, strong shoulders and back, but not too much in the way of defined arms, chest, and obliques. My core--though my abs are quite visible--is on the thicker side and I don't have a tremendously tapered waist because of love handles I've never been able to shed. (I call them kidney fat, since they sit on my lower back.)  All in all, a great vessel for movement capable of an impressive variety of movements on paper, and not at all bad to behold visually.

Still, even though I know better in an academic sense, I can't find myself satisfied with it. I vacillate between being dissatisfied with my aesthetic qualities and performance abilities.  I put the impossible demand on myself to look like I train for looks while also performing like I train for performance.  As an athlete most of my life, and martial artist for over a decade, I know how impossible those two goals are to reconcile, yet I can't shake the idea that it's expected of me.

At my last job, I became kind of known as the guy with "the body," though nobody there had ever seen me shirtless.  Other men asked me for workout advice, and lots of women made flirty comments that were surprisingly unprofessional.  Honestly, I loved it, because I've never really had that sort of purely physical attention before or since.  Most of my life, I've been bad with women, and my successes have been because of my personality, so it was a very welcome change of pace to be viewed as attractive without having to do anything.  (And now a tangent: how can I show off without becoming the douchebag? I feel like everything I do just makes me come off as "that guy."  I am--at most--30% "that guy".)

But I felt/feel like a bit of a fraud because I don't think I'm all they cracked me up to be.  Like I'd be a let-down at the beach. I guess I feel this way because, though I've heard different from women and no better because of experience, I haven't been able to let go entirely of the idea that an untrained male body is pretty much worthless, and no matter how it's trained, it should only look one particular way. Hollywood is a motherfucker.

Also, in a contradictory way, I feel like a fraud because I'm the exact same person I was before I became visibly muscled, and now all the nerdy things about me that were liabilities are "refreshing" indications of how well rounded I am.  So now I use my body as a manhood shield; no matter how bad I am at "manly" skills (I am not a handy man) and how many not-so-masculine things I like and do (my literature degree, reading, cats, decorating, clothes, the color purple, fencing to many people) my masculinity is never questioned.  

Anyway, thanks for letting me get that out and into some sort of organized order.  That stuff's been swirling around my head for years now.

_________________
Surrender, Belisarius!
avatar
Conreezy

Posts : 269
Reputation : 97
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Enail on Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:32 pm

Conreezy, this is tough! Even though very little of what you say directly applies to me (female, not particularly impressive body in appearance or skills), a lot of it still feels remarkably familiar, so fistbumps of "Hollywood is a motherfucker" solidarity, at least Wink

I'm wondering if you spend much time around other guys who like and do things that are coded non-masculine? I find I feel a lot more comfortable in myself when I'm around other women who aren't good at/into aspects of femininity I'm uncomfortable with, and tend to find myself thinking more about how my body should compensate for other aspects of myself when I'm mostly around women who are very into performing femininity, so maybe the same is true for you?
avatar
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3360
Reputation : 1643
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Werel on Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:37 pm

Conreezy, thanks for sharing this-- it's rare and cool to get to see this side of masculine body struggles. It's also really interesting to see how men talk about their bodies, because I don't see that often at all, and it's cool to peek into a culture I'm not part of (like, I've never read Men's Health or r/getswole or whatever, and I find conventionally attractive chiseled-type bodies attractive only in the abstract way that women's bodies are attractive) so I'm not even sure what physical traits men consider aspirational. Now I have learned that apparently a thick core and non-defined obliques are cause for insecurity, who knew?

But I think everyone can empathize to some degree with being dissatisfied with their body, regardless of what body they have. My body ain't shit, by Hollywood criteria, and while I spend 90% of my waking time feeling fine about it because a) eh, fuck Hollywood and b) it does most of what I need it to, the other 10% can go some pretty bad places. However, the times I feel ambivalent-or-worse about it are almost always about the thing you describe - the social connotations of the body, what it makes people assume about you, not the body itself. You've experienced that whiplash of how people treat you when you change attractiveness levels, and how much bonus social credit you just get handed to you when you come closer to conventional ideals. Most of my body-angst comes into play when it obviously costs me significant social credit or even humanization, because those assumptions ("any level of fat = lazy, weak, uncool, subhuman") feel simultaneously unfair and wrong, and cuttingly true.

