I am in my early twenties and I have been struggling with some negative thoughts about myself, particularly regarding the way that I look.
I have always had a small frame and therefore I have always found it very difficult to put on weight or to gain muscle. I have tried so many times to vary my diet and to exercise but nothing seems to work. It is always a topic at family gatherings as my brothers are a completely different build to me, as you can imagine I have always felt like the ‘‘weak’’ one, especially in my teenage years.
I am healthy and I know that is the main thing and I should be grateful for that. But I would be lying if I said that this issue does not impact me negatively on a daily basis, especially with regard to my self-confidence.
I find it difficult to hang out with my male friends who are each very athletic and ‘‘fit’’ looking. They often go to the gym together and talk about specific weight lifting techniques that they are using currently or a new protein that they are adding to their diets. I feel completely left out a lot of the time.
In terms of intimate relationships, I really struggle meeting women and having confidence in myself to even approach them. I worry that I do not meet the expectations that many women may have in terms of being ‘‘strong’’ or ‘‘manly’’.
Is there anything I can do to feel more confident and happy?
I am sorry to hear about what you are going through. I can well imagine you have struggled internally for some time. As a society we often forget that it is not just women that have certain expectations placed upon them to look a certain way and to fulfil a certain body type, but men too. You are not alone in feeling this way. In many cultures and across mainstream media, the ideals of masculinity translate to being physically strong, athletic and powerful. In recent years there have been many studies conducted that have illuminated how men feel uncertain and dissatisfied about their appearance. Would it surprise you to know that men, not just women, embark upon extreme diets, they binge eat, they suffer from anorexia or even turn to performance enhancing drugs in their efforts to attain the perfect body?
I am glad to hear that you acknowledge being healthy is the main thing. Indeed it is. The fact that you are fit and able to move from A to B in everyday life is such a gift. Continue to take care of yourself. It is important to remember that the relationship we have with ourselves is central to our happiness. After all, if you are unable to accept yourself, just as you are, how can you expect anybody else to?
You described feeling belittled or ‘‘weak’’ amongst family members. Experiences such as this, particularly during our childhood years, can have damaging effects upon our sense of self-worth and also create pathways to depression and anxiety disorders. If you feel as if your negative thoughts are becoming overpowering, it may be helpful to seek some counselling support. Do not shy away from seeking help. The therapeutic process will provide you with the opportunity to explore the roots of
your low confidence and to be supported in enhancing your self-esteem. When you feel accepting of yourself and when your inner confidence has been restored, you will find it much easier to form meaningful and successful relationships moving forwards.
Beyond that Gabriel, whenever you start to feel down about yourself, you must consciously burst that bubble as to what it means to be ‘‘strong’’ or indeed ‘‘manly’’. Instead, focus on being the best person that you can be. Be decent and kind and respectful. Continue to be fit and healthy in the way that your body permits. All we can do each day is try to be the best version of ourselves.
When it comes to the people in your life, be they friends or be they intimate relationships, always be aware that this should never be based upon a platform as to how you look. The right people are in your life because of the person you are and not because of your muscle mass.
Wishing you every happiness,
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