Want to Love Your Body? Think Like a Man.

Via Kimberly Lo
on Aug 10, 2013
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As someone who has written a lot about body issues, I often ask myself: what is the secret to loving one’s body?

Like most things, there are no easy answers. Body image is something that affects people of both sexes but overwhelmingly, women are more affected than men.

Why is that?

Some point to the fact media images sexualize and objectify women far more than they do men. Others point to the fact that we live in a sexist culture. I believe there is some truth in both of these things. However, I think a big part is how, starting at a very young age, girls and boys are conditioned to see their bodies: the former are told see their bodies as ornaments while the latter are advised to see them as tools.

It’s true: think of how often people tell a young girl she is a “pretty girl” whereas a boy is often called “strong.” The women I have seen with body confidence tend to think a lot like guys in that they focus what their bodies can do vs. what they cannot.

Other tips:

1. Know that sexiness is not dependent on your size.

I mentioned this when I wrote about the secrets of seductresses, but true sexiness has nothing to do with how someone looks. Like that post pointed out, history is full of legendary sirens who would never make the cover of Vogue or even your local Shopper’s Weekly.

Men can know this. There are a lot of men with less-than-perfect bodies who are none the less considered sexy. Think of the late, great James Gandolfini. Believe it or not, I know a lot of women who considered him very sexy. I was amongst those that did and always marveled during one episode of the Sopranos where he appeared in only a small pair of briefs and nothing else with his large belly and hairy shoulders on display.

Now, one could argue he was doing this as part of his job requirement and was a great actor to boot which could hit any anxiety. Nonetheless, he appeared confident, and that was sexy. In any case, I had no problem believing that a woman who looked like Edie Falco would be married to him and find him attractive.

2. Think “outside your league.”

As a rule, men have no problems imaging themselves with a “hot” actress, model, singer and many will at least approach a woman even if they think they have “no shot” with her. Women, alas, are different, and not in a good way. There is often a bit of “Oh my God, I cannot believe he’s with me!” feeling if a woman is with a man she thinks is very attractive.

Often, they will share those feelings with the man they are with.

While some men may find it endearing or complimentary, many find it a turn off and believe that it is their job to reassure the woman she is good enough for him. Over time, that can become a huge burden to bear and may even be a factor in a deciding whether or not to end the relationship.

3. Remember that quote, ” There are three billion women who look like supermodels and only eight who do.

It may sound obvious, but it probably needs repeating that most people do not look like models or celebrities.

Also, you can look “too perfect.” I remember years ago going to Los Angeles to visit a friend whose family worked in the movie business. I saw a lot of actors, models, etc. Some of these people were literally too perfect looking meaning that they were so Botoxed, surgically-altered, and/or made-up that they looked like they were CGI characters and not people.

Several years ago, I met a make-up artist who worked at several of the major fashion shows in Paris. When asked how his favorite model was, he said without missing a beat, it was Kate Moss. When asked why, he said it was because she had laugh lines and a slightly lazy eye. Now don’t get me wrong. Obviously Ms. Moss is lovely, photographs well, and has earned millions over the years to prove that. However, the fact that he preferred her over the glamorous amazons that defined the 90s was telling.

Being around anyone who is too high maintenance is a turn off for many. Unless you happen to be born some sort of defect or been in a serious accident, you probably look just as good if not better than the vast majority of the female population.

4. Don’t be afraid to boast about your accomplishments.

If you ask most men to name some of their accomplishments, most will have no problem doing so. Many women on the other hand struggle and think if they haven’t climbed Everest or found the cure for cancer, they have done nothing.

Of course, there is a difference between boasting and being a conceited braggart, but you should be proud of the things you have done including the “little things” like, say, paying for college while waiting tables.

Being proud about the mental things you have accomplished can help you appreciate your body. Take the waiting tables example for instance.

As someone who did this and knows how hard it is, your body has to be able to tolerate a certain amount of physical discomfort and have quite a lot of stamina. You can also proudly show off any “battle scars” you may have accumulated. (“See, this scar on my hand? That comes from having poured many cups of scalding hot coffee.”)

In short, it might amaze you to think of all the things you actually have done vs. what you have not.

As someone who generally feels that differences between the sexes should be celebrated, this is one area where it is okay to steal from the guys. I don’t mean to suggest that men don’t have body issues—they do and I have certainly met more than a few who have—but overall, the confidence that men feel about their bodies is something that few women have yet to experience.

It’s about time that has changed. While I have yet to meet anyone of either sex who is completely confident with their appearance, even the littlest steps can result in a big impact.