Are you chafing against what other people assume about your fit body, like the assumptions that you're a hypermasculine douche who doesn't like cats and decorating? Are you chafing against the fact that you're now swimming in social cred for reasons that feel wrong, even while the cred itself feels good? Are you chafing against the feeling that your body will never be good enough for you, alone in a vacuum, regardless of how other people perceive it? All of these things? Other things? Body feelings can be an ugly mess of intertwined shit, but it sounds like you've done a lot of thinking on this, so I bet you know where the most uncomfortable mental threads are poking out.

Conreezy wrote:(And now a tangent: how can I show off without becoming the douchebag? I feel like everything I do just makes me come off as "that guy."  I am--at most--30% "that guy".)
I'd just go with "own being 'that guy' like you own purple clothes," honestly. Tight shirts and winking flexes might not seem to fit your interior nerdscape at first, but at the end of the day, you worked hard for your body. Inhabiting it like you're proud of it, which you have every right to be, isn't any less a valid part of you than liking books or fencing. You can chafe at people upgrading your nerdshit to "refreshing" instead of "damning" all day long, and it's understandable -- but you wouldn't abandon your nerdshit because of nerd stigma, right? Don't abandon pride in your body because of the people who'd consider it douchey. Whatever you're doing is clearly fun for the people around you, or they wouldn't be hitting on you and asking you for workout tips.

edit:
Enail wrote:I find I feel a lot more comfortable in myself when I'm around other women who aren't good at/into aspects of femininity I'm uncomfortable with, and tend to find myself thinking more about how my body should compensate for other aspects of myself when I'm mostly around women who are very into performing femininity, so maybe the same is true for you?
YESSS, this is so true for me too. Maybe spending some time around dudes who place less value on masculine body culture would help reduce that chafing feeling?
avatar
Werel
Moderator of "Meeting People and Dating Advice"

Posts : 1811
Reputation : 1000
Join date : 2014-09-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by KMR on Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:33 pm

I can't speak to the masculinity component of this, but the parts about societal beauty standards and not feeling like you're living up to certain expectations certainly feel familiar.

I wonder if part of what you're feeling has to do with labels and their affects on how we conceptualize things. You think of yourself as having an "athletic build" because your body is trained for your sport. But the "athletic" label puts into your mind the image of someone who is buff/toned in all parts of the body, and because you have some areas that you feel are lacking in that regard, it conflicts with your image of what your body type should look like, which is causing some dissonance.

I don't know if that's actually part of what's going through your mind, but I know that's how I sometimes feel about my own body. I'm someone who has always been skinny, but over the past few years, I've gained 15 pounds, which was good for me and basically just moved me from "underweight" to "the lower end of normal." My overall appearance hasn't changed much at all, really, and I still would be labeled as "skinny" by anyone who looked at me. But my belly does stick out a little more noticeably than it used to, and I find myself occasionally being self-conscious about it. Which is strange to me, because it really isn't that big a deal and I don't think anyone else would think twice about it, since I overall still look like a skinny person. But I find it strange to reconcile the idea that I am someone who can be labeled as "skinny" and yet still have a gut that sticks out--a trait that society tends to associate with fatness.

In the end, I try to remind myself that it's society that's really fucked up here. The fact that someone as skinny as I am, who wears size 0-2 pants, could still have some weight-related body image issues really does speak to how unrealistic those standards are. And men have those same kind of unrealistic standards applied to them in regards to how muscular/toned they should be. So yeah... it sucks.
avatar
KMR

Posts : 137
Reputation : 80
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Conreezy on Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:24 am

I'm wondering if you spend much time around other guys who like and do things that are coded non-masculine?

I can't say that I do, to be honest, besides maybe my job (I'm a nurse.) Not in the physical world, anyway. When I do those things, it's mostly alone or with women.

Are you chafing against what other people assume about your fit body, like the assumptions that you're a hypermasculine douche who doesn't like cats and decorating? Are you chafing against the fact that you're now swimming in social cred for reasons that feel wrong, even while the cred itself feels good? Are you chafing against the feeling that your body will never be good enough for you, alone in a vacuum, regardless of how other people perceive it? All of these things? Other things?

Yes, all those things. Well put. But mostly the first one. I've noticed in myself that what drives some of my behavior is the desire to avoid negative male stereotypes, starting firstly with "weak nerd," like a lot of guys, and now a weird mix of "vapid douchebag," "dumb/slobbish husband," and the generic "horndog male."

Now, I really enjoy being a well-rounded kind of person for its own sake, and I really do have a pretty strong sense of self. But, like you said, I chafe under the assumptions, even the "good" ones.

