Falling into the comparison trap of seeing people in mainstream media, and then feeling disheartened with our own appearance, is something so many of us can relate to. For Kiss radio presenter Tom Green, his view around body image led to the crushing belief that he couldn’t be successful without looking a certain way.
In this personal letter to other men out there, Tom delves into his own negative thought patterns, and shares his advice for owning who you are – in all shapes and forms
Dear ‘Male Class of 2019’,
Before I get stuck in, I should introduce myself. Hi! I’m Tom, a 24-year-old radio and TV presenter. Born and bred in Preston, I went to university in Leeds, spent two years in Manchester, and nine months in Bow, East London. I host the KISS FM breakfast show five days a week – nice to meet you!
I’m here to talk about body positivity. How I learned to not care about what other people thought, and to love my cubby northern self… and yes ladies, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Is he single?’ I actually am. Tweet me.
I’ve not always felt this way. Like a lot of people, my confidence was knocked in secondary school with my introduction to the social pecking order. This was my first time creating a mental list of people who I thought were more important than me, based purely on their looks and athleticism. Attributes I thought meant they would get all the girls, and graduate to a lifetime of success.
That is when I began to develop the idea, which stuck with me for years: ‘To be attractive, I have to be sporty and thin.’ That was my mantra. That is what I believed. ‘Unless you are sporty and thin, you cannot be hot, and therefore you cannot be successful.’ These ideas were absolutely stupid, and completely unproductive, but it’s what I honestly thought at the time.
I wasn’t good at sports, and never made the football, rugby, or anything, team. I loved sausage sandwiches and butter pies (it’s a Preston thing, give it a Google), so I wasn’t slim. I didn’t live up to my idea of a ‘good looking person’, which in my mind equated to a successful person.
And, as I got older, I saw this ‘good looking person’ everywhere. My generation grew up watching shows like Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea, Love Island, and Ex On The Beach, where only one type of body is really represented. For men, that body type was tall, and built like you’ve never left the gym, with a six-pack, and 24/7 tan. Or to put it another way, there were not a lot of chubby Northerners in the mix. Seeing these people on TV helped to reinforce those negative ideas I had, and how isolated those of us who didn’t conform to these categories felt.
Then last year something happened, which shows how far I’ve come in accepting my own body. I interviewed singer Liam Payne, and thought it was a brilliant idea to surprise him by hiding under a blanket, and just before the interview started, having it whipped off so he could: “Paint me like one of your French girls.” No matter how confident you are about your body, it was a pretty ballsy move!
The interview was amazing, the reaction online was incredible, and he was actually a natural talent with a painting brush. But how did I go from being incredibly unconfident about my body to being, bar a very small set of speedos, naked in front of a camera?
Silence whatever it is that is holding you back, and start to believe in your own ability
I know this is probably a really overused piece of advice, but it’s completely true. I learnt that, in the vast majority, people only care when you clearly care. When you hold yourself in a way that says, ‘I’m not comfortable’, that energy shows through your body language, and it will then come back to you.
But, let’s be honest here, I know full well that confidence isn’t something you can just magic out of thin air. You can’t wake up one morning and decide that, going forward, you are going to be a confident individual, comfortable in your skin.
However, you can live by my favourite mantra: ‘Fake it ‘til you make it.’ Having confidence is not this intangible quality that is completely unavailable to you. You can chose to silence whatever it is that is holding you back, and start to believe in your own ability.
At the start, you might feel uncomfortable in situations, but decide to act in a way that makes it seem like you’re confident. The thing is, people will buy into that energy, and before long they will become accustomed to you being that guy.
In time, the genuine confidence will come. And I believe through that confidence you will become happier with the person you are, learning that it really doesn’t matter your body shape or type, if you own it, people will buy that energy and appreciate you for the person you are – not what you look like.
To conclude, I think it is incredibly important to take the positives you can from your situation. Body image is something that you have the ability to craft yourself; you choose how you see you. There is no better time than now to address insecurities and to realise that these things do not need to hold you back! You can view your differences as positives, and use this to not only affect how you perceive yourself physically, but how you hold yourself around other people. It all starts with acceptance and confidence.
Trust me, I know this won’t be easy, but take small steps with addressing how you view you. It will take time, but that confidence will begin to grow, and it won’t be long until you can love the person you are.
There is no better time to realise the person you are is good enough. But it starts by you believing it, then everyone else will follow. You got it, pal!