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Dealing With Body-Related Insecurity
The Elephant In The Room...
Insecurity is a tough pill for many to swallow, but in the world of fitness, it’s extremely common—it likely might just be the reason you started down this path.
Unfortunately, the gym and getting fit isn’t as easy as “start fat” → “get jacked and feel great”. You might physically feel worlds better, but for many, they never really “see”, mentally, “the new, improved product.” For many, they still see a version of the person they were before they started.
On another hand, you might realize you look better but are constantly nit-picking at some part of your body that might not be where you want it to be, which is fine when done objectively, and in a positive manner, but not so much when we are hyper-fixating on insecurities that don’t really matter or even worse—don’t really exist outside your own head.
This is reality, we don’t speak about it, and we even make jokes about our “bigorexia” or whatever body dysmorphia jokes we make—probably to cope with our own insecurities—but the reality is it exists, rampantly.
We aren’t going to go into root causes or some bs about unrealistic ideal body types created by media or whatever argument is thrown around, we are going to look at you and where you need to make a mental shift to deal with your own issues stemming from the way you look.
Like many young men, my journey into weightlifting was one fueled by feelings of inadequacy with how I look and a desire to be something better than average. I was experiencing deep anxiety issues, likely linked to my poor lifestyle choices and lack of direction in life. When I looked in the mirror, I DID NOT like who I saw—I was fat, puffy, slowly growing a chest of fat, not muscle, & generally not in a good place physically.
I was fed up, decided to take control of my life, and made drastic changes so maybe I could just change what I thought of the person I saw in the mirror.
Months go by, and I do make drastic physical changes, around 6 months in, the excess fat was gone and I had built a semblance of a good physique. The issue was the way I saw myself was still inadequate—a feeling that remained for years even after building what would be considered a good physique.
Fast forward, I join the military, try out and pass Special Operations selection, but the issue still somewhat lingered, albeit better because I learned to see my body as a tool to get a job done, not just some vanity metric.
It wasn’t until a little bit after this that a shift happened, call it maturity, call it perspective, call it whatever, but I began to see things differently.
At a certain point, it all clicked: “what is the point of all of this if it’s not making me happy, I know I look good so why do I care so much about the little details, and why not just enjoy knowing I look better than 99% of the population”.
Introspectively, I’ve come to conclusions about why this happened and the root causes of being able to get over the insecurity that plagues so many people who go to the gym. Now I can’t say I have all the answers to solve your issues, I can only post about my experience, some of the others I have worked with, and the best knowledge to that ability.
Remember What This Is All For
If you’re reading this, you are on a mobile device or a computer which means you are doing better than most of the world, statistically, because a large number don’t have electricity or even running water.
You live in the most luxurious times the world has ever seen, regardless of what doom & gloom has been peddled by the media.
If you are fat or overweight, you get to make the conscious choice to deprive yourself of food to lose all the excess fat you have been storing for years—instead of being forced to be hungry because you legitimately just don’t have access to the resources.
You get to go to a gym with pretty little equipment designed specifically to work your pretty little muscles, so you can eat food in the exact proportions of proteins, carbs, and fats that will grow the muscle—which is calorically expensive (a luxury)—so you can look a little better in the mirror and to others you probably don’t even like anyway.
Why do we do this?
To look better, feel better, be healthier, and maybe stand out a little for the opposite sex. Understand this has an extremely diminishing return once you have reached the upper percentages of physiques, statistically (top 5% or so physiques).
If you’re doing this like many do because you enjoy lifting, growing, and challenging yourself in the gym (like I do) then understand that, compartmentalize that, know you look good and this is all just the icing on the cake.
If you are just starting and look bad—if you are legitimately in bad shape, let this fuel you but understand this is a product of your previous choices and your new, better choices will reverse those bad choices in time—nothing to get hung up about, just persist and continue becoming better day by day, that is all we can do.
You need to have the self-awareness and perspective that this is all a luxury and something we do to feel better. If you are allowing this to rule your life, govern how you feel about yourself, and ultimately be a negative to your self-esteem then you need a good, hard look in the mirror and a conversation with yourself.
Likely this is stemming from something deeper—get uncomfortable and dig into what that might be—it’ll likely help you figure out many other flaws and bad habits that are also stemming from this same issue.
Many, many young dudes get jacked in the attempt to get women, and a lot of insecurity stems from this. Understand this and understand this well:
It can and likely will help you in your pursuits, but it will not do all the work and is not the only factor that will help you pick up women. It very well will help you get attention and be taken seriously, but women aren’t going to just flock to you and this isn’t going to solve your anxiety about talking to them (many guys suffer from this).
These will all be separate things you need to work on—do NOT use your body as an excuse to become a gymcel who thinks he needs to lift 2 hours a day to get laid—it’s simply one aspect and only really does the job of “getting your foot in the door”.
The more jacked you get the more attention you will get… from dudes… women just really don’t care beyond a certain point and really it’s only other bros that are going to really notice the extra inch on your bicep.
Be objective with yourself, especially if you have an appreciable physique;
Are you chasing some dragon you will never catch?
Why are you chasing that dragon?
What do you think will happen if you were to actually catch it?
There will always be something we can work on, sure. Maybe you really do have a lagging body part, maybe you really do have bad genetic insertions of a muscle. Who fucking cares.