In any case, the tips above are a lot cheaper than any makeover and a lot more satisfying than any diet plan.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


14 Responses to “Want to Love Your Body? Think Like a Man.”

  1. Joseph S. says:

    Men do feel pressure to confirm to a certain image of manhood–and in this hyper-visual culture I think it is invalid to make a distinction between how women and men think of their bodies. Eating disorders among men are increasingly more common, and more and more men feel obligated to spend long hours in the gym. As a man, I take personally this assertion that women’s bodies are overwhelmingly more objectified than men’s–it’s patently false in this culture, although it may have been true once. I urge you and other women who write about body image issues to re-think these received opinions, and write about them in ways that recognize the universal nature of our culture’s tendency to objectify our bodies, whether male or female.

  2. occultfan says:

    I appreciate the gist of this article, and I think that you're spot on mentioning the spots where men -are- more -alike- to women than not. I know plenty of men who -can't- imagine themselves with -any- woman at all, their self-esteem is so low. Bodily, accomplishment-wise, etc. I take issue with a lot of things said about how men's experiences are 'so great'. Though, there is no doubting that this current set-up of the world is geared towards a particular privileged class, and that ought change… completely. There is nothing more harmful than a stereotype robbing an individual of dignity and self-worth when acted upon them, as stereotypes are made to do – they're harmful both in those they dehumanize and those they glorify. It's setting up a false paradigm in which 'men' (gay? straight? physically-disabled? mentally-disabled? [bear with these terms, or kindly suggest 'better' ones, but don't lose sight of the purpose of this comment], trans? I mean, that alone complicates the picture-greatly. But if you're talking about the male body, in general, as a 'tool'? I mean, even that is problematic. But, to your point, I believe any individual woman who has a good heart and treats people well should be proud of herself, or equally, to any human who is good and kind, the same. But, yes, there are stereotypes which feed this article's premise, both positive and negative. So, I just hope people learn to love themselves. Is, the point. Here. For now.

  3. denabrehm says:

    I was hoping for more of HOW men look at women's bodies … because, face it, we are objects of beauty, designed by nature, or the divine, or whatever. We are intended to be beautiful, and men are intended to admire, desire, and yes, want to have, the objects in his sight.

    How about enJOYing being seen, desired, lusted-for, than declaring it to be "mere objectification"?

    I know I'm not just an object … and ultimately, though he may glance at my objects, if there's no foundation to support them (my intelligence, creativity, kindness, humor, depth), he won't look for long.

    They are, I have discovered, a lot more generous in seeing our beauty, than we women are.

    I was hoping for more of that … perhaps I need to thus write it. 😉

  4. kimberlylowriter says:

    I do not deny that many men struggle with body issues. I wrote: " I don’t mean to suggest that men don’t have body issues—they do and I have certainly met more than a few who have—but overall, the confidence that men feel about their bodies is something that few women have yet to experience."

    I still stand by that and my statement that overwhelming, women are more objectified and have been for centuries. Just flipping through the pages of an glossy magazine, I see women's bodies used to sell products much more so than men. The number of women in movies that appear nude or partially nude greatly outnumber men.

    Also, women are judged more on their looks than men, IMHO.

  5. kimberlylowriter says:

    You raise some good points.

    However, the point of this piece was in general how men view their bodies vs. women.

    When I said men view their bodies more as tools, I meant what they can do. I tend to believe that a tool is more positive than an object of beauty.

    As I mentioned in the comment above, I would never deny that men struggle with body image, too, but when compared, the number of women who do greatly out-number the men.

    I look forward to the day when ALL people-disabled, male, female, transgendered, etc.-value the things their bodies can do and take pride in themselves.

  6. kimberlylowriter says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    I wrote the piece in the hopes that women would appreciate the things their bodies can do vs. being dissatisfied with them for what they cannot do.

    My hope is that all men and women can feel happy and proud of themselves and that feeling will come from within-not because someone else finds them an object of desire.

  7. denabrehm says:

    It's a great article. I shared it on my FB wall,and a good convo ensued.

    I applaud your intent. It matters. It's basic.

    I just like both/and … I want to fully embrace every capability of my body, and love/accept it as is (even as I seek to improve it in ways that delight me, i.e., working out).

    I also want to fully embrace the fact that it is an object of desire … because while it is that, it's never just that.

    One woman's objectification, is another woman's celebration. 🙂

  8. kimberlylowriter says:

    Thank you for the comments and the share.

    I think you should submit an article. I would love to read it.

  9. Open mind says:

    Awesome. I love the title for this article, there is a truth to it and many good points have been raised.

