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Body Image and Self Esteem

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    Having confidence is a huge deal, and I think we often overvalue what we don’t have and undervalue what we do have, and thereby undermine our confidence.

    I had this experience overseas with a friend I met. He was gregarious and fun to be around, had plenty confident. At one point, several of us start showing off what what we can do physically. He can do bunches of pushups, walk on his hands, a bunch of things. I can do others-I’m petty flexible, can do one handed cartwheels, front handsprings, whatever. He thought that was very cool and commended me.

    What was striking was in how different we responded to our different skill sets. I was convinced that what I could do was blas? and unremarkable, and wouldn’t it be cool if I could do as many pushups as him. That would be something. I felt self-conscious for not being able to.

    Him, though? Didn’t seem stressed at all by this. What he could do was awesome, and what I could do that he couldn’t was just fine.

    It was a real learning lesson- whatever feelings of inadequacy I had could just as easily have gone the other way, but they didn’t. He decided, consciously or not, that his own skillset was awesome, and valued it accordingly. And I could in turn as well.

    By and large, we train others on how to treat us. When we carry ourselves as slight and inconsequential, people in turn treat us like that, and we feel that way. But when we take up space, and presume to see ourselves as important, we find people responding in kind, including ourselves. More on that in this video about body language.


    That video was brilliant Rob, thanks for the link.


    It’s hard to find balance. There seem to be a lot of people with an over-inflated sense of their ability with loads of confidence (I’m thinking of some of those Idol/Talent show contestants!) and others with extraordinary ability who either don’t recognise it or talk themselves down. A nice, realistic assessment of one’s abilities/worth with enough confidence to walk through life with ease and get the job done can seem rare and elusive at times.

    Matt Stone

    I think most people fluctuate between irrational overconfidence and irrational under-confidence. :) And I think those who display public confidence often display really dramatic private underconfidence.

    mighty m

    I would say that Skeletor is suffering for his physique! So gaunt in the face. And I know I started to grow webbed feet when I didn’t get enough carbs.

    Beautiful comments, JDubs!

    And Mila, I think plenty of lanky guys like bigger women. I’m in the medium-to-chubby range and it seems like ONLY skinny guys have pursued me over the years. OK, not only, but a plurality. I think all these skinny hipsters are going to start craving an ample bosom to rest their moustache upon.


    If only I’d had confidence in myself when I was 145 pounds at 5 foot 7, even when that went up to 160 I still looked fantastic, I had such a curvy, muscular body, but no, I thought I was a whale!! I made a problem where there was no problem. It didn’t help that my doctor put me on a diet when I was about 12 and heading into a major growth spurt where I put on 5 inches in a year. Once I grew into my weight the damage had already been done. :(

    I looked at all my petite friends, who were not only many inches shorter but had much finer bones… and I wondered why I couldn’t also be 120. Ugh!!! I wish someone had been around to try to reassure me… Sigh.


    I hadn’t thought about toys and such for boys much either. Yes those are rather freakish physiques. I do not like excessive leanness. I see some of these dudes that have their body fat way low and I think, if you put on some fat you’d look great. I dont like when the muscles get all “stripey”. But I can honestly say looks aren’t where it’s at, they are nice but it’s extremely rare I’m attracted to a man by his looks alone. Even actors won’t really look good to me unless they play a role of a character I like lol. A persons looks change to me as I see more of what they are onthe inside. Temperance and genuine care for others go a long way.

    But I always joke if I can beat him arm wrestling. It’s just not going to work out (I’m pretty strong for a girl). I, too, always felt huge because I am not built like most girls. I have more broad shoulders and an overall wide build. I am kind of an upside down triangle, long torso and arms, built like the a swimmer. Huge muscles, particularly my forearms and calves. Plus I’ve been chubby since I was ten. All these skinny girls made me feel like some kind of beast but I’m really over it now. There is a lot I can do that they cannot and I would not want to be tiny because I would not be able to do the kind of work I do. I like being outside and I like to be physically challenged. I like that I can handle a big buck in rut or a rearing stallion (although a good part of that is in the mind and technique). I can handle bales of hay and sacks of feed. When my dad needs help working on a vehicle or lifting something heavy, he has me help him. I can garden with hand tools. I have blisters in my hands and I prefer that to a manicure. Makes me feel useful.