Maybe spending some time around dudes who place less value on masculine body culture would help reduce that chafing feeling?

Yeah, it does. Though I'm mostly a modern, Olympic-style fencer, I also do classical fencing, and one of the most attractive things about that style is how much machismo there isn't. The focus is on improvement, the learning process, and respectable comportment, not wining.

Honestly, they're mostly dorks, and I love them for it.

But the "athletic" label puts into your mind the image of someone who is buff/toned in all parts of the body, and because you have some areas that you feel are lacking in that regard, it conflicts with your image of what your body type should look like, which is causing some dissonance.

Not quite. In a purely scientific way, my body looks exactly like it should, considering my training, diet, and performance goals. I think my image conflicts with what people/society think I should look like. I have no real evidence for this besides my lack of a torso ready for a show on the CW, but it's an insecurity that nags at me because I know I'm not show ready. The reason why is stupidly shallow: I want to be attractive. No real reason why, since I'm married and wouldn't put it to use for anyone else.

Of course, I know I can be attractive with flaws; I find many women attractive with their flaws and all. But for some reason, I haven't come to really believing it.

In the end, I try to remind myself that it's society that's really fucked up here

Oh, yeah.

So yeah... it sucks

Yep.

_________________
Surrender, Belisarius!
avatar
Conreezy

Posts : 269
Reputation : 97
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Werel on Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:37 pm

Conreezy wrote:I've noticed in myself that what drives some of my behavior is the desire to avoid negative male stereotypes, starting firstly with "weak nerd," like a lot of guys, and now a weird mix of "vapid douchebag," "dumb/slobbish husband," and the generic "horndog male."

Now, I really enjoy being a well-rounded kind of person for its own sake, and I really do have a pretty strong sense of self. But, like you said, I chafe under the assumptions, even the "good" ones.
I can totally sympathize with that. One way to deal with it is accepting that assumptions are going to happen, and trying to stay ahead of them mentally-- e.g. "I'm likely going to ring some douchebro bells at first glance, let's plan for that." So rather than trying to avoid those assumptions getting made, you work with them after the fact. You can go into an interaction calculating which assumptions that person's likely to make about you, and either throw yourself into them (the good ones, or the bad ones for comedy) or subvert them appropriately, depending on how you want someone to see you.

Maybe this doesn't make sense without examples, hm. When I was a teenager, my sartorial preferences were in the facial-piercings-and-ripped-fishnets vein. I knew this would make lots of people assume I was dumb, insolent, and probably on drugs. You can go two ways with that: If I wanted people to see me as a potential problem, I'd run with those assumptions and not countermand them (like when you might need people to think you're a douchey bro, e.g. if you're trying to build business relationships with those dudes). If I wanted to be seen as not-a-problem, I'd take care to immediately follow first impressions (appearances) with something that would directly subvert that assumption, like turning politeness and eloquence up to a cotillion 11. In your case, that might be leading with your nerd foot, or at least your unconventional-masculinity foot.

You can't stop the assumptions from happening (even if you chafe at them), and you can't really avoid them at first, but having methods in place to use your strong sense of self, and use it to actively manage others' perceptions of you, might help you feel less... helpless? annoyed?... in the face of all those assumptions.

Conreezy wrote:Of course, I know I can be attractive with flaws; I find many women attractive with their flaws and all. But for some reason, I haven't come to really believing it.
FWIW, I feel exactly the same way in the opposite direction-- hyper-aware of physical flaws in myself and other women, hyper-forgiving of physical flaws in men. I think people are just rougher on the category they're in. Try seeing yourself/other men and their flaws through women's eyes, it might help.
avatar
Werel
Moderator of "Meeting People and Dating Advice"

Posts : 1811
Reputation : 1000
Join date : 2014-09-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Conreezy on Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:45 pm

Try seeing yourself/other men and their flaws through women's eyes, it might help.

My wife compliments me often. It's awesome.  I have a hard time generalizing that, though.  Also, I feel like I've "earned" her love through the usual male methods of action.  There's a part of me that really wants to be notable without having to perform.

A first world problem, to be sure, and it must be rich hearing it from a guy, but sometimes I just want to be seen as pretty.

You can go into an interaction calculating which assumptions that person's likely to make about you, and either throw yourself into them (the good ones, or the bad ones for comedy) or subvert them appropriately, depending on how you want someone to see you.

This is not at all bad advice, and something I kind of do already.