Identify it, without emotion, work on it, but don’t for a second let it actually affect how you think about yourself. This is all just a fun game, a luxury, a cherry on top of living in the most luxurious times in the history of the world.
No one notices but you, and if they do, I promise they don’t care—most are stuck way too far up their own asses and insecurities to truly care.
There is 1 thing you can do though, however:
Just be the best you can be, make good decisions daily, accept you as a human with flaws, accept you’re not perfect, will never be perfect, and everyone else is just as imperfect.
That is all you can do, if not you could end up going down weird rabbit holes of plastic surgery, steroid abuse, and other negative coping mechanisms… all for something that no one actually cares about—please just be happy you’re alive, get the pure privilege of going to the gym and having fresh food, and strive to be the best YOU CAN BE, not the best you think others want you to be.
This is so much easier said than done—I would be lying if I said these words will fix it, but what these words can do is move you, these words can change your perspective, these words can help you catch yourself when you’re viewing yourself irrationally on something as superficially as how you look—how you look matters and you should strive to look YOUR best, but understand the huge diminishing return of pursuing this too far.
Look great, be healthy, and enjoy the fruits of your labor, please!
Where To Take Action
I’m not going to leave you with some emotionally charged soap box, I will also give you some tools you can use to help tackle this issue.
1. Identify Negative Thoughts/Emotions About Your Body
When this happens, immediately “flag” it mentally and acknowledge the thought. Run through the series of questions of “why am I feeling this?”, “am I overreacting and being unrealistic?”, “What is the deeper meaning of this?” etc.
Essentially, be introspective and meta-cognizant—think about why you’re thinking that way. That is what is going to lead you to the deeper underlying issues causing these feelings to arise in the first place.
It is important that you are aware of and identify when these thoughts and feelings take place. We can only work on what we are aware of.
2. Take The Emotion Out of The Thoughts
This is what I mean by “be objective”—don’t view the thought negatively or positively, it is just a thought that exists. Don’t allow the words to have any power, to the best of your ability, simply observe them as they are.
Instead of emotional, view it with logic—does the thought make sense, and is it true?
You will likely find it is an irrational thought if you deductively break it down, meaning does it really affect you that much within the context of what is written above, and could it possibly be that you’re overreacting?
Odds are, you will realize it’s kinda silly to worry about your self-worth in relation to the size of a muscle or the relative amount of calories (fat) stored in your body when you are making the attempt to remedy that issue… if it even is an issue.
Be rational as you can be here, easier said than done but happens with practice (this won’t happen overnight).
3. When You Identify These Thoughts, Reframe Them
When the insecure thoughts strike and you identify them, reframe them into a positive because that is one of the only ways we are going to rewire your subconscious—where these thoughts are stemming from.
Instead say “well, I don’t look great, YET, but I am working to get there and I will with time.”
Instead say “oh sure, my legs aren’t growing as fast but that’s fine, I’ll just continue working them, they already look pretty good so let’s improve them.”
Notice the positive spin, not saying “oh god they look like shit, I am ugly because my quads are just slightly unproportional to my upper body and no one but me notices but it’s ruining my life”—BAD, don’t do this.
4. Add Perspective & Gratitude To Your Reframe
Now, we have identified, taken the emotion out, and spun it into a positive—now let’s change the thought with actual positive emotion and context.
Remember how lucky you are to have the ability to change your body and actually have control of your health and fitness. You are worried about an issue that is so futile in the grand scheme it’s almost funny.
Be happy and grateful you are able to simply be alive with a body that works when the world as a whole is a rather impoverished, harsh place that you don’t have to exist within your bubble of existence.
Remember we do this for health, to feel better, and to look better and the fact you get to do this is amazing, it means you have such little problems that you are in fact worrying about your body which ultimately dies one day and is not representative of your soul or who you are as a human.
5. Accept Yourself, How Far You’ve Come and How Far You’ll Go, & Believe You Can Make a Change
Gratitude is an amazing emotion—a better goal than “happiness” itself because it directly leads to happiness and other positive emotions.
If you do have things you need to work on, accept that you need to work on them, understand they don’t define you as a person, and truly know and believe that you can work to the best of your ability to become better—this is a place of power, not a place of insecurity.
You know you have the ability to become the best version of yourself you can become, so focus on that, not some arbitrary, superficial goal. We do this to be better, not to measure our worth. Instead, measure your worth in how much effort you put into the goal of simply being better.
Hopefully, you find the peace of mind that you cannot control every micro aspect of how you look but you can control how much effort you put into being better. Focus on the benefits you are getting from this—you feel better, look better, and likely will live longer and happier because you are taking care of your body!
You have to believe that you are enough and will continue to be enough—this is all just icing on the cake, the cherry on top of your human existence.
This advice is coming from a competitive bodybuilder, someone who is judged on just how specifically good their body looks.
If I actually let that dictate how I viewed my self-worth, I would go insane. Instead, as cliche as it sounds, I focus on 1 thing: Being better today than I was yesterday, and being better tomorrow than I was today! DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS, YOUR ONLY COMPETITION IS YOU AND BECOMING BETTER!
If I can do this under the scrutiny my body comes under, you can do this as a hobby or lifestyle you do to improve your life, no one is actually judging you!
Please, if you take anything away from this, let it be the fact that your body should be a sense of power, not something that takes away from your enjoyment of life—it is far too short and this is far too futile of a vanity metric.
Have faith, you will become a better, if not the best version of yourself, and that is more than enough!
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.