Have you ever been to a social gathering where taking off your shirt is expected, and you felt like you couldn't be yourself?
In this post, I will give tips and tricks to help you overcome this and make the chest cavity less noticeable.
I have seen many cases where flared ribs and sunken chests negatively affect one's emotional and mental health. In some cases, it can even lead to depression.
I've worked with people that feel so uncomfortable in their skin that they avoid being around other people, even with clothes on.
They think that their ribs are poking out of their tight shirts, so they avoid socializing with friends and dating. Additionally, they tend to avoid outdoor activities requiring taking their shirt off.
In other words, the pectus excavatum deformity prevents people from enjoying their life to the fullest, which is very unfortunate.
DO OTHER PEOPLE NOTICE YOUR CHEST AS MUCH AS YOU DO?
No, they don't! It is human nature to think more about yourself than other people, especially strangers. I sometimes run a simple behavioral experiment with the people I try to help prove this point.
I make them walk on a randomly crowded beach, full of strangers, without a shirt on, and try to notice how many people stared at their chests.
Occasionally, I will make them walk before me while recording the surroundings using my phone camera.
Then, we will watch the video together to see whether somebody was eyeing them in the wrong way. Most people are surprised that their worst fears aren't real.
I highly recommend this experiment to anyone anxious about being around others without a shirt.
You will realize that trying to hide your chest indentation is only a band-aid solution. It won't fix the underlying cause of the problem.
Best Tips for Social Settings
Stop focusing on your appearance too much. Instead, try to focus on the social experience. Be present at the moment and enjoy each conversation you're having—practice mindfulness.
Ignore the negative thoughts you may have about your deformity. Make fun of your chest cavity. People will love your charisma and you for not taking yourself too seriously.
STOP STARING IN THE MIRROR
People with pectus excavatum tend to stare in the mirror bare-chested frequently. Step away from the mirror and take a look at the entire physique. Stop depending on your looks to feel good.
Make it a priority to focus on the good things that are about to happen during the day. Start practicing the examples I will list below. They helped many pectus excavatum sufferers I worked with.
- I am about to have a good night out with my friends. We will make a lot of great memories tonight. These friendships are of significant importance to me. Say this loudly, or similar empowering sentences like this, every time a negative thought about your chest wall appearance occurs.
Another good go-to mantra to use is the following:
- My sunken chest deformity and flared ribs are less noticeable than I think. Even if everybody sees, what is so wrong with that? What's the worst that can happen?
Most people with deformities are afraid of being denied by society for their imperfections, but this fear is baseless.
Talking openly about insecurities and being vulnerable with others in the pectus excavatum community greatly minimizes shame and isolation.
Most people think they're the only ones that struggle with this chest deformity, while the statistics show that it occurs in about 1 in 300-400 births.
People in the pectus excavatum community need to empower one another. The misery loves company mindset will only drag everybody down.
Before trying to hide your chest deformity from others, I recommend you practice the four following steps:
- Be present at the moment.
- Keep your head up and look the person you have conservation in the eyes.
- Remember that you're always your own most prominent critic.
- Your physical appearance doesn't dictate your self-worth as a human being.
What can help
Never allow your stomach to get fat. If you allow it, you will have a weird-looking S shape physique. Instead, try strengthening your core and making it a goal to have solid and visible abs and obliques.
That will make the rib flare less obvious. I highly recommend you practice yoga or Pilates regularly as that will help you strengthen the entire core while improving your poor pectus posture.
Depending on the severity, it is impossible to hide the deformity by adding muscle mass to your pectoralis muscles. The pectoralis major muscle arises from the breastbone.
Every muscle in the human body is connected to a bone with a tendon. Even though you can increase the muscle size, you cannot do the same to the tendon.
