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How to Tell If You Have Body Image Issues

Are you unhappy with the way you look? It’s rare to find someone who’s 100 percent satisfied with their own body—most of us have at least a few gripes and can single out features we’d like to change. For the most part, we just get on with things and try not to let it affect us. But in some cases, these minor concerns can escalate into a full-blown obsession.

Body image issues are obstructive and can have a negative impact on your lifestyle and mental health without you even realising it. But how do you know if you’re affected? We wanted to find out too, so here’s the deal:

What Is Body Image?

Put simply, it’s a mental picture of what we think we look like. The funny thing is, it doesn’t necessarily correspond with reality or the way others see us. The more skewed your perception becomes, the more likely you are to be unsatisfied with your body and to suffer as a result. It doesn’t matter whether you’re overweight, underweight, tall, short, bald, hairy or somewhere in between, you can pick faults in everything if you have an overly self-critical mindset.

And if you thought body image issues only affect women, think again. Men are just as vulnerable, but less likely to deal with it because we’re expected to maintain stoicism and confidence at all times. Don’t like the way you look? Stop being a pussy, suck it up and go the gym man. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get in shape. The problem happens when our current physical condition causes us undue pressure, anxiety or depression, and prevents us from engaging with society.

What Are the Signs?

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between legitimate concerns and debilitating body image issues, so here are a few questions you can ask yourself to try and figure it out:

  • How much time do you spend in front of the mirror? Obsessive self-scrutiny is a good indicator of an underlying issue, especially if your internal dialogue is almost exclusively negative while you’re doing it.
  • Do you compare yourself unfavourably to others? There’s nothing wrong with holding a particular type of physique in admiration and aspiring to improve your own, but drawing direct comparisons with other men is both a futile exercise and highly likely to dent your self-esteem.
  • Are you considering taking extreme measures to resolve your issues? If your biceps are bursting out of your shirt sleeves but you’re still unhappy, lacking confidence and considering the use of steroids or similar substances, there’s a good chance you’re suffering under the grip of a disorder (in this case “muscle dysmorphia,” or “bigorexia” as it’s known in gym circles). Same goes for starving yourself, binge eating and undergoing elective surgery.

What Can Be Done About It?

The first step toward overcoming your body image issues is to acknowledge them. In fact, awareness is half the battle. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re a weak person. Far from it—identifying a problem and resolving to deal with it shows courage, and many will commend you for that (me included).

If you’ve had an epiphany from reading this article, then you’re already well on your way to recovery. If you suspect you might have body image issues but you’re still unsure, I encourage you to keep investigating. Just remember to keep things in perspective. No one around you is paying as much attention to your size, shape or features as you are. Most people are far too engrossed in their own lives to notice, let alone judge you.

Q: What else can guys do to deal with body image issues? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

David CarrollDavid Carroll is a freelance writer, self-published author, and chief health-nut at Outside of work, he loves hurling (an amazing Irish sport), playing video games and hanging out with his dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidAshCarroll) and Google+.

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