Broken Man

By Daniel Scharpenburg

We know today that women struggle with body image issues—they struggle a lot.

Unrealistic expectations are put on women from Barbie dolls to photo-shopped pictures in magazines. Women are expected to look a certain way and we all know this. This has been going on for a long time and we can all be glad that society can talk about it now.

Society talks about it more and more every day. Did you know Barbie dolls have been updated to be more realistic?

But I’m not writing about that. There are many places you can learn about how women deal with body issues. This is a big deal and I don’t seek to minimize it. But I do wonder sometimes why we don’t talk about men’s body issues. Men have them. Insecurity is a fundamental part of the human condition.

I started to wonder why we don’t.

I think our culture doesn’t raise the issue because men don’t talk about it. But there definitely is pressure on men to look a certain way too, just as there is on women. It might not be as severe, but we shouldn’t pretend it’s not there.

Why don’t men talk about it?

We’re not expected to talk about our feelings. We aren’t expected to besensitive. But many of us are. So, I am going to talk about it.

We can look at male celebrities and see how perfect they look—chiseled features, usually tall, definitely rock hard abs. All of the things that a lot of us don’t have.

The girls in my generation have the image of Barbie to try to live up to. The boys have the image of He-man. Or Superman. Or Batman. Bodies that are just as unrealistic as Barbie.

I’ve always been on the average side, I think.

As a kid I was short and scrawny and I had body issues. Even as a very young child I liked girls a lot. I love women and I always have and I really wanted them to like me. But as a kid they paid no attention to me, or at least I thought they paid no attention (I was a kid, what the hell did I know?). All I knew was that I was supposed to look a certain way and I didn’t.

I saw in cartoons what men were supposed to look like and I knew I wouldn’t look like that. I grew a foot in high school, so I’m average height now. But I still don’t have a six pack.

So, how did body image issues impact my life?

I did something a lot of women do. More than once I stayed in a relationship that I shouldn’t have stayed in because I was afraid to be alone. Because I was afraid that I just wasn’t good enough. While I’m not in that situation now, I definitely made a few bad choices in relationships because of my body image issues.

There is a stigma in our society about men talking about their feelings, especially our insecurities. Insecurity sounds like a weakness and we’re expected to pretend we don’t have those.

So let’s talk about it, guys.

Let’s start this conversation.


Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall



Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is a dharma teacher in Kansas City. He gives teachings Monday nights through the Open Heart Project, an online meditation community with over 20,000 members.

He went through facilitator training at the Rime Center in Kansas City, where he took Pratimoksha and Bodhisattva Vows. He was trained as a teacherin the Tsaotung Chan Tradition through the International Chan Buddhism Institute, where he took the Brahmajala Precepts and he is now recognized as a Dharma Teacher in the Dharma Winds Zen Sangha.

Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook and Youtube
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