2 quick questions: 1) Who looks like more of badass? 2) Who's actually the real badass?
So, a couple of weeks ago you'll remember I did a post on how women need to start understanding that a bit of belly fat and cellulite are natural and normal. You might also remember that I promised to write a similar post but from a male perspective. As promised, here is my male body image rant.
It’s no secret that women are being led on a wild goose chase in the search for physical perfection. They are bombarded with, (let's be real), dishonest images of other women. Always, the subtext of those images is “You could look like this if you just tried harder... or bought my product” From completely airbrushed and photo shopped images of models and actresses to “candid” social media posts of people who spend hours trying to make the photos look candid. They are constantly being told lies and then being pressured to live up to them. What we don’t seem to understand as much is that men are now suffering from the same issues; they’re just chasing a slightly different look.
The images they’re being bombarded with are fitness models, body builders, actors and sports stars. Again, what they aren’t being told is that these men look the way they do for a combination of the following reasons: a) They just have great genetics, b) they are often digitally enhanced, c) alarmingly, many of them are also chemically enhanced or d) they work out for a living, for Pete’s sake.
Young men just want to be bigger and bigger. Somewhere around the 1980s, our idea of what a manly man looked like went from Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Things have only gotten worse from there. These days, Arnold looks small next to his contemporaries in the body building world. Chris Hemsworth makes Sylvester Stallone look scrawny… and ugly…but Chris Hemsworth makes almost everyone look ugly.
The reason for this growing obsession with appearance isn’t a mystery. If you take a look at how our species has evolved, you’ll notice that men have always been judged on largely physical criteria. A man’s physical prowess was extremely appealing both to their peer group and potential partners. An ideal man was someone who moved well, was resilient and reliable, resourceful, cunning, honorable, hard working, agile, co-ordinated, powerful, strong, could fight, could hunt, could build, could protect their family and provide for them when times got tough.
Back in those days, men’s lives shaped the way they looked. Gyms, synthetic hormones, food surplus and Adobe Photoshop didn’t exist. Due to this, a man’s appearance has (until very recently) been a fairly faithful representation of his physical prowess. A man who looked strong, fit and capable was generally strong fit and capable. If the guy standing next to him looked stronger, fitter, and more capable, then he was probably stronger, fitter and more capable.
That rule of thumb has been hard wired into us over hundreds of thousands of years and it’s really only been in the last 50 or so years that it’s started to lead us astray. More and more, men are being afforded a luxury that they have never been afforded in the past; the ability to look a certain way without having to back it up. With the advent of cushy living and working conditions, they now have the time and money to spend on trying to look like Tarzan even though they could get their arse kicked by Jane.
To me it’s like false advertising. It’s kind of like driving around in a rented Ferrari with a knock off Armani suit telling everyone you’re a millionaire even though you’re broke. Or like a guy who goes and gets a whole heap of fake tattoos, wears a Tapout shirt and tells everyone he’s an MMA fighter.
Look, I get it, I really do. I’m a tall lanky guy and I still have that voice inside my head that emerges every now and then when I stand in front of a mirror, it whispers hauntingly “Maaaaaatt… you’re a scrawny biiiiiiiiiitch… you need to be biiiiiggeeeeeeerrrr”. When I was younger, that voice was much louder and I have been through the process of trying to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger. Along the way I came across guys who looked far more physically impressive than I did but often couldn’t keep up with me because they moved so poorly and had spent more time on developing their physique rather than developing their physical competence. After a while I started wondering why I was bothering.
So here’s the take away. For a guy, wanting to look as big and bad as you can is a very ingrained thing but it’s important to remember why it is. An impressive physique is only impressive when it indicates what you can do with it. If it doesn't, it's just a bluff. Every minute you spend sitting in front of a mirror doing bicep curls so you can look better is a minute you’re not spending on actually BEING better. Go out and work on the things that an impressive physique is meant to imply i.e. being a badass. You may not get as big by training to actually BE a badass as you could PRETENDING to be a badass but the upside is two-fold: 1) If you’re really a badass, you’re still going to look pretty good with your shirt off and 2) If you’re really a badass, you give far less of a shit about how you look with your shirt off.