If you do a quick Google search for “body confidence," you might notice that most of the results are geared toward women. This isn't a bad thing, of course, as society has been consistently shaming women and their bodies, as well as attempting to control every aspect for their bodies, for centuries. Still, girls aren’t the only ones needing help in this department. Turns out, it’s important to teach our sons to be body confident, too.
As a mother to a young boy, I know that there are certain messages being absorbed by my son on a daily basis. Some are being told to him directly thanks to specific conversations people feel comfortable having with my son (which thankfully aren’t too complex at the moment, as he’s not yet three years old). Others are less direct, and are being absorbed when he overhears adults having conversations around him, or certain television commercials targeting his specific demographic. Cartoons and books are, sadly, also trying to instill antiquated gender roles that could leave my son with a less-than-stellar relationship with his body. While I do my best to try and broaden his horizons, I know I will only have to struggle harder to go against the grain as he grows older, goes to school, and makes friends who might not understand the deep-rooted patriarchy we live in.
That's why there are so many reasons why we need to teach our sons the importance of body confidence; not just for them but for those around them and for those hey may come into contact with and have relationships with. Here are just a few.
Discussions Of Body Confidence Are Often Geared More Towards Girls
Girls grow up listening to folks dote on how “cute” they are, and then live through a series of mixed messages about how they need to be beautiful but not slutty. It’s pretty enraging, overall. As such, the plethora of articles and books on body confidence and body positivity out there are geared toward our daughters more often than our sons. Still, boys need these lessons, too.
Few Other People (If Any) Will Ever Bother To Teach Your Son To Be Body Confident
For the moment, we don’t really teach body confidence in schools. We also don’t discuss it nearly enough on television shows (and if we do it’s, again, probably geared toward girls). Your son’s doctor, coach, librarian, or bus driver probably won’t be bringing it up much, either. So you might as well do it, right?
Boys Are Often Taught Not To Talk About Their Feelings (About Their Bodies, Or Otherwise)
Many of the damaging things we can say to our boys deal with not allowing them to feel or discuss their feelings. “Be a man” and “suck it up” are phrases nearly every boy has heard at some point. As their parent, we need to rise up and make sure our sons know that they can, in fact, talk about their feelings and discuss the relationship they have with their bodies (and, you know anything else).
Pop Culture Pushes The Idea That Attractive Men All Have Prominent Muscles
Little boys are often raised to look up to superheroes like Superman, Thor, and Batman. If it isn't a superhero, it's a professional athlete who, honestly, looks exactly like a superhero. These “super” men frequently have incredibly muscular physiques that few people actually have in real life. Because there are so few “admirable” men who are thin or fat, young boys often end up feeling inadequate in their own bodies.
It Will Help Steer Them Clear Of Eating Disorders
Although 20 million women suffer from eating disorders at some point in their lives, so do an estimated 10 million men. Yet, despite this fact, resources are more readily available for women with these disorders than they are for men, and men are often ridiculed if they even mention having one. Encouraging healthy lifestyles that include body confidence can help children avoid the pitfalls of developing a disorder later in life, regardless of their gender or perceived gender.
It May Help Him To Avoid Being Bullied Or Bullying Others
Sadly, we live in a world where bullying is often a "rite of passage" for kids. If your son is taught body confidence from an early age, he may have a better chance at avoid being bullied (or not caring about what bullies may say to him). It may also make him realize that picking on others for their bodies is immature and may help him to avoid bullying others.
Toxic Masculinity Doesn’t Allow Boys To Ask For Help When They Need It
Just like boys are told they shouldn't discuss their feelings, they're also raised to "handle their own problems," even when they might need some serious help. Men frequently wait until they reach a critical point before they’re finally willing to ask for help, thanks to toxic masculinity and the need to appear "strong" or "brave" or "tough." In fact, men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women, largely in part to his prevailing mentality. If you raise body confident boys, they will have less to worry over and stress about, and less chance of developing preventable mental health issues.
Boys Need To Know They Own Their Bodies...
This is a lesson for everyone, really. To know that you have control of what happens to your body; that no one should be allowed to touch you in any way that isn’t comfortable; that you’re allowed to wear what feels right for you; it's all part of teaching consent and body confidence. We shouldn’t police anyone’s bodies, and that includes boys.
...Especially Because Men Get Raped, Too (But It’s Never Taken As Seriously)
One especially problematic topic regarding boys and their bodies is the fact that society tends to ignore the problem of rape and/or sexual assault. While women are statistically raped more frequently, studies show that men are also raped in a number of ways, including being forced to penetrate another person (over 1.2 million victims in 2010). Though rape is not something one can prevent, being body confident can at least mean that victims might be better prepared to report their attacks, and ask for the support they need.
Body Confidence Leads To Happier, Healthier Behaviors
At the end of the day, every single parent wants his or her child to be happy and healthy. Studies have shown that having a positive body image, and having confidence in your body, is paramount to being a happier person overall. So really, why wouldn’t you want to teach your sons to be body confident?