Much of my life’s work revolves around advocating for better ways to treat people who are struggling with their emotions.
I believe we need a paradigm shift away from medical-izing human emotions to a paradigm that contextualizes emotional experiences.
I believe we need to actually listen to people’s stories, not just treat symptoms, in order to truly help people heal. Because my views are at odds with the prevailing societal view, I consider myself an activist.
In this role, I have met many passionate and strident people.
If you do activist work in one area you tend to find that your work intersects with other causes. I am grateful for the education I have received about different groups that are experiencing marginalization and various forms of oppression.
Thanks to this on-the-job education, I have become sensitive about being involved with groups that are overly homogenous.
Doing activist work I have learned a great deal about women’s rights and the discriminatory and damaging ways that images of women are used. I have become mindful about not purchasing items that are advertised using imagery of women as ornamental and I am grateful to have had my mind opened in this manner. I have learned how the ways women are portrayed can have a negative impact on body image and self-esteem.
As I have become aware of these issues, I have also noticed the increasingly similar ways images of men are being used. Helping raise two teenagers and watching a fair share of movies and television shows that portray various depictions of vampires and werewolves, I have found it interesting how many of the male characters feel removing their shirts is a normal act to be performed during a conversation. I wonder how many young men are aspiring to be built like the actors. I wonder what degree they will go to in order to achieve that look.
My sense is that body image issues as they relate to men are not being talked about enough. I sit here writing feeling comfortable in my own skin. Sadly, it took a long time for me to get to this point.
I remember vividly being made fun of for being skinny as a teenager. I responded to the criticism by spending countless hours in the gym attempting to change my body. I remember my insatiable need for supplements. Despite hours in the gym, I still did not feel comfortable taking my shirt off in public. Despite attending college in the south, I rarely wore shorts because of my thoughts about my legs. I constantly aspired to be like the guys in the movies and muscle magazines—anything less simply was not good enough.
Since my bodybuilding days, I have survived rock bottom at the hands of addiction and emotional distress (fueled by my terrible choices). My body has been damaged by two strokes and I have two big scars on my upper-body as the result of open-heart surgery.
My days of needing to wear double x shirts have morphed into days of being okay with wearing size medium. My legs are even skinnier. Yet thanks to countless hours on a meditation cushion and a yoga mat, I now feel at home in my body.
Through yoga and meditation I have come to know myself. I have found inner peace by doing things for myself aimed at calming my mind rather than doing things for the purpose of looking better.
Healthy yoga and meditation practices are more about self-acceptance than self-improvement. I have learned to let go my desire to control what others think of me.
I have discovered the healing and the creativity that come out of being comfortable with stillness and self-intimacy.
I have come to realize that the human body is miraculous.
I am able to look at pictures of myself in my youth and see how misguided I was about my appearance—I looked athletic and healthy.
The trip down memory lane reaffirms to me that happiness starts with inner awareness and inner peace.
I think we all know people that look fantastic but think they are fat or not muscular enough. It simply is false advertising to say that “clothes and cars make a man.”
Peace of mind and happiness are not external.
I am writing this because I think there are many young men obsessively pursuing images portrayed on television or in movies. Too many feel their happiness is linked to how chiseled their abs are or the type of clothes they wear.
Too many are going to great lengths to pursue something that will never make them happier.
I hope they find yoga, meditation or something else that helps them become aware of the fact that they already are an amazing miracle.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Deron Drumm
Apprentice editor: Katarina Tavčar / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Beth Scupham on Flickr