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A Guy's Guide to Body Image

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

The Truth About Guys

People might think of guys as carefree when it comes to their appearance. But a lot of guys spend plenty of time in front of the mirror. 

Guys might think that they shouldn't worry about how they look. They may be less likely than girls to talk to friends and relatives about their bodies and how they're developing. But for some guys, body image can be a problem.

Why Is Body Image Important?

Body image is a person's opinions, thoughts, and feelings about his or her body and physical appearance. Having a positive body image means feeling pretty satisfied with the way you look, appreciating your body for its capabilities, and accepting its imperfections.

How a guy feels about his body can affect how he feels about himself. If he gets too focused on not liking the way he looks, a guy's self-esteem can take a hit and his confidence can slide. (The same thing can happen to girls, too.)

How Puberty Affects Body Image

Body image is just one part of our self-image. But during puberty, it can be easy for a guy's whole self-image to be based on how his body looks. That's because our bodies are changing so much during this time that they can become the focus of our attention.

A change in your body can be tough to deal with emotionally — mainly because, well, your body is yours and you have become used to it.

It takes time for some guys to feel comfortable in their changing bodies. Being the only guy whose voice is changing or who's growing body hair (or the only guy who isn't) can also make some guys feel self-conscious for a while.

Not everyone's body changes at the same time or even at the same pace. It can be tough if all of your friends have already matured physically and are taller and more muscular. Most guys eventually catch up in terms of growth, although some will always be taller or more muscular than others — it's in their genes.

Some guys go into puberty not feeling too satisfied with their body or appearance to begin with. They may have wrestled with body image even before puberty started (for example, battles with weight or dissatisfaction with height). For them, puberty may add to their insecurities.

Building a Better Body Image

So what can you do to fuel a positive body image? Here are some ideas:

  • Recognize your strengths. Different physical attributes and body types are good for different things. What does your body do well? Maybe your speed, flexibility, strength, or coordination lead you to excel at a certain sport. Or perhaps you have non-sports skills, like drawing, painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, writing, or acting. Just exploring talents that you enjoy can help you feel good about yourself.
  • Do something athletic. Some guys excel at team sports, and find one or more they really enjoy. But what if team sports isn’t your thing? That's OK. Find another form of physical activity that gets you going. Depending on your interests and where you live, that may be mountain biking, rock climbing, yoga, dancing, or jogging. This will help you stay in shape and help you to appreciate skills you may not have realized you had in a team environment.
  • Start a strength training program. Exercise can help you look good and feel good about yourself. Good physiques don't just happen — they require regular workouts and a healthy diet. There's no need to work out obsessively. A healthy routine can be as simple as exercising 20 minutes to an hour 3 days a week. Another benefit to working out is that it can boost your mood — lifting weights can lift your spirits.
  • Don't trash your body — respect it! To improve your view of your body, take care of it. Smoking and other things you know to be harmful will take a toll after a while. Eat nutritious foods. Get enough sleep. Practice good grooming habits — shower regularly; take care of your teeth, hair, and skin; and wear clean clothes. Treating yourself well over time results in a healthier, stronger body — and that contributes to a better body image. Treating yourself well over time results in a healthier, stronger body — and that contributes to a better body image.
  • Be yourself. Your body is just one part of who you are — along with your talent for comedy, a quick wit, or all the other things that make you unique. Your talents, skills, and beliefs are just as much a part of you as the casing they come in. So try not to let minor "imperfections" take over.

It's important to have a positive body image, but getting too focused on appearance can cause a guy to overlook the other positive parts of himself. If you're like most guys who take care of their bodies, you probably look great to others. You just might not be aware of that if you're too busy being self-critical.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2016