_________________
Surrender, Belisarius!
avatar
Conreezy

Posts : 269
Reputation : 97
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:36 pm

Maaaaan.

Okay, sympathy first, then dogpiling, but yeah. Fuck society and Hollywood and impossible contradictory expectations. Nobody can catch a break these days.

I currently live in a house with three women, and while they don't really talk about men's bodies that much in front of me, I've noticed that when they do, they're discussing things totally different from what we men generally think of as desirable. (I know this subject has already been talked about a ton on Paging, but it seems relevant again.) In particular, they've taken an interest in Netflix's "Beastmaster" show lately, and they'll remark playfully about some of the contestants' bodies, but it's generally a comment about their butt, lower back, overall symmetry, or facial features (the last being somewhat related to body-fat and thus correlated with visible abdominal muscles, but more in the 8-11% range than the super low single digits). There was one episode where one of the contestants had a relatively higher body-fat and weaker upper-body compared to the others, and talked a bunch about how he was much more concerned with what his body could do that with what he looked like. And, well, he looks kind of like how you described yourself -- no visible obliques, relatively little definition in the chest, strong-but-not-large shoulders. Powerful legs, but carrying a little fat that made them visually not seem so impressive. But this dude could jump, high and far and often. He could climb and run and get into crazy uncomfortable looking contortions well enough to beat half of his supposedly more athletic looking competition. And for all the ways he seemed to think he was aesthetically less impressive than his opponents, three out of three of the women watching with me agreed that his butt looked fine.


Last edited by nearly_takuan on Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:47 pm; edited 2 times in total
avatar
nearly_takuan

Posts : 1057
Reputation : 431
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:04 pm

I've been picking up moderately-heavy things, setting them back down again, etc. for maybe a couple of years now, and this has brought my "physique" up from skinny bastard to... still being referred to as a "beanpole" by a complete stranger in public, but a little more comfortable wearing short-sleeved or sleeveless clothing in 90+ degree weather.

Once every couple months or so I'll splurge on a session with a trainer at my gym, mostly so I can learn some new things to mix into my usual routines and figure out what I even want from this. (I still don't know what I want from this.) I think it's still mostly-true that I'm exercising for the endorphin rush, something something biochem I don't understand really. Certainly, I can rule out many of the motivations people tend to ask about: I don't play sports, I don't have a gym buddy, and I'm not building a body or modeling fitness. I do kind of want to look a little better and feel a little better and be a little less weak, especially if I'm going to the place for it and putting in all that effort anyway. On the other hand, I am not sure to what extent this might just be caused by a general mental block around trying too hard, and I am not sure to what extent that might be related to a vague feeling that I'm probably not going to get much better than my current state.

There's some perception-warping going on again here, but as is often the case, being aware of it doesn't immediately dispel the illusion. Part of it is just the natural inclination to always see oneself as closer to average or below-average than is necessarily the case (B-roll vs. highlight reel, blah blah etc.) But also, now that I'm getting more physically active, I am spending more of my free time at the gym and shopping in produce and health food aisles -- which, therefore, means I'm spending a lot more of my time in the company of young healthy people who exercise consistently, and a lot less listening to a distance-friend crunch Doritos in his headset as we defend of the ancients2 or whatever.

It doesn't help that I've also recently taken a new job where I'm utterly surrounded by people who are sporty and/or pretty. It's really messing with my mental image of what a typical adult human actually looks like.

I don't feel profoundly envious of the guys who must be spending like $50/day on all the boiled chicken they have to be eating just to maintain their conditioning, but my partner and I both occasionally catch ourselves "mirin" (not the rice wine) as we're walking about or using the treadmills (which are strategically set facing the weight/mirror room in every single damn gym).

Features I see that I sorta wish I had (but not like enough to make the necessary additional lifestyle changes):
- upper-chest "cleavage" visible through shirt collar
- thighs/quads
- front/side of shoulders
- abdominal definition

Male features my partner remarks on when we leave the gym together:
- butt
- area behind shoulders
- back of neck
- stride/posture
- face (esp. cheekbones)
- calves
- width of back

This is by no means intended to be representative of anything other than that I think it's hilarious that these lists are so different, such that if I had exactly the muscular development and fat distribution I've been taught to covet, my partner would in theory rate my attractiveness roughly zero percent higher. Razz
avatar
nearly_takuan

Posts : 1057
Reputation : 431
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Conreezy on Fri Aug 18, 2017 12:06 am

then dogpiling

LOL, I don't see your opinion that way.

three out of three of the women watching with me agreed that his butt looked fine.

