This article is a guest blog written by Liam Preston. Liam works for YMCA England where he is responsible for the YMCA's parliamentary and public affairs. Within this role he is a spokesperson and advocate for the Be Real Campaign for body confidence, as well as an organiser for the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Body Image and Youth Affairs.
I know what you are thinking, body confidence is not really a "blokes'" issue and, if I am honest, until recently I did not think it was either. In fact, before working on the Be Real Campaign for body confidence - set up by a range of partners including YMCA England, Dove and N Brown - it was not something I was interested in at all.
However, over the past five months my perception of this issue and the importance it plays in our lives could not have changed more. The reason for such a shift in my opinion is down to the raft of research being produced that looks at body confidence and, in particular, 'manxiety' or male perception of body image.
This has been highlighted again in the past week with the release of 'The Modern Man-ual' report into male body confidence by Jacamo.
It is hard to comprehend how much of an impact body confidence can have. For example, a report put together for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image which preceded Be Real, found that of people aged 23 to 34-years-old, 31% said the way they look has stopped them going for a job. More worrying, it also found that it is now affecting those even younger. Girls as young as five are worried about the way they look and one third of young boys aged eight to 12-years-old are dieting to lose weight.
It is for this reason that the Be Real Campaign was founded. Its role is to challenge stereotypes and to promote the fact that happy and healthy bodies are more important than achieving the 'perfect look'.
I come from a large group of friends who will use any opportunity to mock each other. So this Jacamo research speaks to a lot of my personal experiences. As guys, we do mention each other's weight, outfits and fitness and, in my case, there is also a serious amount of receding hair bashing. This is almost always done in a negative way and, although not meant hurtfully, it does not take much before it eats away at your self-esteem. This is regardless of how much of a front we put up.
Traditionally, body confidence is seen as a female issue but 'The Modern Man-ual' research highlights that 40% of men suffer from 'manxiety' with teasing from friends named as a top reason. In fact, one third of young people reported that they had changed their appearance as a result of being bullied. The Jacamo research also found that 48% desperately wanted to lose weight, two in five wanted to tone up and more than half were most unhappy with their midriff.
Be Real's own research reports that 40% of adult men claim to have felt pressure from television and magazines to have a 'perfect' body. In addition, 7% of those in 'The Modern Man-ual' research said this is made worse when their partner looks at images of men with fantastic bodies they do not feel they could ever achieve.
However, it is not all bad news. The Be Real Campaign is designed to help change people's outlooks on their bodies and companies such as Jacamo, Dove and New Look talking positively about this issue is a great start. Alongside this, while being teased by friends was an issue, they can also play a positive role as well. In fact, 35% of men in the research said that receiving a compliment can be a great boost to how they feel. So what can we do to ensure more men feel confident?
As part of the launch, Jacamo is encouraging men to give each other some #Ladmiration: paying each other compliments on the way they look and more importantly talking about our bodies.
A friend and I adopted a similar policy recently. After seeing our respective female friends complimenting each other on how good they looked online, we realised we have never done this as guys. So now, whenever we see a good Facebook photo or an Instagram image we like of each other, we post a little comment underneath. We have been doing this for a while now and it genuinely feels good to read.
We need to adopt a more positive outlook on how we feel about ourselves and about what we say to others. My challenge to you - tying in with 'The Modern Man-ual' research - is to check out a few of your friends' photos, let them know they are looking good and start spreading the #Ladmiration. You can help us too, ladies!
You can also find this article by Liam on the Huffington Post here.