- You can slightly reduce the visibility of the pectus excavatum deformity by building up the inner chest muscles. You can do it with
- Dumbbell chest flys
- Cable flys
- Pec deck machine flys
- Cable machine
- Plate squeezes
One of the many mistakes people make is focusing solely on the inner chest. That can lead to injury and an unnatural-looking physique. To achieve a more aesthetic and natural look, you should build the chest muscles as a whole.
Also, some people choose to have 3D tattoos on their chests to distract from the cavity.
8 tips to hide pectus excavatum
1. Wear the appropriate clothes
Avoid wearing t-shirts that have a graphic print on the front. Every time I used to wear such t-shirts, they dropped into my chest indentation.
This notably occurred when it was windy outside. Avoid wearing excessively tight clothes that cause your flared ribs to poke out of the shirt.
2. Try wrapping ace bandages around your chest
This will prevent your clothes from falling into the indentation of your breastbone. Even though it may sound funny, this trick worked for many people.
I find this to be a bit uncomfortable. If you don't tighten the ace bandage properly, it can stack up when you twist your body. This can make you look foolish, so you must remove it.
3. Wear an undershirt
4. Get rid of pectus posture
Most people with the pectus excavatum deformity are skinny and suffer from poor posture, which further emphasizes their inverted sternum.
Their biggest mistake is focusing on strengthening the front's musculature while neglecting the muscles required for optimal posture. Because of this, I sometimes recommend staying away from the bench press exercise for a while.
Performing the exercise constantly, without training the opposite muscle groups of the back, can only worsen your posture, making the deformity more visible.
Start doing corrective exercises to help eliminate muscular imbalances and poor posture. Yoga and Pilates were recommended by my doctor back when I was diagnosed with pectus excavatum.
That helped me immensely when it came to improving my poor posture. It taught me body awareness. I became aware every time I hunched over the desk at school.
5. Shoulder Hypertrophy
Add shoulder hypertrophy training for your deltoids and trapezius muscles. If those muscles are big, people will think that the gap between the pec muscles results from very developed chest muscles.
Broader shoulders will make people stare at them. Also, all your clothes will fit better.
6. Don't Shave Chest Hair
If you're a man, try not to shave your chest hair. Some women find a little bit of chest hair attractive, as it signifies manliness. The benefit of a clean-shaven chest is that it emphasizes muscular definition.
However, if you try to hide the pectus excavatum deformity, this goes against your will. Chest hair can help make the cavity less noticeable. Also, growing your hair out long will remove the emphasis from the chest when you're shirtless.
7. Gain some weight
Most pectus excavatum sufferers have a low body fat percentage. The skinniness further emphasizes the chest cavity. It doesn't mean you will have a belly if you increase your weight.
8. Wear a tight undershirt underneath an oversized t-shirt
Back in the day, I used to hate how some clothes would fall into my chest. This works very effectively, but it can be hard to do in the summertime when it is scorching hot outside.
You can take before and after pictures with and without the tight undershirt. You'll see a big difference in your upper body appearance.
Make it a goal to embrace the look of your chest. Open up and have a conversation with the people you trust about it. After all, you'll understand that it isn't as big a deal as you assume.
A perfect example to look up to is Ijaz, a young gentleman. He tried to hide pectus excavatum his whole life until he understood that it was unhealthy for his mental well-being.
He read many philosophy and psychology books, which helped him decide to become a dancer.
Facing his fears head-on was his purpose. He showed his deformed chest to everyone, and he finally conquered the fear.
What also helped him was doing a digital detox. Deleting social media can be of massive help to everyone suffering from the deformity.
Photo manipulation is prevalent, making you feel inferior to perfect-looking celebrities. An enormous amount of harmful, unnecessary comparison significantly affects your mental health.
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- Effects Of Physical Appearance On Self-Esteem [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 3].
Available from: https://www.changingfaces.org.uk/advice-guidance/confidenceself-esteem/appearance-self-esteem/
- Pectus Excavatum: Practice Essentials, Pathophysiology, Etiology [Internet].
[cited 2022 Dec 3]. Available from: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1004953-overview