The perfectionist in me winces at being described as just fine, lol.

This is by no means intended to be representative of anything other than that I think it's hilarious that these lists are so different, such that if I had exactly the muscular development and fat distribution I've been taught to covet, my partner would in theory rate my attractiveness roughly zero percent higher

That makes absolute sense, and I understand how that's how most women probably view the male body. Still, I nag myself to be perfect looking and perfect performing just to cover all the cultural bases. Otherwise, I'd have to be imperfect, i.e., open to criticism and vulnerable. I have to learn to be more comfortable with the vulnerability of imperfection, because it's not like I can keep this up forever (I turned 32 today). Oh, and I have a baby now, so I really don't have time for this insecurity crap, lol.

_________________
Surrender, Belisarius!
avatar
Conreezy

Posts : 269
Reputation : 97
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Aug 18, 2017 12:14 am

Oh "fine" was meant in the sense that would accompany a wolf whistle type thing. Wink
avatar
nearly_takuan

Posts : 1057
Reputation : 431
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Werel on Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:05 pm

Conreezy wrote:Oh, and I have a baby now, so I really don't have time for this insecurity crap, lol.

Oh shit, congrats Conreezy! Smile
avatar
Werel
Moderator of "Meeting People and Dating Advice"

Posts : 1811
Reputation : 1000
Join date : 2014-09-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Enail on Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:14 pm

Oh wow, congratulations!
avatar
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3360
Reputation : 1643
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Aug 21, 2017 12:25 am

Goodness, yes, congratulations!

...At gym today I noticed a bod that seemed pretty decently built, not ludicrously swole or lean but attainable, and I sort of made a mental note along the lines of #goals; it'd be nice to look a little more like that next month. Then I realized I was looking in a very clean mirror. (I was also wearing a new and very close-fitting sports shirt my fiancee just got me, looking at a downward angle, and had been exercising long enough to have slow thoughts, imperfect vision, and a half decent "pump" going. I swear this all has a point...) Once I recognized myself I started getting critical again. So basically, the physical shape that would've been good enough for me five minutes ago is already not good enough for me. Today I (re-) Learned that self-perception works in mysterious and dumb ways. Striving for more doesn't seem like a bad thing in the abstract, but it's a little frustrating to have a visceral realization that I might just never be satisfied with anything.

Tangentially related: a few days ago in the same gym, I overheard a conversation a couple of other dudes were having about body image stuffs. Specifically, one of them was on a "cut" and preparing for an amateur photo shoot in a month or two, not for a competition or an ad or anything, but just to have some photos for himself. The idea was that he would "prove" to himself that he was capable of attaining the Hollywood-ready triangle shape, and thus rid himself of the need to ever be in that kind of state again so he could go back to training for being good at his sport or whatever. It still sounds slightly wonky to me, like doing a line of coke under the assumption that this will satisfy your curiosity and you'll definitely never want to do that again. But maybe the justification isn't important in this case, because another possible outcome is that he finds he enjoys looking like a model better than having the optimal build for tennis or whatever, and then maybe he'll stick to that and be happier overall anyway. The risk is that he (and/or you) remain torn between the two ideals, with one of them always just beyond reach, but it sounds like that's sort of the situation he is already in, so his plan isn't necessarily the worst. I'll probably never find out how his experiment went, but I'm keeping it in my back pocket in case thirty-something Takuan ends up being really self-conscious about his tummy or something.
avatar
nearly_takuan

Posts : 1057
Reputation : 431
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Conreezy on Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:13 pm

Thanks for the congratulations. Fatherhood is awesome.  

Once I recognized myself I started getting critical again.

That sounds very familiar.

but I'm keeping it in my back pocket in case thirty-something Takuan ends up being really self-conscious about his tummy or something

I did the very same thing recently, at 31, since I had a photographer friend owe me a favor. Haven't gotten the pictures yet, so I'm still a bit anxious about how they'll turn out.
avatar
Conreezy

Posts : 269
Reputation : 97
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: I am uncomforable in and with my body

Post by Conreezy on Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:12 pm

Double post, I know, but I wasn't sure if this needed it's own thread. So much of this is very familiar and relevant: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/05/william-giraldi-on-life-as-a-bookish-bodybuilder-its-a-poisoned-way-to-be-a-man
avatar
Conreezy

Posts : 269
Reputation : 97
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile

Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum