Thursday, March 22, 2012

Body Image & Pressure on young adult males.

So, I wrote a few blogs over on my Personal Training business site about body image issues with young females and in particular this notion of the media "pressuring" them to be thin which in my opinion is, well... garbage.

But rather than be redundant and repeat myself here, you can just follow these links to the entries I'm talking about. Apparently they are quite insightful and people have liked them a lot so far.

  1. Weight management body image and depression in young people.
  2. A healthy approach to weight loss is crucial.
  3. Body image; work to your strengths.
So those articles are talking more about girls to an extent but have you noticed, there's a new angle on this story that the media have picked up on? Apparently it's not just young girls, but now young boys also have body image problems because they feel PRESSURED to have a muscular physique like the lead actors in all those action movies we like to watch.

What an absolute load of complete and utter bollocks.

There's been a couple of stories on the current affairs shows about this lately. The most recent was on SBS Insight program where I think they got like 3 kids who were into weight training and a panel of know-nothing-know-it-alls telling them "stop doing that, you only THINK it is making you happy" and demanding that they justify their choices in life as if it is anyone's business but their own. 

The implication being that trying to eat healthy is an eating disorder, choosing not to eat basically toxic fast foods is ruining their social lives, and whey protein and creatine are dangerous steroids. Seriously I'm not making this up.

And of course, it's because they feel pressured by society to look like action heroes.

Let me tell you something. Never in my entire life have I felt pressured by society to put in an effort to improve myself or become above average in any field.

Where I have felt pressured? Let me think. Here's a list off the top of my head;
  1. Stop lifting weights.
  2. Stop being a vegetarian.
  3. Stop listening to heavy metal and listen to normal music (which was probably, fucking, "who let the dogs out" or some such drivel at the time).
  4. Stop writing my own songs and just play music that other people like.
  5. Cut off your hair (when I looked like a rockstar from my teens into my mid 20s)
  6. Stay in some mind numbing job where you're miserable, but you're making decent money and that's what people are supposed to do.
That's all I can think of. Basically stop doing anything that makes you an individual, and just conform and be like everyone else, completely mediocre, bland and boring. 

Have things changed that much in the past 20 or so years (yeah I'm pretty old now), that young kids today actually feel that they need to hit the weights just to be good enough for society's approval?

Well, if these tv shows are anything to go buy; I put it to you that things haven't changed a god damn thing. A bunch of kids are pursuing an interest in life, and rather than say "hey good for you, making the effort to achieve a goal", the response is "oh you need to knock that off, why do you think you need to be in better shape than other people?" or "that activity does not appeal to me personally, therefore you shouldn't be doing it either".

Pressure vs Inspiration

I dunno who comes up with this stuff. It seems to me that a young kid might watch Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, or Brad Pitt as Achilles, or which ever WWE Superstar or UFC fighter... and they think "bloody hell, have a look at that physique. Gee that's impressive. But if HE did it, I can certainly try my hardest to build a physique like that. Wouldn't that be something?" And if they've got what it takes to actually step up and work towards that goal... jesus christ, that's admirable isn't it? And these jerks try to tell them "oh, don't do that - why should YOU be allowed to feel proud of your achievements if I get nothing out of it?"

And THAT is the issue here, as far as I see it.

You hit the gym every day and eat right because you're motivated to do something for yourself, to better yourself (at least as far as your physical appearance goes) and to feel a sense of pride in your accomplishments. Pride and self esteem comes from trying your best in life. 

So... we live in a country where footballers are considered the elite of society. Swimmers and other Olympic athletes are national heroes and we all marvel at their dedication and hard work required to get to that level of athleticism, so that we can sit back on our recliners, cheer them on and share in their victories as if they were our own. Right? It'd be un-Australian not to, or so I am frequently told. 

Now compare this to the view of the average guy who hits the gym every morning before school or every evening after work. He's showing dedication and working hard towards his own personal goals. But because the average slob isn't entertained by it, there's no "grand final" to get excited about or victory to share in... you see where I'm going here?

So. Enough with this bullshit talk about young people feeling pressured by society to do ANYTHING. I put it to you that the problems young people face are more about actually wanting to do something with their lives, to express themselves, and make something special of themselves, and society tells them "you can't do that, there's something wrong with you for even wanting to". The exception being spectator sports, of course.

I hope some young people read this and become more determined than ever to work hard, put in the effort and chase down your goals and become the person you'd like to be. And if the losers out there resent you for it because you had what it takes and they didn't... too bad.

Right?