By Piton Riel.
We tend to think Body Image Issue only affect the female population, especially teenagers. Granted, women have always been told to conform to a certain socially constructed standard. For instance, women who weigh more than 50kg are considered to be overweight or atypical by the Korean beauty standard, despite of other physical factors such as their height.
Because we associate Body Image Issue with only women, it is often overlooked for men. Part of the problem is men feel ashamed to speak about an issue that is considered to be non-existent for them. Owing to this notion that men are not affected by Body Image Issue, they are shunned from talking about it, and continue to suffer in silence. Additionally, the issue goes beyond the obsessive desire to shred our body fat or to gain muscles, but it can also lead to other issues, such as depression and anxiety. The issue is further perpetuated and exacerbated by social media, where everyone is showing off their #BlessedLife and #OnTheGrind gym selfies of their picture-perfect bodies feeding their egos at the expense of our self-worth.
When I was around the age of 12, I was often called “Ah Jruk” (Pig in English) as I was rather “chubby” at the time. In retrospect, I acknowledge that it was probably a light-hearted nickname they gave me, and I should not have taken it seriously. Yet I did. In my mind, I was the fat kid, the odd one out of the bunch. I internalized what was only supposed to be a joke into a voice that kept telling me that I was not good enough, and ugly. It severely affected my self-esteem growing up. Even now I have lost 10Kg of weight, I still feel as though I was still “fat”; and I often feel terrible about myself for days whenever I eat a little more than usual for an occasion because I disparately do not want to go back to being “fat.”
I can agree on the promotion of eating healthy and exercising to improve the quality of our lives. However, I also believe that there are more constructive ways to spread that message, other than shaming someone into feeling worthless about themselves and their bodies. People who are suffering from body image issue, both male and female, should be encouraged and empowered to speak up about their struggles. Moreover, by provoking discussions, we can get rid of the stigma that men do not experience body image issue. And to the people who are reading this right now and are suffering from Body Image issue, just know that you are not alone, and together we are stronger. It will get better.
For those who know that your loved ones are suffering from Body Image Issue, make sure that you approach the topic with an open mind and, most importantly, PATIENCE. Try to lead by example by practicing self-acceptance and refrain from talking negatively about your body as it could only further prolong the issue. It is difficult—borderline confusing—try to understand the issue, but it is worth it if you could help someone from their worst enemy, that is themselves.
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How to help a friend with negative body image. (2019, February 13). Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-02-friend-negative-body-image.html.
Rollin, J. (2016, September 6). 3 Ways to Support a Loved One With Body Image Issues. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/3-ways-to-support-a-loved_b_8096768.