To kick things off with the launch of our new website, I wanted to talk about Body Image, particularly as this is the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week which starts today.
I also wanted to introduce the topic of Body Image as our first discussion in our new site forum for all our members.
Growing up, even when I was a teenager, body image never really seemed to be an issue for me, I never fitted into a crowd, but then I came out as gay, and that started to change.
I was introduced by an old friend to a number of gay bars and pubs in Leicester, and all around there'd be these magazines, poster and leaflets everywhere. Thankfully social media hadn't made any appearance at that time.
On the surface of it, this media is designed to attract your attention to pick up and read, and afterall ladies and gents, these are some sexy covers, but the long term exposure started to change my own thoughts about myself.
I started believing that these images represented what I should aspire to, what I should look like, and it wasn't even a conscious choice.
I started feeling like my body was just plain ugly, flabby and weak, even though in those early days I was in fairly good shape. As I got older and started suffering from hereditary balding, my hair started thinning and disappearing; So this was another area of my body to become stressed about.
I couldn't help but feel like I would ever be enough, that idealised version of a gay man as having washboard abs, not an ounce of fat, chiselled jawline and full head of hair.
I just started having no self-worth, my self-esteem began to just slip away, and if you've felt the same about your own body you'll recognise those thoughts condemning yourself for not being perfect, for achieving this perfect look.
I've felt so ashamed of my body I started wearing tops that were baggy and loose to hide the curviness of my body. I tried many diets, but this just left me feeling even worse and I would just binge on all the wrong foods and retreat into myself. During those times that big black dog of depression would come to visit, and I would just sing further down from there.
More recently, I started realising that it wasn't there was only going to be one way that I was going to combat these negative feelings and thoughts I had about myself; It's a journey I started last year and continues on. I couldn't control what was shown in the media, those images of the perfectly chiselled gay man, what I could control was my own thoughts and feelings toward myself. I started shifting my internal focus from thinking negatively about myself and trying to achieve something that was too far out of my reach to just enjoying the journey, enjoying the freedom from movement and exercise and more importantly focusing on the present moment.
It's given my movement and mindfulness practice a bolster, and opened up a whole new part of myself, a part that allows me to be accepting, kind and compassionate towards myself whilst still engaging in movement practices which allow me to continually improve the health of my body, and because of this new found balance I feel like I'm no longer on a roller coaster when it comes to my body. I feel like I am discovering true freedom and enjoyment of my own body again like I had as a child.
Do you have an experience you would like to share about dealing with body image issues? Sign up as a member a share your thoughts and experiences in our forum today.