At work I meet a lot of very attractive and fit men. I know that sounds like a great job, but I just feel depressed or anxious around hot guys. It's starting to impact my performance at work. Any advice?
Sad in Southern California
Dear Sad in Southern California,
Typically when we see someone with a "perfect" body we feel:
feeling bad about our body or our life.
We often make up a story about the guy.
Typically the story looks something like: "He probably has a great life, with lots of mind-blowing sex and amazing weekends of fun with friends."
Which then may lead to another story such as:
"Everyone my age has a great life except me."
We can fall into the comparison trap, which is almost always an unpleasant road trip.
I want to reveal what I've seen from over 17 years of working mostly with gay men. I must explain that this is my opinion from clinical practice. No one is putting research dollars here.
I've noticed that my most attractive and muscular gay male clients struggle the most with feeling bad about their looks. They are more insecure. And it is painful for them. I share this in hopes that it helps you soften some of the damaging stories you may be telling yourself when you see gorgeous men.
Perhaps this information will help you begin to practice telling yourself a new story when you see that guy. The new internal script might look something like this:
"That guy is sooo hot. I would love to do him. I wonder how he feels about himself? I hope he's happy but he might be really insecure."
Tell myself stories? That's what therapists suggest? Yes, we do. Much of what we think and feel are simply stories we tell ourselves. Stories can be destructive, like when they lead to racist or homophobic beliefs, or they can be life enhancing, like when they tell a story through the lens of compassion or curiosity.
Research shows that gay men suffer from anxiety and insecurity about their bodies more than straight men. Many of us aim for perfect bodies to combat our inner feeling of being "less-than." We need new stories to help us combat this tendency.
What's the biggest story gay men tell themselves without even realizing it's a fake, made up story? That gay men are not as a good as straight men.
These days, after years of practicing the new story, I mostly just enjoy the beauty. I've learned that some of the gifts of being alive are seeing beautiful flowers, beautiful buildings, beautiful dogs, and beautiful men.
ADAM D. BLUM, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBTQ people. The center offers services in its San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit its website to subscribe to its e-newsletter and free e-class on building a better relationship with yourself. Follow the Center on Facebook and read its blog. Email Adam your questions for possible publication. (Questions may be edited.)