What is a body? A place made for judgement. A place to be hidden underneath layers of fabrics. A place that is sometimes praised and other times ridiculed. A place that holds the spirit that takes it all in. My body… His body… Her body… Their body… Each is a somebody…
“…no one is owed perfection from me.”
It was mid June and my best friend and I were driving down the hilly roads of Southern Indiana. The sky was full of many colors and the trees swayed gently in the soft breeze. I reached for my phone to capture it and share it with my followers but my lens could not capture the beauty I saw before me. “Perhaps this moment is just for us,” my friend told me. I put my phone away and treated the rest of the ride like a gift given to me.
In the weeks that followed I had many adventures and saw beautiful things. I saw Yo-Yo Ma preform in concert at Millennium Park, Chicago. I stayed in a beautiful hotel and went to a lively Vegan Festival in Grant Park. All the while I kept my phone down and experienced the journey rather than trying to capture it.
I would like to believe that when I share things on social media I do it with the desire to share my experiences with others and invite them on my journey. However, this is only part of the truth. I have found in moments when I feel weak and vulnerable that I turn to social media to make me feel strong. During these times I change my profile picture or update my story with a song I like, along with a portrait of me posing stoic and confident. I use social media as a distraction to everything I hate about myself.
The more invested I got in advertising my writing, the more I saw myself worried about how people would see me when I was out. I spent hours trying on clothes, changing mid-day, and regretting style choices. It was important that when I was seen out that people see a person who was driven and put together, even when I was not.
Although I was not intentionally trying to deceive anyone or lie about my well being, I recognize that some level of deception did occur. Each time I choose to share moments of me, “living my best life,” and choose to omit the times of me sobbing myself to bed I create a version of myself that is without sorrow and without pain. Furthermore, through choosing to only share “positive moments,” I unknowingly encourage others to do the same.
Growing up with two older brothers who were rather rebellious compared to me was a struggle. I was constantly compared to them and where they had the privilege of making mistakes, I was held to higher standards. Whenever I stepped an inch out of line, I was lectured about how I was exactly like my brothers and I wanted to prove them wrong. It was important for me to be seen well by my parents and the leaders in my life. As a kid I would watch the child actors on Disney and believed it was their goodness that got them where they were. I wanted to be them. I had an insatiable desire to be known for my goodness.
As I grew older it was not enough to be seen well by my parents, but by my peers as well. I envied my classmates who were thin and muscular and I wanted to be attractive like them. Thin and muscular was synonymous with greatness in my mind. In high school I pushed my body too resemble theirs, but it did not give me the love I thought it would. After high school I entered a heavy depression and gained much of my weight back.
Today I sit having lost a majority of the weight that I gained during my depression through fitness and dietary goals. After I ran the half marathon I had trained for, I lost momentum and the desire to continue in my training faded. I kept my vegan diet and my body weight remained stable. Although I am healthier I am not the thin man that I became in high school. I hate the remainder of my weight. With the same mouth I advocate for male body positivity I use to hurt myself. I believe in theory that all bodies should be celebrated, but I struggle to live it out for myself.
At the start of this year I was approached to model for an agency known as BADLUCK Promotions. Up until then pictures taken of me were primarily used to advertise my platform. In the modeling world men were thin and muscular and there was not space for “thicc” men like me. I was amazed that someone would be able to find beauty in pictures of me with my body exactly the way it is.
I sat in a hotel room with a few other models after a couple drinks and I went on and on about how I hated my body and asked them if they thought I was fat. I was reassured that my body was fine. My friend Sydney went on to say, “if you don’t like your body make goals and try to change it, but know you don’t have to, to be beautiful.” I reflect on that moment often and think about every male who hates their body the way I do and wonder how many of them are models. I later decided that my modeling should no longer be purely about my image, but advocacy for men with bodies like mine to be seen and acknowledged.
While in one area I see breakthroughs, in others I continue to fail. I came out a month ago very publicly through my blog. Who I was afterwards did not change, but others around me did. I watched as family became more religious around me and my status of the well-behaved one was stripped from me. Suddenly going out with my friends was seen as me being influenced by bad spirits and all of my actions were viewed as selfish in nature. I wondered how I would gain back favor. No matter how much I argued that I was the same person I was not believed.
At this moment I find relief in not being the well-behaved one. I have spent entirely too much time trying to hide my faults from the world and present an image that was not genuine. I am not always a good person. Sometimes I am rude, messy, and arrogant. I eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, and do not work out as much as I should. I have spent so much time trying to go against my humanity rather than accepting it. If I only ever focus on the good aspects of myself and choose not to own my faults than I am not in tune with reality. Furthermore, no one is owed perfection from me.
What I want more than anything is for my readers to know that it is fine to show beautiful pictures. I want to see sunsets and hilly roads but tears, stretch marks, and scars are also welcome here. I no longer desire to live trying to convince others I am happy or that I have it figured out. My art and my stories will reflect my humanity and nothing less.