Three-quarters of men with a visible difference say men are under pressure to meet macho male stereotypes, and a quarter say they feel self-conscious or embarrassed about showing parts of their body.
Our new research reveals six in 10 men with a visible difference agree that people react differently to a man with a visible difference than a woman.
The survey, conducted by Savanta ComRes, of over 1,000 men with a visible difference such as a mark or scar, highlights how men with a visible difference are contending with a double challenge: handling the reactions of others and living in a society where talking about appearance is still more acceptable for women than men.
Two-thirds (64%) of men with visible differences felt negative emotions, such as being embarrassed, worried or afraid, when they realised they looked different.
Changing Faces CEO Becky Hewitt says: “Looking different in a society that promotes and values ‘perfection’ is tough and it’s no wonder that men find it difficult to speak out about their experiences. All too often men with disfigurements are portrayed negatively, with scars often used as a shorthand for villainy.
“Added to that there’s a prevailing attitude that men should ‘just get on with it’, and not worry about how they look. It’s a toxic blend that doesn’t help people who could really benefit from support.”
The research found that three-quarters of men with a visible difference say men do not talk about their appearance but agreed that there should be more conversations among men.
Changing Faces campaigner Rory McGuire says: “When you look different you have to be ready for daily stares and comments. That takes its toll, particularly if you don’t feel able to talk about how it makes you feel.
“In my late teens I eventually started to speak out. At first, I shared my experiences online. I had positive reactions from all over the world, and closer to home, people realised the impact of appearance related bullying and abuse. Things started to change for the better.
“We need men, and women, to know that it’s okay to talk about your appearance, and how other people’s reactions can make you feel.”
The research also found that a quarter (23%) of men with a visible difference feel they are a stronger person because of looking different.
Changing Faces ambassador, and actor, Adam Pearson says: “When I look back at the young man I was, to the person I have become, I am very proud of him. It’s not always easy looking different in a world that is so focused on perfection.
“Growing up there were no positive role models of people with disfigurements in the media. So now I’m on a mission to be more visible. I speak out and share my experiences, because if it helps one more man, or woman, feel able to share how they’re feeling about their appearance, that’s a job well done.”
Currently only around two in 10 of our clients are men, and we have launched a campaign to encourage more men to come forward and access support services, such as free one-to-one counselling, peer group chat and an online self-help programme.
Changing Faces campaigners and ambassadors have been sharing their experiences of being a man and living with a visible difference in the latest My Visible Difference podcast, guest hosted by Changing Faces ambassador Adam Pearson.