You probably didn’t realize this about me but, I was born with a congenial deformity known as pectus excavatum—or concave chest. It’s a condition where the sternum and ribcage grow abnormally, producing a caved-in appearance of the chest.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit: my case wasn’t as severe as most people’s—but, as a kid, it was tough to deal with, nonetheless. I remember being a bit embarrassed to take my shirt off at the pool or always feeling as if all eyes were on my oddly shaped sternum. Truth be told, though, I got over this insecurity early on. I realized, at a young age, that this condition did not define me—it wasn’t who I was.
Personally, I never identified as someone with a birth defect or rare deformity. In fact, it’s quite challenging for me to even call it that (a deformity). I’d never searched for cures or fixes and I certainly never kept my shirt on at the pool, so I assumed anyone else with the condition felt the same way.
That was, of course, until I posted a video on my YouTube channel where I discussed how I “fixed” mine. It may not have gone viral, but it quickly became one of the most popular videos on my channel. With almost 30k views (at the moment I am writing this), it continues to grow each day. Every day, or close to it, I receive new comments from guys all over the world who were born with this rare condition. And now I am finally realizing that, although I was able to brush this off quite easily, most guys really struggle with it.
That said, I thought it was important for me to write this article, where I’ll go over (1) why you shouldn’t let this negatively impact your life and (2) what you can do to make your pectus excavatum much less noticeable.
Pectus Excavatum – Why It’s Not a Big Deal
First, and foremost, understand that this is, in most cases, strictly cosmetic and has no negative impact on your health. And because it’s a matter of bone structure, other than surgery, there really is no way to cure it.
With that said, why stress or lose sleep over something you have absolutely no control over? Why let something, cosmetic or otherwise, diminish your quality of life?
My advice is quite simple: If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it and move forward.
Easier said than done, I know. That’s why I also want to give you a few simple strategies that’ll help you deal with the most common psychological effect of having PE: embarrassment.
Dealing with Embarrassment from Pectus Excavatum
If you’re embarrassed to take your shirt off in front of your friends, family, or strangers, you’re not alone. In fact, being insecure about your sunken chest is completely normal. Fortunately, though, it’s not something you have to live with. There are actually a few simple things you can do to get over this fear of being shirtless in public.
- The Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith Technique: There is a famous scene in the movie 8 Mile where Eminen, who plays a white rapper named Jimmy “Rabbit” Smith, starts off a rap battle by making fun of himself. This tactic disarms his opponent by leaving him with nothing to poke fun at the white rapper about. If you’re at the beach with your buddies, be the first to point out the odd indentation in your chest and laugh about it. Once you’ve pointed it out, you’ll feel less insecure about them noticing it.
- Build Muscle: I don’t care how insecure you are about taking your shirt off in public, once you start hitting the weights and noticing changes, the confidence you’ll acquire will far outweigh the insecurities of your PE. In fact, you may not only feel more comfortable with your shirt off, but you might even prefer it.
- Just Jump: If you’re at the top of a cliff and scared to dive into the ocean beneath you, it’s best to avoid looking down and just jump. Once you’ve done it the first time, it becomes easier the next time around. Same thing goes for your fear of being made fun of. At first, it may be difficult to take your shirt off at the beach, but if you can buck up and just do it, you’ll soon realize that it’s not that bad. You may get a few stares, but I doubt you’ll experience any pointing and laughing. From there, it’s smooth sailing.
Out of the three tips I shared, two of them will help you cope mentally, while only one will actually provide a physical change. And that’s what I want to talk about next.
The Pectus Excavatum “Cure”
As I mentioned earlier, pectus excavatum is caused by abnormal growth of your sternum and ribcage. That said, there really is nothing you can do to adjust or change the bone structure that causes this sinkhole in the middle of your torso. There is, however, a simple way to make concave chest much less noticeable. In fact, despite my shirtless body being plastered all over the internet, until I made the video about concave chest, no one even knew I had it.
The way I “fixed” my PE—or hid it, rather—was by simply building muscle, particularly in my chest. The more weight I gained and more muscle I put on, the less noticeable it became that I suffered from this birth defect.
Have you ever noticed that most guys with noticeable pectus excavatum are skinny? It’s because the less meat you have on your bones, the more prominent the shape of your skeleton is.
And before you think about skipping out on the weight room and heading directly to the cafeteria, understand this: fat distribution is a genetic factor that differs from person to person. That said, if you decide to gain weight—rather than to build muscle—there’s no guarantee you’ll distribute the fat in a way that helps hide your PE.
If you gain 15 pounds, but most if it goes to your arms and midsection, you’re only going to make matters worse. Before, you were insecure about the hole in your chest; now, however, you’re insecure about that and the spare tire around your waist.
Building Muscle to Hide PE
If you’re skinny, you probably haven’t spent much time in the weight room. That said, this is the best time to start building muscle. You see, because you’ve never lifted weights, your body will be hyper-responsive to the stimulus from the weight training. This will allow you to not only gain strength quickly, but to build muscle quite rapidly as well. If you can take full advantage of this window of opportunity, you’ll have no problem building a physique you’ll be proud to show off, despite how you may feel at the moment.
Now, don’t make the mistake many others have made before you and focus only on building your chest, it won’t work. Not because you won’t be able to develop your pecs, but because training, primarily, one muscle-group is a sure-fire way to develop muscle imbalances that will do more bad than good. Not only will you end up with internally rotated shoulders, but sporting massive pecs with scrawny arms and pencil legs isn’t a good look.
Instead, focus on building overall muscle mass and creating a well-balanced physique that not only serves a purpose, but that you’ll be proud to show off in public, too.
Ready to transform your body, hide your PE, and gain confidence?
Start with my Mass In A Flash program. This free workout will help you take your body from scrawny, insecure weakling, to strong, confident buff dude. If you can remain consistent, eat enough (according to the guide), and focus on progressing each week, it’ll be just a matter of time before your pectus excavatum becomes virtually unidentifiable.
When you download the program, you’ll also gain access to my free chest training DVD series. In these videos, you’ll discover some little-known techniques that will help ensure you’re training your chest properly. Once you’ve got your form down, and you’re focusing on getting progressively stronger, you’ll have no problem building the muscle-group most responsible for hiding your PE: the pecs.
If nothing else, I hope you’re at least feeling hopeful about dealing with the insecurities that come along with “suffering” from this condition. Preferably, however, I pray that I’ve inspired some newfound hope; hope that you, too, can live a normal, confident life.
If you want to be truly happy, you’ll have to stop giving so many fucks about what other people may think of you or the unique shape of your sternum. Realize that you only get one life—and to spend that life worried about one small physical imperfection, is simply a waste.