We always talk about body positivity for women but what about the male demographic? As men, we sometimes don’t realize that we are holding ourselves to unrealistic standards. If your self-esteem has been down in the dumps lately, we share 25 tips to help you build a more positive body image.
It’s not just a woman thing
To be fair, men do get less flak for their bodies than women do, which is why the body positive movement is very women-led and female-centric. Despite that, men are still held to some standard. The ideal male body is something straight out of a magazine — a model-esque height, chiseled abs, broad shoulders, bulging muscles, and handsome facial features. It’s no lie that the media promotes this kind of image and inevitably, it can have an impact on us.
Body insecurity starts when you start judging yourself in the mirror and not liking what you see. Your smallest flaws are magnified to the point that it makes you uncomfortable. However, due to men’s pride and ego, some men try to mask this insecurity under a façade or false bravado. As this internal pressure builds, it can get to a point where it cripples you mentally.
It’s important for us men to realize that having a positive body image is essential, no matter what sex you are. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you have to hide your insecurities, “man up” and simply brush it off. Everyone deserves to be comfortable in their own bodies, no matter who you are.
Tips for building a positive body image
Learning to develop a positive body image isn’t an instantaneous process; it takes time and it really forces you out of your comfort zone. Here are some tips that can help you get in that right mindset.
1. Body acceptance is key
The first step to truly building a positive body image is accepting that no one is perfect. There is no such thing as a “perfect body” out there because everyone is built differently. Once you realize and accept that, only then can you really work towards loving your body.
2. Take a step back
Sometimes seeing things from another perspective can be eye-opening. Take yourself out of the equation and rethink the way you view yourself. Sort out what’s positive and what’s negative. It’s also good to target what is influencing you to feel this way about yourself. Is it the media? The people around you?
3. Remove negative influences
After identifying whatever is causing you to view your body negatively, remove them from your life. It can be hard, especially if it’s involving people because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Remind yourself that this is for your own good and you shouldn’t have to feel guilty. Once you’ve removed those toxic influences, replace them with positive, more wholesome ones.
4. Be more outwardly critical
As we’ve established earlier, the media is largely to blame for creating these false ideals of the perfect body. Now that you’re picked out what are the negative influences, rather than believing them, evaluate them instead. Look at them and identify what is flawed about the message they are promoting. Now that you have a better understanding of these false claims, you can avoid being sucked into those lies again.
5. Set a realistic standard for yourself
Work towards being the best you can be rather than trying to be like someone else. Know your limitations and what you can’t control and work within that. Try not to think of it as lowering your self-expectations, rather you’re making your standards more achievable for yourself. Remember, you’re not aiming for perfection.
6. Change your perception
Try replacing your negative thoughts or descriptions about yourself with positive or neutral ones when you start criticizing your body. It might help to ask for an honest second opinion from a trusted loved one to see things from someone else’s eyes. A lot of times, your perception is associated with a certain emotion, so if you can change that perceptive thought, the way it makes you feel changes as well.
7. Focus on your other strengths
One way to help you change your perception is to focus on your other good qualities. Think about all the other good things about yourself that don’t have to do with your body image. Try practicing self-affirmation, which is the act of telling yourself positive things about yourself. Work on improving and developing those strengths, which can actually add more value and substance to your life.
8. Redefine “masculinity”
The term “manliness” or “masculinity” is very subjective. Expand on this concept beyond outward appearances; include other qualities of what makes a man. Don’t reject any stereotypical “feminine” qualities like sensitivity or gentleness; virtues know no gender! Looking buff and fit might be the conventional visual representation of manliness but there’s more to what defines a true man on the inside. Every man is different and multidimensional so create your own personal definition of masculinity and own it.
9. Be more self-aware
If you have been battling body image issues for a long time, it can become almost subconscious second nature. Next time you start having insecurities about your body, catch yourself doing so and acknowledge it. Acknowledging it “forces” you to come to terms with your insecurities and to pinpoint your negative thoughts. Once you acknowledge it, make that mental shift to a more positive mindset.
