The Influence of Male Body Image in Media
What is body image?
Body image is how you perceive, think and feel about your body. Poor body image, and the role of the media in particular, has received a lot of press. And there is a widespread awareness of how it can contribute to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. However, most of the research and resources focus on young girls and women. Unfortunately, poor body image and the pressure put on men and boys regarding how they look, think, perceive and feel about their bodies is making just as strong an impact.
How does body image affect men and boys?
Boys and men are also subject to intense media and peer pressure to look a certain way. This pressure has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Whereas girls are required to be slim, there is pressure for boys and men to be well-muscled, ripped and lean looking.
Males may start an exercise or fitness regime in order to ‘bulk up’ in trying to achieve this perceived ‘ideal’. But taken too far, this can lead to an obsession with diet and/or supplements and even steroid use. When taken to extremes, the end result may be a full-blown eating disorder.
Alarmingly, body image dissatisfaction for Western men is estimated to have tripled in the last 25 years. But because worrying about weight and body shape is often seen as a ‘female’ problem, men are far less likely to ask for help. Preoccupation with appearance, food and exercise can lead to anxiety and mood disorders and needs to be taken very seriously.
It’s all about confidence
Men who are concerned regarding how they look and being concerned about their body image can lead to them being overly critical about themselves. It can lead to negative thoughts about themselves and reduced confidence in their ability to complete some activities or be in certain situations. In severe situations, poor body image can cause increased stress, anxiety and even depression in men. If men are pressuring themselves to conform to a particular diet, exercise routine or are overly critical about their lack of ability to complete them, this can add to the stress.
It is important for us to assist all men to make the separation between their sense of worth and their perception of themselves (and others perception) in relation to their body image. We can do this by being open, honest and communicating what their strengths, what makes them unique and also holding non-judgemental conversations about how they feel about themselves.
Can cognitive behaviour therapy help?
Cognitive behavioural therapy, with a focus on behaviour and attitude change, is a well-evidenced, effective treatment for body image concerns. This treatment is available at The Psych Professionals. If you are concerned about yourself, a friend or family member, contact your doctor, a psychologist or the following organisations.