The cultural conversation on body image issues is almost always centered around girls and young women. Rarely does the conversation point the laser on boys and what they face. Case in point: when looking online for an image of young boys looking in the mirror, I had to scroll for 25 minutes. But when I changed the search from boys to girls, I came across many pics with in seconds!
Unfortunately, many more boys are displaying the signs of negative body image as well, according to a post by Dr. Peggy Drexel in the Huffington Post, Beauty and the Boy:The Impact of Negative Body Image on Our Boys. While the expectations by boys of their bodies is different from those of girls, i.e. boys seek a muscular, built up physique versus a thin toned body, the anxiety associated with them is just as apparent. Boys feel the need to work out all the time and many thrive on the attention they receive from their bodies versus other aspects of themselves. They see themselves as more manly because of how they look. Drexel calls this “gender typing.”
But even more important, Drexel points out that a boy’s intense desire for a “masculine” physique manifests itself in more than just the physical realm. It stunts their emotional growth. She writes:
“Gender typing is believed to impede emotional development and account for violent behavior in boys. Boys who don’t feel pressured to adhere to gender roles, on the other hand, grow up to be more independent, more open-minded, and more sexually tolerant than their peers. They are more respectful of themselves, and of women.”
Wow. I’m all for my boys getting fit, even building some muscles. But letting them turn into neanderthals? No way.
Not only do we have to give the same pep talks to our boys as we do to our girls about loving their bodies, but we have to ensure that they don’t focus on assuming a very strict image of how a man should look. There’s no one ideal, just a body that’s healthy and vigorous.