Masculinity, Males, and Muscles: Teaching our Young Men to Honor Their Bodies

Man lifting weights while suffering from Compulsive Exercise

I do a lot of writing for Eating Disorder Hope, something that I enjoy and take seriously. Often I write in the third-person and approach a topic with the attitude of a journalist objectively reporting on a topic. At times, I put more of my own experience as a therapist into an issue, hoping that this will benefit readers.

And sometimes, I’m presented with a topic that feels like it could land me in deep waters. Writing on the subject of masculinity is one of those moments.

In light of the recent #Metoo movement, I am particularly sensitive to how masculinity has harmed and degraded women. It is lamentable that we participate in a culture which objectifies and uses women as commodities.

I’m also aware that some would like to label all traditional ideas of masculinity as toxic.

So, it is with great humility that I offer my thoughts on helping raise boys to honor their bodies in the hope they do not develop self-contempt, body hatred, or body dysmorphic disorder.

Actually, rather than offering many thoughts on the topic, I bring one, what I hope is substantial, concept to the table; we need to honor people as people and celebrate the dignity of each individual.

Some men are physically and athletically gifted; others are rocket scientists. Some like the University of Nebraska’s assistant football coach Jovan Dewitt posses are both (before coaching, he was a rocket scientist for NASA). There are female athletes, politicians, mathematicians, and surgeons. Some are black, some white, some brown. Some African, some Asian, some Brazilian.

There are individuals, like my friend Daniel who has severe autism and can’t communicate in full sentences but lights up a room with songs and movie quotes. And there is a 16-year-old Asperger’s sufferer who is challenging world-leaders to treat climate change with urgency.

Dumbbells used in creating masculinity for some peopleAmong the nearly 7 billion people on planet earth, you can find both a black, female gymnast amazing the world with a triple-double tumbling pass and a young man with Down’s Syndrome starring in a movie about a Peanut Butter Falcon.

Personally, my worldview is one that honors the dignity of all people. And the body is a necessary, beautiful aspect of being human. Bodies do limit and shape us, such as in our career choices.

Because of my size and lack of speed, I won’t ever be a player in the National Football League. Meanwhile, the physical limitations of Stephen Hawking did not stand in the way of his reshaping how we understand space and time.

In other words, I see the body as an essential aspect of human identity. Yet, alone, it cannot sustain the burden of defining someone’s value or identity.

Being athletic may provide advantages and opportunities in our culture not afforded to those who can’t jump as high or throw as far. Yet these abilities do not measure the true impact one can make in the world around them.

In light of this, let’s teach young men to see their own bodies as worthy of care, but not as definitive statements on their masculinity or dignity. And let’s encourage them to do the same with each individual they meet, regardless of race, gender, ability, or appearance.


REFERENCES:

Heady, C. (2018, March 19). Huskers assistant Jovan Dewitt has teaching outside linebackers down to a science. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from https://www.omaha.com/sports/college/huskers/teams/football/huskers-assistant-jovan-dewitt-has-teaching-outside-linebackers-down-to/article_81d7a6df-714e-59d0-b5c5-090c1a9d6011.html.


About the Author:

Travis Stewart Headshot PhotoTravis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help.

This includes a special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. His website is wtravisstewart.com


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published January 3, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 3, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.