The Velvet Rage: why do you train?

A few weeks ago I finished reading a book called The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. This book had a profound impact on me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it directly echoes my views on physicality and our bodies, outlined in my previous article, The Perfect Gay Physique. But it goes one step further, and dives into a deep explanation of our search for the perfect body. Of course, this quest is not specific to us gay man; however the intention behind it is.The author, Alan Down, is a US psychologist, and has dealt over the past couple of decades with a number of gay clients. Over the years he has seen patterns emerge, and has been able to identify a seemingly common process that most, if not every, gay men go through in some degree or another. He explains the quest of most gay men for perfection (in their appearance, their jobs, their lifestyles, but also of course their bodies), by their subconscious lack of validation and possible shame. Indeed, the world around us being a world built by straight men, from a young age we are taught that to fit in, to feel normal, we must hide our true selves and find validation from our friends and family by acting like the norm. Only later on in life do we finally decide to stop hiding and to show our true selves and sexuality. However, these earlier years scar us, wound us, hurt us, and we subconsciously hold on to the built up shame, until we can accept ourselves. While we still hold on to the shame of being ourselves, we find ways to cover this up: through the external appearance of happiness and success. We find the perfect job, we create the perfect house, we host the perfect parties. And above all, we create the perfect bodies for ourselves. Why? Because a great-looking body attracts looks, attracts attention, and thereby gets us the validation we need to feel good about ourselves. We train our bodies and feed our bodies a certain way because we do not feel good enough as we are, we are unhappy with ourselves, both internally and externally. We train because we are in a state of insecurity and shame. To be honest, when I started my gym training years ago, I was subconsciously looking to gain validation from other men and to feel better about myself. I was training from a place of fear and insecurity: if I didn’t look a certain way, how could anyone love me? How could I be happy? But training with that intention did not fulfil me, instead becoming a never-ending quest for validation. Recently however, my approach to training has changed. I have become aware of my subconscious shame and need for validation, and the ways in which this had shaped my life up until now. I have made great steps in turning my life in a direction that feels authentic and true to myself, not dictated by what society or others think. I have overwritten my feelings of shame by feelings of self-love and acceptance. And I have started to train with a different intention: for enjoyment, fun, and for the love and respect of my body. I am fulfilled, not because of the attention and validation I get from the outside, but rather from what I feel on the inside. And that is what I now want to teach those around me. Train because you love yourself, rather than because you need to look a certain way. Accept yourself, your body and your looks, and love them before wanting to improve them. Train for strength, speed, stamina, flexibility, and above all, fun! Find activities and sports you like, and enjoy your training, enjoy your body, enjoy movement. Love the way you move. Love the way you feel.

Move, Feel, Live. Will