    It's true that the media does hit both sexes with hard to attain images. But why are women affected more than men? Women let the media effect how they value themselves, and also how they value the worthiness of men. It even happened in this article. Giving a man status via the attractiveness of the woman he is with, is one of the ways you girls perpetuate the whole superficial beauty thing.

    Communicating James Gandolfini sexiness status by his ability to have a physically attractive woman part of the problem… Doesn't a man's sexiness ultimately lie in his sense of purpose, his humour and the ability to provide?
    So why isn't Danny Devito used as an example of a man with sexy status? Because of Rhea Pearlman? Or because he is short? (BTW Gandolfin is 6' tall). Anyhow that’s an essay for another time.

    However, I think the main reason that men don't have such a body image problem has been overlooked. It is simple…

    If men have a goal to focus on attaining they are happy in themselves.

    The fact that the male mind is so easily involved to ridiculous depth in the minutiae of any folly is often a reason for derision. However it is quite a powerful defense for this whole media image thing.

    When in doubt, do something, anything… Just get busy.
    "What? I'm unworthy according to society? OK thanks for letting me know. Anyhow, I have some important sh1t to get on with…"

    The thing is, men just get on with their sh1t.

    Heck girls, as a man let me tell you. You don’t need to resort to medical modification. Feminie beauty is vitality. You already possess this. You just need to remove the interference to it. The healthiest version of you is mind numbingly gorgeous to any real man. Just peel of the stuff that isn't your amazing vital self.

    Whilst you are doing that if you want to be attractive to a man – a man who will look deeper than your ability to apply the 'max factor', I suggest you do stuff. Be interesting.

    Climb off a motorcycle and my gaze will remain on you in spite of the vanilla "blonde bombshell" you walk past as you head into the cafe. Have a climbing rope hanging out of your backpack, and I will want to know more about you than the tubedress 'hottie' standing beside you.

    Do your stuff! Be healthy, uncover your vitality and do so via activities that make you interesting. You won't have time to notice the media images.


  10. occultfan says:

    Hm. You've given me a lot to think about, that's for sure.
    Maybe that is a key part of changing the conversation.
    Run a campaign to encourage girls to think of themselves
    more as 'what they can do, play guitar, kickball, and karate,
    even. I like that idea.

    I see below another comment mentioning objectification.
    That's another good point to be made. Some people like
    being made to feel like an object, it's a 'thing' to them.
    Some people like BDSM. I wonder how it all ties together
    in the grand scheme of life.

    Feels good thinking that we're all just really complicated.
    And we're all just really simple at the same time.
    I wonder if one is more true, than the other?

  11. Mandolin says:

    As a beautiful woman with a large and prominent scar on my face I had cause to pause at the line ‘unless you happen to be born some sort of defect or been in a serious accident you probably look just as good if not better than the vast majority of the female population’.

    My scar reminds me that I am lucky, I could easily have died in the accident that caused it. I was 2 years old. I’m still here, I’m still smiling and I am grateful for everyday I spend in this incredible body. It’s incredible for the life it gives me and the life it’s given others. I shall be teaching my son and my daughter this. The stories of my life are writ large upon my physical form and I embrace and celebrate it!

    Thank you for giving me a reason to contemplate this.

  12. kimberlylowriter says:

    Thank you for the additional comments. You have given ME a lot think about and that's a good thing.

    I would love to see a campaign like you mention in the first paragraph.

    I also see nothing wrong with people who like other people to desire them.

    My hope for everyone, though, is to desire themselves and have that pride within them so it cannot be taken away once someone stops desiring or admiring them.

  13. kimberlylowriter says:

    I loved your comments.

    BTW, I have seen interview with Devito where his personality shown through, and I thought he was very sexy.

    I thought Gadolfini's sexiness came largely in part because of how comfortable he appeared in his own skin. It had nothing to do with who he was paired with on or off the screen.

  14. kimberlylowriter says:

    First of all, you are incredible for having survived such an accident and knowing you are beautiful. (Your post reminds me of an essay I read years ago by the writer/short story author Amy Hempel where she eloquently argues that scars should be proudly displayed and seen as a badge of survival.)

    When I wrote that section you quoted, I was thinking of the overall rare number people who had been severely disfigured and whose appearance causes others to do double takes. FWIW, I think beauty really does come from within. I don't think severely disfigured people should hide away and one of the most beautiful people I ever met was a man who lost his nose to cancer.

    Still, there are so many people-esp women- who are physically average or even attractive who act like their is something wrong with them. They don't see their own beauty inside or out.

    The whole point of the essay was how true body love has much, much more to do with what is on the inside than the outside.

    Thank you so much for your comments.