The fruitless quest for a “perfect” body isn’t unique to women, though based on the body image conversations we tend to hear, it’s easy to think so.
Rather than obsess over attaining thinness, however, men are more likely than women to consider themselves underweight, and focus on getting more muscle tone, studies suggest. But there is a range of expectations for what a “masculine” body should look like — and negative associations with the ones that fall short. One study found that men linked being fat with “weakness of will,” while being lean and muscular was associated with “feelings of confidence and power in social situations.”
According to mental health experts, men may have a harder time accessing communication tools to express their insecurities and work through them. While there’s recently been more cultural celebration of a diverse range of body types for men and women, for men to communicate openly about body concerns still carries a stigma.
“No one can tell I have a belly when my shirt is on, so I feel like I’m exposing a secret when my shirt comes off.”
In an effort to demonstrate that men of all ages and sizes struggle with body image, HuffPost photographed 19 men, from those in their 20s to their 60s, without their shirts and spoke candidly with them about their body hang-ups.
Spoiler alert: Men have body insecurities, too, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Photos by: Damon Dahlen
“I feel comfortable and free when shirtless. I feel that my body is a form of art. There are some areas I wish to improve upon, but I definitely love my body type.”
“I’m OK with my body now. I’m still aware of where I can improve and personal ‘imperfections,’ but for the most part, I’m OK. [My friends and I] mostly talk about how we need to tighten up and get in the gym.”
“I always felt like I was inadequate. Lately, working [in media] has made me more comfortable in my own two shoes than any other time in my life. I have no idea why, but it seems learning about these spaces and ideas helps. With women I [discuss body image]. They’re always quite fruitful. With men, on the other hand, I avoid these discussions as men are constantly trying to avoid looking weak. It sucks.”
“I’m usually pretty fine without my shirt off, because I learned how to position myself about things I’m insecure about. My feelings haven’t changed about my body — I’ve always been pretty comfortable. Although I have realized I have to workout these days to maintain the same shape.”
Click HERE to see the other 15 men: 19 Men Go Shirtless And Share Their Body Image Struggles