Sam Smith’s Body Image Struggles Prove There’s A Vital Voice Missing In This Convo


The world has never been more progressive. In society we can boast many advances made in technology, the economy, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, fashion, education, leadership and so on. So why is it that we are still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to something that has been around for eons such as body image? It is an issue that is certainly not new, but there is a distinct lack of evolution in this discussion, especially in regards to men.

We say this because the majority of body image discussions are from a female, and mostly straight point of view. And while these are vital and need to be had, we also need men to speak up about their struggles too. Not just straight men, but gay and trans men alike. Basically if you are human, you have no doubt struggled with body image woes.

Yet for any man to speak openly about his struggle is seen as somewhat revolutionary, or even a gasp-worthy moment. Take Ed Sheeran, for example, who spoke out about never being happy with his image. Or blogger John David Glaud who shared a video in 2014 which went viral because of his startling admission of weight loss that left him with excess skin, and a whole bag of other body image worries.

We get excited when we see and hear men speak up about this issue because at the moment it is so rare. Not too long ago, vlogger Matt Diaz, 22, shared his own weight loss admission in a now-viral video and spoke very honestly about how his excess hanging skin affected his self-esteem.

There are plenty of statistics out there which share vital information about boys, weight loss, body image, self-esteem and ideals of masculinity that they feel they need to uphold.

“Although gay men are thought to represent only 5% of the male population, 42% of men with eating disorders identify as gay, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Other studies cited by organization showed that gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight. They’re also seven times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males,” reports Mic on the particular struggle of gay men with body image issues.

But it is not the statistics that are getting people’s attention, it is the personal, authentic admissions from men, including some celebrities, that seem to be hitting home the most.

Take for instance the 60 Minutes Australia interview with British singer Sam Smith who took audiences on a journey being an aspiring singer living in a rough neighborhood of London and being bullied for his looks, to rubbing shoulders with Beyonce and Taylor Swift and winning a handful of Grammy Awards.

He talks about knowing he was gay from the age of ten have having very supportive parents which enabled him to never really struggle with sexuality. It was body image that got him down.

Sam says being the target of bullies who called him a “faggot” wasn’t what upset him, because he can’t change who he is: a gay man. It’s when people call him fat that he knows that is something he CAN change about himself (from 7:30 onwards).

“If someone called me fat, that affects me way more than someone calling me a faggot,” he said.

“From a young age food has controlled me, it’s been a comfort thing. When I was at school and things weren’t going well, or when music wasn’t going well eating would make me feel better. When I would feel lonely I would eat.”

In February when Sam won 4 Grammy awards, he made a startling admission about how closely tied his weight and body image was to his happiness and success.

“Before I made this record, I was doing everything to try to get my music heard. I tried to lose weight, I was making awful music. It was only until I started being myself did the music start to flow and people start to listen,” he said.

So why should men speak up more about their body image struggles? Because gender stereotyping hurts them just as much as it does women. The more society tells them to be “macho”, be tough, don’t talk about your emotions, wear a certain type of clothes, go to the gym and get bulked up etc etc, they begin a cycle of being trapped inside their own bodies but wanting another’s.

The Telegraph in the UK recently interviewed some male models about how they perceive their bodies. It was quite sad to read how deep this pain can be, yet there are a limited number of ways for men to talk about it, compared to women.

“This isn’t about the fashion industry. This is a much wider issue about men, and about how and why men don’t talk to each other about their insecurities. It’s the whole alpha male thing. If you get a bunch of guys in a room everyone would try and assert their man status. I think if they talked about their insecurities, they’d be afraid it would show weakness,” said male model Jamie Jewitt to the Telegraph, who has worked for Tom Ford.

“The whole movement against conforming to the typical slim body type has been predominantly led by women, but there aren’t any men doing the same thing. That needs to change. If a man mentioned his insecurities there would probably be an awkward shuffle and someone might admit they feel the same way, but it’s so rare.”


“Being bullied stays with you. Those insecurities are still there. You never forget how you felt and how you were treated. It’s made me more conscious and I’m probably more aware because I don’t want to go back to how I was. Being bullied stayed with me and that’s probably what made me so self-conscious about my body. As a man you’re expected to laugh it off – that’s the accepted idea of masculinity,” said another model Henry Rogers who has worked for Calvin Klein.

Ten percent of all eating disorder sufferers in the UK are men yet the majority of those men don’t get the help they need because of the societal tendency to lock up their feelings. One of the things both of these models tell the Telegraph is that they would love to see more men speak up about this issue so that the men who do suffer don’t feel so alone.

“I’d love to see someone like David Beckham speak out about it. People look up to him and value what he does and says. Although I do think there’s a good chance if he did that people would take the mick out of him. But then that could also be a necessary first step in order to pave the way for long-term change, for the better,” said Jamie.

His comment shows how important Sam Smith’s admission is. Celebrity is one of the most powerful forms of currency that exists today, and the more celebs can be vulnerable about their struggles, it just might have an impact on more people.

This certainly isn’t a gendered fight, yet the media would have us think so. There are plenty of resources geared toward women, and women are more disposed to be open about it. In that freedom we have, we women need to step up and encourage our brothers and form a united front against dangerous body image ideals.

Our message to all the men in the world reading this and who struggle with low self-esteem or other issues due to the way they look: you are strong, you are capable, you are beautiful and loved just the way you are. You deserve better than the awful stereotypes that do nothing to better masculinity today. Dear men, when you speak out, you start a revolution, a spark. When you speak up about your body image struggle, everyone wins.






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