The popularity of muscle building has grown significantly in recent years. Gym memberships have soared and this is not only for men. Women are just as likely to be a member of a gym as men are. And then there is a whole range of supplements to assist with building muscle for men and this has also expanded into special supplements for women.
And a direct correlation to this has been the rise of females who are also actively seeking to gain a muscular physique. So not only do some men desire to build as much muscle as possible; there are some women who have the same agenda.
The Body Is A Temple
Whether it is looking after ones physical body, mental or emotional sides it is clear that these are all incredible important areas to focus on and look after. And the intention of this article is not to label bodybuilding as right or wrong.
It is to take a deeper look at what may cause both males and females to become obsessed with creating muscle. The fact that so many people are focusing on one part of their health with such intensity, is partly a sign that people are taking care of themselves.
And once one area is focused on and developed, it can always lead to other sides being looked at. Emotional and mental development could then be the next stage or ‘fashion’ to arise. And this would then see a more balanced approach appear.
Just like anything that is around for long enough or is displayed through a certain amount of people; the muscle building obsession has become a normal part of society. And this means that in the majority of cases it becomes accepted and even invisible to people.
As this is the case and the muscle building obsession becomes normal; the reasons as to why this obsession has risen for both men and women are often unanswered. It is then just a part of life and perhaps something to do while one is on this earth.
Two Different Bodies
While men who are obsessed with it are less likely to stand out, women who are obsessed with it are more likely to stand out. Simply because muscles are associated as something men have and to the masculine aspect. And women are not associated with muscles; the feminine is more to with softness and having a figure that carry’s fat.
The driver of human behaviour is often emotions. However, being connected to these emotions or having what is described as emotional intelligence is not normal for everyone. For some, living through impulse or being enslaved to emotions is a part of life.
And this means that as a result of being emotionally disconnected and cut off from the real reasons as to why one does something; one will justify or rationalise why they do something. Or they may not even know why they do what they do.
One of the first reasons that come to my mind - as to why some people are obsessed with gaining muscle - is approval. As ‘everyone’ else seems to be doing it then why not join them. This means that it has become popular and fashionable.
And what is popular or fashionable often has numerous associations attached. This could be what is classed as: attractive, sexy, powerful, likeable and acceptable. And with these kinds of influences, how can people resist.
On the surface this sounds like a reasonable reason and one that is undoubtedly plays a big part in the muscle gaining obsession. And yet if it was simply to do with approval, why bother will all the work that is required to create muscle?
A Deeper Look
Now let’s not deny or even minimise how strong the need for approval can be or the power it can have on a human beings life. I believe that another reason and perhaps one of the primary reasons for the body building obsession is due to a lack of ego boundaries.
These are what allow one to feel safe and protected and this of course applies to both men and women. Having a sense of one’s personal or scared space is what is created through boundaries. Knowing where one begins and ends and where another person begins and ends. And having sense of ‘’I know who I am and who I am not’’.
Here one feels safe to be and express who they are and although this does relate to the body and mind; it comes down to the ego minds associations and not how strong or weak the body is or looks.
So if one doesn’t feel safe or protected to be who they are, as a result of the ego mind associations of themselves, others and the world: then how would one deal with this challenge?
Boundaries could be developed, but as emotional intelligence if often the exception and not the rule, that is an unlikely option. The way to do it would be through armouring the body and muscles allow this to happen.
Here one would have another means of feeling safe and protected. By covering the body with so much muscle it will create a similar experience of having boundaries. Although the body is becoming stronger and protected, the ego minds associations are still going to be there.
So obsessively building muscle could then been seen as compensatory and as a way to emotional regulate oneself. The ability to emotionally regulate oneself is part of having emotional intelligence.
If one feels deep emotional wounds that haven’t been looked at and processed, the fear of these happening again are likely to be around. This could be to do with deep trauma and feeling powerless for example. And having a body that is covered in muscle can create the feeling that one will never be hurt again and will lead to a feeling of control.
This is surely a massive factor as to why so many women have become obsessed with building muscle. Women are often more in tune with their emotions and so this is can be seen as an ideal solution to avoid being hurt again.
As the ego mind works in polarities, if one has not developed strong ego boundaries it will see two possible outcomes. Either one is open and vulnerable to the world, or one is closed and protected.
And if the ego mind sees these as being the only available options, it is not much of a surprise to see which one is generally chosen.
How strong ones need for approval is, how functional ones ego boundaries are and if one can emotionally regulate themselves will largely depend on the quality of early childhood development. As will whether one carries deep trauma or feels powerless and has no control.
The two primary styles of care are classed as empathic care and unempathic care. These are two extremes and it doesn’t meant that one has to receive care that is always empathic to grow up to be functional. Or that one has to receive care that is always unempathic care to grow up dysfunctional. These are just general guidelines.
If one was brought up by a caregiver that was empathic, it is likely that developing ego boundaries; having the ability to emotionally regulate oneself and having a strong sense of self will be formed.
This is a result of the caregiver being aware enough to respect the boundaries of the child, regulating the Childs emotions in most cases and in responding to the child needs to enable a sense of self to be formed.
And then if trauma did occur one is going to feel more at ease with their emotions and feelings as a result of this early regulation and having a caregiver that responds to them will also help.
On the other hand, the above is not as likely to happen then one is brought up by a caregiver that is out of tune and unaware of the Childs needs. The Childs personal space is likely to be routinely crossed and violated. Sensations and emotions can also be ignored and denied; leading to the child creating a dysfunctional relationship to them.
Having a sense of self is not going to be as likely due to the unempathic caregiver ignoring the Childs needs. A consequence of this is feeling of powerlessness, having no control and having no self. The need for approval from others will also be higher, as one won’t have the external experiences of being approved of to internalise. What this can do is create a sense of betrayal and abandonment; resulting in a lot of unacknowledged pain
The above examples are used to create awareness and this can lead to people questioning why they do what they do. In order for one to become obsessed with gaining muscle or anything for that matter - there has to be pain involved.
And if one experienced a childhood that was full of unempathic care or even a traumatic situation that hasn’t been looked at; there is inevitably going to be a lot of pain. This pain could be repressed or openly expressed, but it will need to be channelled or acknowledged in some way.
Through questioning why one does something, one can see if it is the best choice to take and one that will really lead to happiness and fulfilment. Thereby being a conscious human being and not one that is a slave to the past.
Looking after the body is one aspect and looking ones mental and emotional sides is just as important. Especially as it’s often one’s mind that defines what one will do with their body.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.