The definition of beauty has never been more misunderstood. The truth is that we are all beautiful in our own way, but pop culture, the advertising industry, and our willingness to be consumed by them have taken us leagues away from that understanding.
Instead, some of us praise levels of skinniness that are near impossible to attain, while others gawk over sizeable curves in only particular places. What made the mass media decide to start promoting these particular shapes so heavily, and more importantly, how is this impacting us?
The greatest and most obvious repercussion can be seen in our levels of self-confidence and self-love. Rather than embracing who we are, and only challenging ourselves to better our physical bodies for improved health, we instead go after the unattainable.
While many individuals certainly have put in an admirable amount of work to boast the bodies that they have, even those bodies — the result of more time, money, and professional coaching than the majority of us can or would care to commit to our physical appearance — are often not depicted accurately in most mediums. Already impressive abs are contoured, lit, and photoshopped to be even more "ripped," and already skinny arms are made even skinnier and more toned — amongst many other common adjustments.
While the majority of beauty ideals are directed towards women, men certainly feel the pressure to be beautiful, too. To prove this, the four gentlemen behind The Try Guys (Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Eugene Lee Yang, and Zach Kornfeld) decided to seek professional help in re-creating four famous male celebrity photos.
They decided to document the entire experience, showing not only just how many adjustments can be made in the creative process but also how they feel about their bodies.
As a man, I've regularly battled with the reality that I do not boast the prototypical "alpha male" body. At times it has been valuable to me in terms of motivation, but the majority of the time it has led to far more self deprecating thoughts than I would ever like to inflict upon myself.
While my conscious understanding of just how unnecessary this self-judgement is has helped, my experiences working in film and television have done the exact opposite. I cannot count the number of times I've been told in an audition room that I was not "manly" enough to be considered for the lead male role.
What I particularly appreciated about The Try Guys experience is that they were all willing to open up about their insecurities. I'm certain that many people in this world find each of them physically attractive, but it's difficult to feel that confidence internally amidst the current pop culture landscape.
A Helpful Exercise
A challenging but useful exercise that has helped me to overcome a lot of my self-judgement is to stand completely naked in front of a full-length mirror. (TIP: Do this exercise alone in a room with a door that locks!)
Take a breath to calm yourself, and then let your mind run wild, pointing out everything "wrong" that it finds with your body. Once it runs out of things to say, go through and focus on each of those aspects of your body, one at a time. This time, however, repeat the phrase "I love you" while looking at it. Repeat this process as many times as you need to until your energetic feelings towards that part of your body shifts.
It may seem stupid at first, but you quickly adapt to the experience and may be pleasantly surprised by how good it makes you feel. Not only have I done it personally, but I've also had several friends go through the exercise and report positive results as well.