Not very long ago, someone that I follow on Google plus posted a tasteful self-nude. The reason I mention this is that he did this with the intent of making a statement. His intention was to take back his power from those who judged him based on his body. What really struck me is the comments that were posted in response. I think this was one of the first times I’ve seen so many men admit that they struggle with self-acceptance and body shame. For women, this is, sadly, a very common experience. I suspect, however, that it is just as common for men and especially for gay men.
Current statistics suggest that 10% of bulimics and anorexics are male. It may actually be higher because men often under report eating disorders. Our media culture routinely uses tools like Photoshop to create unrealistic (and often impossible) images of the “perfect body”. For gay men, our culture emphasizes youth and (lately) being thin as the “ideal”. When I was single, I was often amazed at how frequently I’d see ads for “Mr. Right” that listed a long list of admirable personality traits (intelligence, romance, loyalty) and then ended with “No fats or fems”. Is it no wonder that so many gay men haven’t found Mr. Right when they’ve narrowed their focus to some superficial criteria? Talk about judging the book by its cover.
From a spiritual perspective, I think we can all agree on the need for self-acceptance and being comfortable in our own skins. Presenting a confident exterior boosts attractiveness and we’re more able to love and connect others when we love ourselves. At the same time, though, it is much easier to say “love yourself” than it is to actually do it. How can we become more comfortable with the body we have? How do we insulate ourselves from the judgments of others and love ourselves? There are no easy answers.
The music duo, Salt-N-Pepa, had a song called “I am the Body Beautiful” that I think gives some ideas. (Sadly, this song only appears to be available on the Too Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar soundtrack.) Consider these lyrics:
Everybody’s beautiful in their own special way
Carry yourself like a queen and you will attract a king
Beauty comes from within
Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, you will achieve
Beauty and confidence truly are a state of mind. There are many spiritual traditions that teach that through our thinking we create our own reality. I think when it comes to subjective concepts like beauty and attractiveness, this is especially true. Those that present themselves with confidence tend to be viewed as attractive by others.
- Wear clothes that you enjoy. Choose colours that lift your mood. Clothes can add an air of mystery, they can emphasize our best features but most importantly they can affect how we feel about ourselves. Wear things that make you feel good.
- Treat your body well. I realize not everyone has the time or motivation to spend hours everyday in the gym but you don’t have to spend all your time working out to focus on keeping your body healthy. Eat good food and get some exercise. You can make this part of your spiritual practice by doing things like taking a walk in nature or spending a moment to attune your food’s energy to your body.
- Keep the right company. You may wonder for a moment how this will help you love your own body but negative people are toxic to our own sense of self-worth. If you spend your time with shallow people, you will find yourself focusing on the wrong things. Be with people that love you for you.
- Practice affirmations. If you spend time staring into the mirror telling yourself that you’re fat or that your face is broken out, you’re manifesting the negative traits. In the film, What the Bleep Do We Know, the main character says, “You’re fat. I hate you” to her image in the mirror and sees her body inflate in the mirror. She experiences a break through and in the next scene we see her drawing hearts and spirals on her body in a bath in an act of self-acceptance and love.
- Speaking of baths, spend time being sensual. Soak in a scented bath. Get a massage. Give yourself a facial. Spending time showing your love to your body will reinforce it.
- Treat others with respect and love. Learn to look beyond the physical shell at the beauty and divinity inside of others. According to the Law of Return, treating others in this way will lead to others treating you in a like manner. You’ll also find that others will be attracted to your kindness.
Beauty truly does come within. Start there. And like my friend on Google plus, refuse to give your power away. No one else can tell you that you aren’t a beautiful person.
Every man and every woman is a star – Liber Al vel Legis I:3
How do you create the body beautiful? Please share your ideas in the comments.