Body Dysmorphia - can you hold that for me?

Jul 1, 2019
Nick Summerfield
Sydney, Australia
Photo credit to
Mark Dickson

It's ok to feel insecure

A good friend of mine once told me that if we talk about our insecurities it can help us to let them go. To take a load off. Maybe not forever, but for a moment at least.

I have never been confident in my appearance. I’d go so far as to say that it’s clinical. In fact, you may have heard of Body Dysmorphia. It’s a mental illness involving the obsession with a perceived flaw or trait in one’s appearance. It extends beyond just having low self-esteem, but also encompasses it.

People with this condition typically will avoid photos or social situations, frequently examine themselves in the mirror, compare their appearance with others or, as above, obsess over a flaw that may not be visible to others or even there at all.

'If someone says I’m looking thin… I internally panic.'

Let me start by saying that I have not been medically diagnosed with this illness – but as I’ve gotten older, I have noticed many of the symptoms pushing their way into my life. If someone says I’m looking thin… I internally panic. I usually follow up with ‘In a bad way?!’ to clarify what they mean. I will then usually enter into an internal dialogue around needing to eat/workout more and telling myself that I’m fine. That I’m okay.

Looking back

I was an athletic child, and I have always had a lean physique with a fast metabolism, so growing up I was always the ‘twig’ of my family. Compared to my two older brother’s, who were competitive swimmers throughout high school (they had broad shoulders and abs), apparently I was ‘fading away to a shadow’. Comments were made about my weight quite regularly, but I was bullied for a lot of my schooling years, so I was accustomed to people throwing slander at me.

Fast forward to me at 26 and I have found that many of those comments have stuck with me, but haunt me in a different way. I find myself struggling with body issues on a daily basis.

Where I'm at today

'Sometimes when I get out of the shower, I will stare at myself for 5 minutes to see what needs fixing or to criticise my appearance.'

Every time I pass a mirror, I’ll stop to fix my hair, or to check my jaw line. Sometimes when I get out of the shower, I will stare at myself for 5 minutes to see what needs fixing or to criticise my appearance. When my friends and I go to parties, beautiful men with amazing bodies seem to appear all around me and I have to fight off comparing myself to them. Don’t even get me started on Grindr.

I will avoid having my photo taken wherever I can. I’m constantly telling myself I need to be more active on Instagram and build some sort of a following, but I’m too worried of my own critique. My psychologist helped to me understand how harsh and self-critical I can be to my own psyche. It’s borderline mean.

And then there's the gym...

In the past, my confidence had stooped to the point of not being comfortable in a gym because I didn’t look like most of the people there. I didn’t want them to see me. As a result, I couldn’t go to the gym alone – I used to only be able to go there with friends.

I’d say that one of the most common reasons guys start going to the gym is because they’re not happy with the way they look – or the way they feel… about how they look – or in some cases to try and get a ‘revenge body’ to flaunt in front of their ex. In my case, as a gay man, I’ve always wanted to break free from the title of ‘twink’. Every time someone calls me that, it reinforces an image of myself that I hate.

Over time I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the gym. Six years ago I weighed around 73kg. Today I hover around the 82kg mark – but, like most guys, I still want to gain more. Even when I peaked at 86kg I would look into the mirror and still see someone who was too thin.

Are you ok?

'I can guarantee there are many guys suffering in silence.'

Whether it’s BDD, low self esteem, or something else, I can guarantee there are many guys suffering in silence. It’s something I battle with every day, and something I am passionate about. As I’ve continued to grow and learn more about myself over the last few years, I’ve tried to go a little easier on myself. Some days are easier than others. Other days I don’t want to get out of bed.

The one thing that has helped me get through it is having people around me to talk to. We shouldn’t be afraid of our insecurities because it’s how we feel, and how we feel is real to us. Try and find someone to help you let go of them – even just for a moment, at least.

Nick Summerfield
Sydney, Australia

Nick is a singer/songwriter with a passion for music and a deeply spiritual outlook on life. He's struggled with body confidence his whole life, and would like to open up a productive dialogue around men and body image. You'll often find him enjoying a night out with friends or kicking back over that week's horoscope. Check out his music here.

What I learned...
  1. You may be obsessing over a flaw that's not visible to others or even there at all.

  2. You aren't alone - many guys struggle with a distorted body image.

  3. Find someone to help you let go of the mental burden, even if it's just briefly.

You need W.I.L. Power to make a difference. Let's not forget to reflect!
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