10. Appreciate your body
Rather than scrutinizing and hating your body, try to focus on what your body has done for you instead. Think about all the useful and functional aspects of the parts of your body that you hate. This is another way you can effectively change your perception because it helps you realize why these parts of your body are important. Another way to love your body is to treat yourself once in a while! Prepare a soothing bath or get a relaxing massage; your body deserves some TLC after all! The more you take care of your body, the more it will show in the way you look and carry yourself.
11. Practice mutual respect
While it’s important to respect and love yourself, the same should apply for others as well. When we are being self-critical, we tend to impose that criticism onto others and judge them as well. Learn to respect and be more understanding towards others who are also “different” (based on sexuality, personality, behavior, disability, lifestyle habits etc). As mentioned earlier, every man is unique so it’s important to respect them for who they are. Practice the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.
12. Surround yourself with the right people
The people you associate with can be one of those influences in your life that you either choose to keep or remove. If you’re constantly around people who are putting you down and criticizing your body, they will just add to the existing negative body image in your mind. Surround yourself with friends who genuinely appreciate you for who you are and have your back. Cutting ties with people can be tough so weigh out the pros and cons to decide if these people are really worth keeping as friends.
13. Form a positive community around you
One way to find a new circle of friends is to join a community, like sports groups or volunteer organizations. Find those that are in line with your own hobbies and have activities that you feel happy doing. It’s all about forming a support team of like-minded friends around you that can build you up. The size of the group shouldn’t matter, what’s more important is the value you get out of it and what works best for you.
14. Get out in the real world
When it comes to finding a community, online communities like for gaming or anime are great but sometimes it’s hard to gauge how genuine they are. Talking to a faceless person via a chat isn’t the same as having a face-to-face conversation and forming real-life connections. If you’re someone who’s very insecure and afraid of how people will judge your looks, this is going to be a huge step out of your comfort zone but it’ll be worth it.
15. Be assertive
Standing up to the bullies is an empowering way to fight the internal “bullies” in your head. Whenever you see an advertisement propagating false claims about body image or hear a nasty comment about your body, call it out. Tell them in a diplomatic way that what they’re saying or promoting is wrong and hurtful. This will take a lot of courage and inner strength to face these offenders, which is why having a strong support team backing you up is key. If needed, confront these offenders with a friend or two for moral support.
16. It’s okay to speak up
Being a man doesn’t mean you can’t be vulnerable. On those days when you’re feeling especially insecure, don’t be afraid to confide in someone you trust. Be fully open and honest about how you’re feeling. If you need to cry, don’t be ashamed to just let it out. Listen to their advice and counseling with an open heart and mind. Trust us, it can be so cathartic to share your concerns with someone else who really cares for you.
17. Stay away from social media
Social media can be a double-edged sword. If social media is the main cause of your body insecurity, it’s time to do some spring cleaning. Unfollow those toxic pages or people who are promoting this negative body image in your mind. If you find you really need a social media detox, take some time away from your social media or quit it altogether. Social media should be a tool to empower yourself and others, not to further degrade your self-esteem.
18. Find new inspiration
After you have sieved out and removed all those negative influences in your life, replace them with more positive ones. Find role models who inspire you to view your body in a better light. These can be body positive online influencers, or even those directly around you like your family members or friends. These role models should help you realize that you’re not alone in this and confidence issues and the road to body acceptance is indeed possible.
19. Get active
If your body insecurity is your weight or size, sports can help you regain that confidence. As your body changes for the better over time, it can make you feel happier in your new body. Exercising is known to release endorphins that can improve your overall mood. It can also give something more wholesome to focus on rather than constantly obsessing over your body. However, be careful to not overdo it. If you need someone to keep your fitness goals in check, consider getting a personal trainer or a workout buddy.
20. Eat well
Body image issues can lead to eating disorders in many people. If you find yourself overeating or skipping meals to starve yourself, start adopting healthier eating habits. The phrase “you are what you eat” is very true; if you feed your body with good food, it will show visible results in how you look and feel. Think of eating as nourishing your body rather than making you fat.
