A few weekends ago, I ended up having a Saturday night out in a gay club. A standard club evening by all means: the music was loud, the lights were flashy, the men were pretty. One couldn’t help but notice the stunning Gogo dancers on the main stage, showing off their 6 packs and perfect pecs to the crowd. And one couldn’t help but feeling slightly self-conscious as a result.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very comfortable with my own body: I train hard, I eat well, I love my physique, and I get lots of compliments about it. I know my body is capable of great feats of strength, endurance, flexibility and movement. It has and continues to serve me well. Nevertheless, I still felt a twinge of jealousy and insecurity.
And it made me wonder what us men are led to think. Just as women are pressurised by media and society to look thin, it seems that men, and especially gay men, are bombarded with ideas and perceptions of what we should look like. Open any male-oriented magazine, from the lifestyle advice in Men’s Health to the gay chatter of Attitude or Boyz, and you will find a gallery of perfectly groomed, well oiled, muscular hunky men. This Greek God look has somehow become THE look that we, as modern gay men, should work towards. And this has a definite impact, subconscious and conscious, on our feelings, our thoughts, our emotions.
How many times have you looked at a male model and thought “I need to workout more”? How many times have you gazed at a Gogo dancer and thought “I wish I had that body”? How many times have you looked at someone at the gym and thought “I will be happier when I am a bit bigger”?
Then truth is we all do it, myself included. We all, at one point or another, feel unworthy, or not good enough, because we don’t look a certain way. We feel that we should be doing more, be training harder, be eating healthier foods; we focus on what we are not, as opposed to what we already ARE. We bring ourselves down, which in turns affects our confidence, our self-love, and our emotions. We are never completely happy with the way we look, are never satisfied by our current appearance. As a trainer, I see this everyday, at the gym, but also out and about. How many times have I heard guys saying they hate their bodies, that they wished they could look a certain way? The common perception that is the Perfect Gay Physique is an absolute that we associate with happiness, but that has a profound negative impact on the subconscious thoughts of most men.
This common perception affects us on another level too: it distorts our expectation of true attraction. A lot of us have come to define our perfect man by his physical attributes first. We won’t even give someone who doesn’t fit that category a second glance. The physical aspect of a man has become his main quality, the focal point of his status, and for some, the basis of a relationship. Who knows what men we turn away that might match us on a much deeper level: intellectually, emotionally, even spiritually.
But if you look at the ideal Gay Physique, you can get an idea of what you are REALLY looking for. You are attracted to bigger, more muscly guys? Maybe all you are looking for is for someone (or something) to make yourself feel stronger, more powerful, more confident. You are attracted to defined guys with perfect abs? Maybe you just want your partner to be healthy and to take care of himself and his body.
And that is what you SHOULD be training for: health, strength, speed, power. Accept and love your body the way it is, then strive to better it. Enjoy your physicality, enjoy pushing your body to it’s limits, enjoy finding new ways to challenge it. Focus on connecting and feeling your body, not just on the way it looks. Eat well, train hard, take care of yourself. Your body will carry you through your entire life, you may as well love it, be proud of it, and enjoy it.