”I’m beautiful because I’m confident.” Paul’s body image story (NSFW)

Check out Paul, 46 from Hampshire’s personal body image journey.


 I’m not confident because I’m beautiful. I’m beautiful because I’m confident.


OK, as a man please read “handsome” for “beautiful” – or not.  I’m comfortable with beautiful.  And despite what mothers everywhere say, beauty is not skin deep. Oh no. In fact I’d say the reverse is true and beauty is deep inside. You just have to let it out.

This doesn’t mean I don’t look after myself or don’t care how I look.  I do. Very much. So much I spend hours at the beauty parlour changing the things I really do not like that I can change. For example having my body waxed because I have a hang up about body hair. But I can only go and let the beautician see my body because I became confident and comfortable in my skin. My journey started with the wrong attitude entirely.

I started thinking it’s what’s inside that’s important, and while that is true, it became an excuse not to care about the outside.  Not so much that I didn’t wash or try and dress nicely but enough not to look after myself physically.  That led to me getting fatter and fatter until I couldn’t even get up a flight of stairs without taking rest stops.  That wasn’t good and I decided to do something about my health and doing that had some confidence building side effects.

To get my health up I bought a bicycle and decided I’d use it to get to work every day, rain or shine.  So I did, and sometimes it wasn’t easy getting going.  Sometimes it still isn’t.  I did it anyway and started to shed weight.  Some simple changes to my diet, like no longer scoffing whole family buckets of a certain fried chicken for my lunch, were also applied.  Not to make me meet any media set targets but to meet my own health targets – and that is key.  I set my own targets and they were reasonable and achievable for me.

The weight came off as my fitness improved and I started to feel happy about myself. I still wasn’t totally comfortable in my skin though. I had that “man thing” going on of thinking my penis was too small and I didn’t have solid pecks and six-pack abs.  I was happy though and because I was happy I started to notice people wanting to be around me more and that made me happier which turned into a positive cycle. It was the complete opposite of what was happening when I was unhappy with myself.

This happiness led to a request from a friend who was very creative.  She asked me to come along to her art class.  Well, I can’t draw so I declined the first invitation and she explained that her group needed a model to draw and that’s what she was inviting me to do. Come along, get naked, and be drawn by 20 strangers and her.  I’m sure you can imagine what I thought of that, but she persisted explaining that they didn’t want a body builder. They wanted normal.

So, along I went. Fearful they would laugh at my wobbly moobs, small penis and well rounded belly.  I stood in front of all these strangers in a robe, took a deep breath, dropped the robe and struck my first pose.  No one laughed. No one screamed. No one vomited.  In fact they seemed very content drawing what was in front of them. Several poses and three slightly chilly hours later and I was quite disappointed to be getting dressed again.  The artists applauded, they thanked me for allowing them to draw me, they smiled at me. Their drawings showed me how they saw me, which was very different from how I saw myself.  My confidence blossomed and I did it again and again. I love it.  I’ve realised my penis is not going to make people laugh – it’s perfect as it is. My belly is still shrinking and maybe one day I’ll have that six pack but it’s not a huge as it was and even then it wasn’t as huge as I thought. I just have to look at some drawings of me to see that.

Now I’m completely comfortable in my skin – and nothing but my skin. I’m changing what I can because I care but I’m not comparing myself to idealised media images of what I “should” be.  I’m me and if you think I should look any different then it’s you with the issue.

So here I am in all my glory!

unnamed


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About Leyah Shanks

Positive body image activist and advocate for mental health.

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