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A Love Letter To My Body

Masculinity

A real and raw 'love letter to my body' by plus-size model and cult hero Ben James - a sometimes harrowing but deeply inspiring piece about self-acceptance.

I saw recently that women were writing letters to their body. It first came up in my news feed when an article written by @glamourmagazine was published. While it feels like a fairly effeminate activity to do, I’m an open minded guy and wanted to try it myself. What you’re about to read is raw, somewhat dark, unfiltered and extremely vulnerable. I’m posting it publicly in a hope that anyone reading it can relate and alleviate the pressures they place on themselves by realising they’re not alone and are very much worthy of more. 

 

Dear Body,

It feels weird writing to you – I’ve spent so much of my life identifying through you but always felt somewhat betrayed. 

Growing up so tall and so big meant we didn’t get much of a childhood, we were seen and treated as a man from the early days and we never really got a crack at being “normal”. 

While girls your age were swooning over the likes of Harry Styles and the typical boy band type, you left us feeling like an ogre in the corner.

You made us stand out like a sore thumb from the get go, brought negative attention in our most sensitive of times and I still haven’t forgiven you for how shit you made us at hide & seek. 

But in writing this I realise, maybe it’s I who has betrayed you. 

I’ve starved you, harmed you, cut you and even in my darkest of hours, tried to end you all together. 

I’ve spent your 28 years trying to change you, to shrink you down into – what I’m realising –  you were never meant to be. The excessive cardio and under-eating only lead to you wasting away and even when that was the goal,  I would punish you even more for still not looking how I expected you to.  

My relationship with you has led me down some dark paths, achieving happiness only when there was a little less stomach fat and a little more rib showing. Seeking validation in some of the most unhealthy ways. 

And maybe that’s where I’ve let you down. 

You were made to stand out, made to be strong, made to protect and do good for those around you. But in denying you of achieving your ability I only denied myself of the same. 

The thing is, I never took time to work out what you were good at, I was too concerned with blending in, getting my head down and just getting by. 

I just focused on what you were bad at and tried to make you fit into this media driven ideology, I didn’t care what was best for you I just wanted you to look like the guys in magazines, movies and on billboards. 

I wanted you so badly to look more like the David Beckham Calvin Klein billboard and less like the James Corden piss take version. 

But the irony is, we are that guy now!

Even though I’ve done all those things to you,  you’ve still managed to get us on those billboards, on those TV screens and in those magazines.

Except, we’ve done it with value, we’re not just another cookie cutter, flash in the pan model, we’re helping more people in more ways than we ever could have imagined. 

Maybe I was wrong about you. The towering height, huge frame, love handles, cellulite, acne and scars, maybe they’re not so bad after all. 

If anything, I’m sorry. I blamed you for so much of my sadness when in actual fact, you were the one carrying me towards happiness. 

I promise I am working on loving you, I know at times I still put you through hell but I’m working on it.

We have a long road ahead but we’re happier than we’ve ever been and I promise to work on treating you better. We’re only just getting started on this journey so who knows what we might achieve in future. 

Love

Ben 

X

 

Do you have a letter that you’d like to send to your body? Send it to martin@thebookofman.com and we’ll publish it.

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Can we talk about Channing?! One of the biggest issues in mental health, is that it’s impossible to see. In men we’re often told someone’s happiness can be characterised through our bodies. Abs = happy. Belly = depressed. So @ChangingTatum posted on Instagram earlier this year about the importance of taking care of your mental health and today about him feeling back on track and don’t get me wrong we love to see it and his openness absolutely deserves to be celebrated. But when I see his caption today talking about the long road back, alongside his photo of his “super cut torso”, it feels like this is an example of where many of our issues lie. This could subliminally say to men; the hard work you dedicate to getting in shape will fix my problems, this body has brought me happiness, this body beautiful is the image of happiness, this is how you look when you’re truly happy. Which let’s face it, if we really think about it we know this just isn’t true. But we look at imagery like this and can take away that Channing having rock solid abs have contributed to him overcoming his mental health battles. Men are told having a body like Channing is the answer to your problems but we all know reaching this kind of unrealistic body goal is unattainable for so many and the journey to reach it would be detrimental for most. It’s incredibly brave and needed for people like Channing Tatum to speak openly about mental health battles. We all need to show that life has its ups and downs. But when doing so, I believe it’s vital that the emphasis of improving our mental health isn’t mixed up with the imagery placed on an ‘ideal’ body. We need to move away from placing so much emphasis on abs as if they’re this holy grail of happiness that fixes all. But rather let’s focus on overcoming struggles and achieving success l on our own terms in the pursuit in personal happiness.

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