Beauty is in the eye of the beholder apparently, but in my view the public perception of beauty is under the direct influence of the media and society!
This has been a really hard article to write for me. Not because I haven’t had the time, I have. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, I did. Not because it has triggered some deep trauma within me, it hasn’t. It has been hard to write because my views have, and continue to, change constantly on how I view myself and others! But let me start at the beginning.
Throughout my life, as is common with the vast majority of people, I have gone through stages of finding different types of people attractive.
When I was younger, in my mid-teens, and beginning to explore my feelings of sexuality, I was attracted to guys who were slim but not toned. In fact I would go so far as to say that I found guys who were muscly a bit of a turn off. I even looked at the guys who carried a little extra weight and found them sexier than those who I saw as vain and self-obsessed; the guys who had the Greek God bodies.
As I got older, my body changed due to issues with my health, I had a health scare and got put on steroid treatment which made me put on approximately three stone in a very short period of time. This major change in my body made me look at other people’s bodies in a very different way. Because I was no longer slim, I found I was finding slim people less attractive, possibly more down to jealousy rather than an actual change in my opinions. It was also around this time that I began to notice the images of beauty favoured by the media. Models used in near enough every advert on the television, the front covers of Gay Times, the ‘naked’ issues of Attitude, the calendars with shirtless images of the soap stars all had an effect on what I found attractive. I began to find these hunks more attractive, which appeared in total contrast to then fact I found slim guys less attractive. Perhaps it was because I had never been muscular and so wasn’t jealous of that body type, it was more of a complete fantasy rather than a previous reality? Or perhaps it is because of porn.
Thanks to the Internet, porn of all types is easily accessible for those looking to find some. However when I was growing up, in a world where the Internet was still in the early development stage and not mainstream, access to porn was magazines aquired from newsagents or older siblings. Back then, I was unaware of the labels within the gay male community and so didn’t know the difference between a jock, a twink and a bear. All I knew was that the men I saw in the magazines were all smooth and muscular. Perhaps it was just the magazines I was able to get hold of, but for me as an adolescent discovering my sexuality, all the gay men I saw were of this type. This meant that over the years I was socialised into finding this idea of beauty attractive.
Over the years, my body shape and size has changed back and forth from very heavy, or as one of my doctors once very kindly said “verging on clinically obese”, to the upper end of what is considered correct for my height. These changes have always affected me, how I view myself and how I view others
Personally I have in the past and probably will continue to do in the future, suffered from a mild version of body dysmorphia. There are days when I look in the mirror and really like what I see and there are other days when I simply cannot look at myself as I find the sight repulsive.
In my home, I only have one small mirror, head sized and head height so that I don’t have to see my body reflected. When I stay in hotels with big mirrors in the bathrooms, I always hate seeing my full body as I get out if the shower and actively try not to look. It’s amazing how I have developed a distant relationship with my body. I am much like Dr Sheldon Cooper, one of the main protagonists of the television show The Big Bang Theory, insomuch as his he views his body. In one episode he states “my body and I have a relationship that works best when we maintain a cool, wary distance from each other”. Looking down on it, as we all do, it looks fine to me. But looking at a reflected image of myself often repulses me!
It is funny that I can see the beauty in most other people but not in myself. It makes me wonder if anyone is ever truly happy with how they look. I suppose even body builders and models have to try to be better than anyone else to either win or get work. Everyone looks up to someone else.
Then there is my current frame of reference into the gay world: YouTube. Many of the YouTube personalities I subscribe to and regularly watch have at some point recorded a video about body image. Often this are guys whom I find attractive and to watch them discuss their own body image issues and point out parts of their body they are very conscious of, it kind of makes me feel better about myself. Apart from the idea that on YouTube if your face doesn’t fit, or in other words if you are not aesthetically pleasing to look at, you have less of a chance of ‘making it’ on YouTube, there is also the idea that we live in a world where aesthetic beauty is prized higher than intelligence.
Several YouTubers, who quite frankly I would give my right arm to look like, get so much hate on their videos generally. But they also get personal comments that have nothing to do with the video in question. I know that there are people out there who thrive on being a troll and love getting a reaction, but I just don’t understand it. I have always been of the school of thought that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything – think it, but don’t say it!
Something I remember from one YouTuber in particular, Jazza John – https://www.youtube.com/user/rhymingwithoranges – was that in one video he stated that you need to learn to love yourself, but in a later video he revised this to there are somethings you will never love about yourself, you just have to learn to accept you will not love all of yourself!
I took this to heart and began to look at my own body differently once again. Because of this in recent months I have developed a greater sense of self which recently culminated in putting myself forward for a photo shoot for an upcoming social media campaign called ‘Being Me’. I learnt about it through twitter and Facebook and It gave me the opportunity to try and validate the way I look at myself and to celebrate my differences.
The Being Me campaign is all about celebrating any differences you have. The founders, Tracy Shayler and Kieran Stanbridge, believe that it is awesome to be who you are and that we should all celebrate our differences. They state that many young people feel like an outcast on a daily basis because of various attributes, sexuality, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, hair colour, body type are just some. The campaign is about celebrating these things that make us all unique. Tracy and Kieran want everyone to be proud of their differences. This is why they created the Being Me Campaign; to support each other and share stories about people’s differences, so no one feels alone. The campaign’s tag line is ‘It’s okay to be you’.
At the photoshoot, I shared the story of how my body has changed over the years due to my various medical issues, but with the help of various YouTube personalities, a new outlook on life and the feeling that you have control over your own life regardless of the hand you are dealt, I was feeling a lot better about ‘Being Me’.
Find out more about the ‘Being Me’ campaign and perhaps share your story on their website http://www.beingmecampaign.com/
I am a thinker, watcher, smiler, laugher, YouTube content creator, writer & part-time teacher!
My YouTube channel can be found at:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaPfRtDp5552wTwriVZ0_9g (Jay’s Jabberings).