21. Focus on being healthy
If you want to love your body, work towards becoming healthier overall. A healthy body not only looks good but feels good too. Don’t focus so much on how you look in the mirror or the number on the scale. As you start paying more attention to your mental and physical health, the results will show from the inside out. Remember that a healthy body can come in all shapes and sizes so just focus on being the healthiest version of yourself.
22. Change your posture
Changing your body language can be an effective way of “faking it till you make it”. Take on a “power pose” — stand straight, shoulders back, feet grounded firmly. This posture opens up your body and instantly makes you look more assertive and confident. It sends the message that “this is my body and I’m proud of it”. The more you adopt this pose, the more it will reflect in your mindset towards yourself and become second nature.
23. Change up your lifestyle
The way you live your life can drastically change your view on it. Finding a new hobby or setting new life goals for yourself can transform the way you view the world and yourself. It also takes your mind off obsessing over your body and gives you a new avenue to improve yourself fundamentally. Life doesn’t just revolve your self-image, there’s so much more out there about yourself that you have yet to discover and expand on.
24. Refresh your wardrobe
When you’re feeling uncomfortable about your body, you tend to wear clothes that hide those unattractive features. Your clothes don’t have to necessarily accentuate those features but instead they should make them look more flattering. Find those parts of your body that you are proud of and show off those assets instead. People will naturally compliment your new look and that can help you feel more confident about how you look. It might be daunting taking on a new look for the first time but try it out for yourself!
25. Smile more 🙂
You always look better when you smile! Practice smiling at yourself in the mirror until it feels natural and genuine; a fake or forced smile is very obvious. Slowly, you will subconsciously start to feel happier and that will translate into your thoughts as well. Smiling also projects self-contentment and confidence, which are attractive qualities on anyone.
Influencers that promote a positive body image
As mentioned in one of our tips, it’s important to have positive role models around you. Social media influencers can be a good source of inspiration because they are real people spreading body positivity on a public platform. It takes courage to be able to step out of your comfort zone like that so seeing people do that can be very inspiring.
The only downside is that there are not as many male body positive influencers in the scene as compared to female ones. Regardless, the body positivity message that they promote is universal: love your body and be proud of it. Here are a few male body-positive role models we found who are worth a follow.
Zach Miko (@zachmiko)
Zach is known for being the first model announced under IMG Models’ plus-sized division Brawn in 2016. He’s all about making a difference in society using his various platforms, such as his podcast and his advice column on the men’s plus-sized fashion brand Chubstr website. This actor-model proves that big and tall people are just as capable to make it in the industry.
Matt Joseph Diaz (@mattjosephdiaz)
Matt started their body positivity journey when they lost 270 pounds over six years, resulting in a lot of loose skin on their chest and stomach. They have since gotten surgery to remove the excess skin but till today, they continue to champion building a positive body image. Besides being a body positivity advocate, Matt also dabbles in cosplay and is an LGBTQ+ advocate.
Ryan Sheldon (@realryansheldon)
Ryan is very outspoken on his experience on eating disorders, having gone through a period of binge eating before. Now that he is much healthier, he uses his platform as a model to share his story and his journey to building a positive body image. He aims to use his experiences to show others suffering from eating disorders that it is possible to recover.
Kelvin Davis (@kelvindavis)
Kelvin is the writer behind Notoriously Dapper, a men’s fashion blog for helping plus-sized men look their best. Just looking at his pictures, the key point to all his outfits is always the big smile he wears on his face. His book shares tips on how to be a true gentleman and how to have confidence, no matter your body size.
Having a positive body image means that you are content and happy in your own skin. This directly influences your overall self-esteem and confidence, which can easily be seen by everyone around you. Once you learn to love your body as it is, you subconsciously start to want to take care of your body more as well.
Letting go of that body-hating mindset can be tough; after all, it is something you’ve accepted as a fact for so long. However, when you finally start to realize that your self-worth is more than just your skin and bones, it can be so freeing and liberating. For more tips to overcome depression and improve your mental health on a whole, check out our article on how to bounce back from those low points.