Your self-image is a mental picture of yourself, both as a physical body and an individual. When you think about yourself, the feelings and images that come up are important. A healthy body image means that you see yourself as you really are, and that you feel good in your own skin. Self-image also involves how you feel about your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.
Because sex involves both the body and the mind, our self-image has a strong affect on our sexual health. By the same token, our feelings about our bodies can influence the way we think about ourselves as people. Self-image can change as we age, too, because our bodies change constantly as we move through life.
During puberty, abrupt shifts in our hormones cause these changes to happen very quickly, which can be both exciting and a little jarring. Acne may erupt on our skin as we adjust to a new stage of life.
From birth, men are conditioned to be socially, physically, and sexually dominant just as many women are caught in an unhealthy pursuit of a model-skinny figure.
Just like women, men need to recognize that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. There is no one “right” body size. Your body is not, and should not be, exactly like anyone else’s.
The Influence of Media and Popular Culture
Body image is what you believe about your physical appearance. Images of beautiful men and women are displayed everywhere from billboards to television advertisements. Fortunately, everyone does not look the same. Looking at models and movie stars often create a negative self-image of one self in relation to these images.
Look around—magazines tend to focus on promoting weight lifting, bodybuilding or muscle toning. Having a body you can imagine on the cover of a magazine will not make you happy.
We see perfectly muscled bodies. “Is that what a real man is supposed to look like,” you may find yourself asking.
When men are dissatisfied, the main focuses of concern are height, stomachs, chests and hair loss. We may see them surreptitiously drawing in their stomachs and walking ‘taller’ as they pass the mirror.
From Boys to Men
Teenage boys are often obsessed with size, checking out each other in school locker rooms, worrying that others will tease them if they don’t “measure up” to some unwritten standard. This pressure goes side by side with insecurity fueled by everything from acne to not having a cool car or the prized brand of sneakers. Add in an overwhelming desire to fit in and you can see why a number of teen-age boys are a brooding brew of hormones and gangly limbs.
Penis size is determined entirely by factors out of our control. Yet penis size may be the single greatest cause of anxiety for men young and old. Questions about penis size abound; What’s the average penis size? Can I increase my penis size? Does penis size matter as much as I think it does? Some of these questions have easy answers, most of them don’t.
Males often underestimate the size of their own penis relative to that of others, because he is looking down. Studies have shown that many men who believed that their penis was of inadequate size had average-sized penises.
As they age, men’s obsession with size may lessen. Men’s fixation with performance, however, may become more acute with age – especially if they experience any difficulty in that area. Sometimes a problem with a relationship can become, for the man, a problem he can solve by being “better” at sex. Of course, often the problems in relationships have little to nothing to do with the quality of sex.
Performance anxiety isn’t limited to physical sexual prowess, either. Men compare themselves to other guys when it comes to income and professional accomplishments as well. Much like their adolescent counterparts, men in their prime working years can view themselves as flawed if they don’t have the right car, a corner office, or don’t quite reach the same rung on the career ladder as their peers. An attractive partner hooked to the arm of an older, affluent, professionally successful man (who may be quite ordinary in looks and personality) can lead even a secure guy to tell himself “I should be there. What’s wrong with me?”
Middle Age and Beyond
As with other stages of life, older men have their own unique issues. America doesn’t take seniors and sex seriously. It’s often difficult to believe that older people — particularly senior men — may have vibrant, active sex lives. But they do. Of course, some things may not work the way they did in younger years but sex can still give meaning and satisfaction to older men who pursue physical relationships or who want to maintain and increase intimacy with a partner of many years.
When it comes down to it, the physical body is constantly changing. Actively learning about what to expect as you age can help you prepare for the feelings that those changes may bring. Don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider about what you should be watching for as your body goes through the stages of life. Remember that your body is an amazing thing; it is capable of showing love, giving and receiving pleasure.