There’s no way around it. Compared to all the characters in movies, TV shows, and comic books, we’re ugly as hell. We don’t take care of ourselves. We’re fat. We’re weak. We’re unmotivated. Despite all this, we still like to pretend we’re sexier than Jennifer Lawrence in a bikini sucking on a popsicle. It’s as unhealthy as it is delusional.
What I just wrote is not to be taken as motivation or a sales pitch. It’s not even directed towards any person or group in particular. In fact, what I just said is merely a reflection of the thoughts I once conveyed whenever I looked in a mirror, minus that part about Jennifer Lawrence. Just like I am with my writing, I am my own harshest critic when it comes to my body and health.
I shamed myself. I shamed myself a lot for a good chunk of my adult life. It wasn’t just about my looks either. I had a serious self-esteem issue growing up. It wasn’t because of anything my friends or family did. That’s for sure. I did it to myself and not for all the right reasons. I was fucking miserable. I hated myself. In the end, however, it helped me in a profound way.
Confused? That’s to be expected. Annoyed? Yeah, I have that effect on people. Anxious? Well, you should be because I’m about to get personal again. I’ve talked about sleeping naked. I’ve talked about my own circumcision. Those topics are bound to fill peoples’ heads with unpleasant imagery. I hope this time is little anecdote is a bit more pleasant.
This personal story is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post on body-shaming. I understand that what I wrote probably offended certain people because I took the unpopular position that there’s some kind of merit to shaming. Then again, the people who took offense to that probably get offended when someone points out the color of the sky so I’m not going to worry too much about those people.
Instead, I want craft a real-life example of how shaming can make us better ourselves. It’s not enough to just be happy with who you are, love yourself no matter what, and never acknowledge any flaws you may have. I think it’s an important lesson to learn because people make a big fucking deal of self-esteem these days and worry endlessly that kids and adults alike or suffering when they don’t have enough of it.
Like snake oil and diet pills, self-esteem is basically seen as this cure-all for every mental shortcoming. Chief among those shortcomings involves how we look. We shouldn’t shame each other for looking different, right? We should love ourselves and embrace our inner beauty, right? It’s the lesson that Lady Gaga has taught an entire generation.
First off, this lesson is bogus. Second, it’s extremely easy for Lady Gaga to love herself. Why? She looks like this.
It’s very easy to love yourself when you’re beautiful. Beauty like this is beauty you actually have to work at. You think Lady Gaga looks this way because she just loves herself? Hell no! She has to fucking work at it. She has to actually earn the right to look this good.
This is an important concept and one that more people need to learn. Beauty and health aren’t things that we can gain just by loving ourselves. Self-esteem does not help you lose weight, nor does it make your acne go away. A lack of self-esteem can make it even worse. I would know.
This is how my story played out. For most of my life, I wasn’t very attractive. That’s not to say I was ugly. I wasn’t short, fat, or deformed in any way. I was basically just average at best or below average at worst. I also wore dorky glasses and had a horrible acne problem that plagued me for most of my teenage years. I never felt attractive. I never felt sexy. I basically went out of my way to make myself more miserable for not looking good.
I admit I was probably much harsher on myself than I should’ve been. While I was in school, I knew people who actually did have health issues, be it their weight or their appearance. Harsh or not, it did mess me up. It didn’t make me very pleasant to be around, that’s for sure.
I certainly didn’t get a lot of attention from women either. Believe it or not, girls don’t find pudgy, pale, self-loathing guys with an acne problem attractive. This certainly did plenty to undermine my self-esteem even more, but looking back on it, I can hardly blame them. I can’t imagine I would’ve been a good partner for any woman during that time.
So what changed? It had to have changed. I wouldn’t have the energy or the self-esteem to share this story if I had remained this sad, dorky, overly-emo kid with an acne problem. So how exactly did I respond to all that self-shaming and self-loathing?
Well, for one thing, it ensured I didn’t ignore it. When my acne got really bad, I made it a point to go to a doctor and get actual medication to help treat it. Believe it or not, modern medicine does work. I was able to find a treatment for my acne that more-or-less solved the problem. So thanks modern medicine! That’s one issue solved.
