Struggling With Self Image… Again

A few months after my son was born, which is eight years ago now, I decided it was finally time to get in shape. I’d attempted it in the past, several times, and the routine never stuck. But after my son was in the picture I felt the need to be physically fit, just like my dad was for me as a child, and still is to this day. My younger brother is also quite a physical specimen, so of the men in my family I’d always been the odd duck. I resolved to finally change that, because I never really liked how I looked from the neck down.

And from 2014 to 2020, I finally did it. I finally locked in to a routine and got myself in the best physical shape of my life. I worked out from home at first, and then when my son was old enough I joined a local gym that offered affordable babysitting services. I loved how I looked. I felt great. I was posting shirtless selfies and seeing myself in a way I’d always imagined.

And then came the fucking pandemic.

I switched to yoga practice for my mental and physical health, and for about a year-and-a-half I stuck with it. When our local gym reopened it had closed its babysitting services in favor of a hair salon. (You read that right.) I tried my best to keep up being physically active. I really did. But the pandemic did a number on me, in many ways, and I could feel that old familiar breakdown of my motivation coming.

So I enlisted the aid of a good friend of mine, whom I’ve known for decades and trust completely. She helped me attempt to get back into shape, and assigned me several routines to help me keep active at home. For a little under a year, I stuck with it. I was starting to see positive results again. I felt reenergized and my bodily confidence returning.

But then I ran into some financial troubles and had to scale back my time with her. And then came that old breakdown in motivation, until finally I stopped altogether.

And now I’m back to where I started, unhappy with how I look and seemingly unable to grasp the motivation to do something about it. It’s the return of a cycle I thought I’d finally broken when my son was born, but old habits die hard, it seems. My countless selfies from my time being physically fit will sometimes show up in social media memories and such, and I look back with great regret that I let that slip away.

I am, however, also being a little dramatic.

I don’t think I look especially bad or ugly, nor am I physically unhealthy. I eat as cleanly as I can manage and I’m at a reasonable weight. I have what could be considered a dad bod, with hints that it used to be one that lifted weights and did regular cardio. But body image issues like to linger, no matter how much reason and logic you use to rid yourself of them. Is it a result of the men in my family all being physically impressive except for me? Is it because of a culture, mainstream or otherwise, that glorifies the bodybuilder physique even though it’s increasingly difficult (and sometimes unhealthy) to maintain? Probably a little bit of both.

Do I know I look fine? Yes. Do I also think I look dumpy and awful and my lack of definition is a sign of my failings? Also yes. Both answers will likely live in my head forever, with one side gaining advantage over the other as I try again and again to break this cycle.