Male body confidence isn't an issue that you see very often in the media. For those of us in our late teens and early twenties talking about how we feel in our own skin just isn't something that comes naturally. But, with summer just around the corner the pressure to be body beautiful feels like it's everywhere. And it's not just me who feels like this. 34% of boys surveyed by ICM for youth empowerment programme National Citizen Service said they feel pressured to attain a muscular figure while 55% of girls surveyed have said they feel the pressures to be skinny. But where's this pressure around so-called 'perfection' coming from, and what can we do about it?
For many of us it seems easier to play video games, do work, or watch panda videos (if you're like me!) than talk about this stuff. We men fear that when we try and open up about our physical insecurities we will immediately be mocked, instead of receiving the friendly pick-me-up we actually need. But, this is sometimes about other people putting you down to make themselves feel bigger than anything to do with our own body fears.
Then there is the often negative impact of social media. From my own personal experience, I don't think that social media really helps to bolster confidence; I follow a lot of celebrities on platforms like Instagram and I notice that some like to post a lot of topless pictures, or ones that show off their muscle. This certainly gets me down because I am a thirteen stone, seventeen-year-old puzzle enthusiast rather than a celeb who flashes pecs and tattoos just reaching to get a coffee! These images feed into the mythical idea of a "perfect" male body: it seems men are supposed to be six foot six with biceps the size of a small village.
But, the thing is, there is no "perfect" body. I am hardly the slimmest of gentlemen, which meant that I wasn't exactly good at sport during my high school years. As a result, I was often criticised by those who were able to run the quickest or hit a ball the hardest because I couldn't match their abilities. Even if I did find something I was good at, like tennis, I was still put down because I was apparently "too fat" to participate. It was these comments that made me give up playing because they got to me, and because I'm not the kind to fight back, I simply let them.
This changed when I did NCS. It boosted my confidence enormously. I got involved in physical activity again and made so many new friends. NCS gave me the ability to be myself. It's why I'm passionate about telling others about it so that they can find themselves this summer. It's also why great Insta stars like LukeIsNotSexy are working with NCS to talk about body confidence through their vlogs. It helps because we can all identify with some of the things he brings up around body image, bullying and mental health, and that can help us all be more open about the things we're each worrying about.
Society needs to get rid of this "perfect" body malarkey. Good for you if you have abs you can grate cheese on, or arms that resemble Bronwyn Brunt's. But it's important to remember that everyone has their own special beauty, it's just this isn't always especially obvious on the outside. And to the people who bullied me in high school and said I was too large for tennis? I think you'll find that they're called "curves", my darlings!