Modern medicine helped me out again down the line. Remember those dorky glasses I mentioned? Well, they’re gone now. I don’t wear them because I got Lasik surgery on my eyes to fix them. I now see perfectly. I now have a face that is unhindered by acne or glasses. I like to think it’s a cute face. I’m not Ryan Gosling, but I’m no George Costanza either.
However, modern medicine could only do so much. Sometimes, you need a good kick in the ass to get yourself to change. I definitely got that when a close relative of mine suffered a serious heart attack. He didn’t die, but it was serious.
The fact that he was only in his 50s really concerned me because after that incident, I found out that there is a history of heart disease and cancer in my family. On top of that, I didn’t take care of myself. My meals consisted primarily of sugary cereal, cookies, greasy burgers, and pizza. My exercise regiment was restricted to walking up to the store to buy more junk food. I was playing a risky game of poker with the deck stacked against me.
Despite this very disconcerting knowledge, I was still reluctant to get off my ass. The caveman part of my brain just didn’t want to change. It was just too easy to keep doing what I was doing. Plus, I really like the taste of cookies and junk food.
In the end, I feel the shaming gave me the extra push that I needed. Seeing myself in the mirror every day and not liking what I saw motivated me to do something about it. On top of that, I love comic books, as I’ve made clear on this blog many times before. In case you’ve forgotten, Superman looks like this.
Look at those muscles. Look at those abs. Look at that raw masculine power. Is it an unrealistic ideal for men? Absolutely. Superman is, by his own nature, the embodiment of an ideal. However, just because something is unattainable doesn’t mean it’s worth striving for. That’s a lesson Superman himself preaches.
I finally got that message loud and clear. One day, I finally dragged my pudgy ass out of bed and to a gym at the local rec center. I convinced myself to go there by promising myself that I would soak in the hot tub after getting in a workout. It wasn’t much of a workout to begin with, but it was a start and that hot tub felt dam good.
From there, a new habit formed. I started going to the gym more regularly, once a week to start. I soon felt the urge to do more so I started going twice. I bought workout clothes. I looked up fitness tips online. I didn’t buy into any gimmicky weight-loss crap from late-night infomercials. I just ran, lifted, and sweated.
Flash forward a bit more and now I’m an avid runner. I go out running for at least 30 minutes a day or four miles, whichever comes first. I do weight-training twice a week and I don’t go light either. I grunt, I sweat, and I toil. After every workout, I look like I just swam in a pool of my own sweat loved every second of it. I’m not going to lie either. It makes me feel damn sexy.
On top of the exercise, I did tweak my diet. This was, by far, the hardest. I had to cut a lot of sugar out of my diet. That meant cutting soda completely and saving cookies for special occasions only. That was painful. It meant eating more protein, such as eggs and chicken. It meant eating less red meat. These changes were tough, but worth it.
Now I’m not saying I look like Superman. I don’t. I’m not saying I have Brad Pitt’s abs or Hugh Jackman’s ass. I don’t. However, I can say that I look a lot healthier and a lot more attractive than I did before I started working out. I don’t have as much body fat anymore. I can actually see my abs. I actually have good bicep now. It does work, people. You can work out, eat better, get healthier, and become more attractive.
None of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t shamed myself into action. If I had just done what Lady Gaga said and loved myself, I would be 25 pounds heavier and far less healthy than I am now. Working out and becoming more attractive gave me more confidence and energy. It made me better to be around. It also made me more attractive to women, which is certainly a nice bonus.
I get that there are still problems with body shaming. There are people whose biology simply doesn’t allow them to look the way they want. It’s a difficult issue. Hell, it was the primary topic of my book, “Skin Deep.”
Until science advances to a point where it can make everybody look like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence, we need to push ourselves. We need to actually work at it if we want to be beautiful, healthy, and attractive. Just being content with who we are isn’t enough sometimes.
We need to shame each other to some extent to get our asses in gear and get healthier. It can be hard and downright demoralizing at times, but it’s worth doing. You feel better, happier, and sexier as a result.