    Skeletor was so effing awesome! I wish I still had mine.

    For me, it’s the guys on 300. That’s how I would like to look.

    mighty m

    @Ashley, I love your posts for the little bits about farm life they contain!

    I also grew up on a farm, and farm people openly disdained trying to be skinny as late as the 1980s (unless you naturally were, as my grandpa was), which is to their credit. Being sturdy and muscular — even with some fat — meant you could handle hard work, in their eyes.

    However, the outside influences *everywhere else* saying the opposite got me down big-time as a kid and teenager.

    re He-Man, that was the cartoon on after school for years for me. One time, this boy in class wrote a hilarious parody of it. 3rd or 4th grade. I don’t remember much, except it had a character called “Dorko, the flying wizard.” I thought that was so brilliant I almost fell out of my chair laughing and had a crush on that guy all the way thru high school.


    I’m here because I kind of ruined my health over the last five years I guess maybe in part with vanity, though I assumed I was also healthier. I’ve always been lean and responded well to strength training. I never really set out towards fitness or dieting goals or got the paleo religion, but I absorbed some bad ideas from that site and Art DeVany’s old site and I apparently wound up under eating by accident for a very long time.

    The leangains guy says eating one or two meals a day is fine. I didn’t find it hard at all to skip breakfast, so I did that many days for long stretches and would just have black coffee and not eat until 1PM. Art DeVany used to post pictures of his meals, which would vary but typically be something like 1/3 pound of some sort of meat or fish, a vinagrette salad with half an avacado, and a piece of fruit. This looked healthy to me, so I modelled my two meals a day on that. There’s no way the meal pictures he was showing are really all he eats because the calories are too low. I would eat quite a bit more than he depicted and often add a cup or two of buttery mashed potatoes, but the images still set me up to under eat.

    I was walking about three miles a day to/from work and erands, playing one or two tough racquetball games a week, and lifting pretty hard twice a week. I got very lean with a decent amount of compact muscle and looked great shirtless, if I do say so. I got welcomed attention from it.

    But then maybe about three years ago problems started cropping up: a weird bout of pleurisy, ocassional small patches of psoriasis, bruxism, acne flare ups that took weeks and weeks to truly heal, repeated painful and long bouts of sinusitis (loads of bloody mucus), and general anxiety and some muscle twitching. I increasingly felt over the months that something was badly wrong, but none of this was debilitating; just weird and very frustrating. In the last year my performance on the racquetball court fell apart and I’d be dead exhausted and slow halfway through matches when my chubby opponent fifteen years older was fine.

    The problem was obviously some sort of dairy or gluten allergy or vitamin defficiency! I mean I was ripped and pretty strong, so it couldn’t be a matter of diet or exercise. Time to waste hundreds of dollars on vitamins & minerals because I read somewhere bruxism and magnesium, and psoriasis and N-Acetylcysteine blah blah blah. Hmm, no improvement so I’d better finally take this paleo idea seriously and experiment with eliminating gluten/nightshades/whatever. Hmm, it’s probably a leaky gut so better try making yogurt and bone broths.

    I increasingly felt like shit and it just never even occurred to me that I was chronically undereating and the skipped meals were totally uncalled for, and doubly so considering the amount of exercise I was getting on top of substantial job stress. It’s embarassingly stupid. If I’d never read anything on the internet illustrated with pictures of ripped men and had just always ate like Mom cooked I’d probably never have had these problems.

    This was more personal account blather and not body image commentary. I guess my overall point is image and health conscious people are more dangerously susceptible to well packaged dumb ideas about diet and exercise because they actually execute, and probably often have less room for additional stress to start with. I am sure a lot of healthy and strong people are fucking themselves up right now by doing a lot of “intermittent fasting” for long stretches.

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