Criticisms are only truly destructive when you let them destroy your spirits

These past couple of days, I bumped into people I hadn’t seen in months or years — Friends, ex-classmates, ex-colleagues and relatives. After the usual pleasantries of “How have you been?” and “I thought you evaporated the day you deleted your Facebook account!” came the unpleasant usual from ALL of them: “Vivi, you’ve grown thinner!”

I’ve been underweight my entire life. During my teenage years, this almost crumpled my self-esteem. But I learned to accept my body type as I grew older and realized, well, everyone in my family is thin. And with the support of Hubby, I became more and more comfortable with my weight. Until finally, I began to feel beautiful and appreciated being naturally thin.

But still, I couldn’t help feeling a pinch in my heart having “You’ve grown thinner!” continuously echoing in my head the past few nights.

While I learned that we can be as beautiful as we believe and feel, I decided to take a step back. I viewed the numbers on the scale and my own reflection on the mirror from another perspective. Self-confidence is good but I figured I shouldn’t let it blind me. After all, it’s not just a matter of vanity; about my face looking too thin or my twiggy Pinocchio arms.  This 90 lbs could be a health drama just waiting to hit prime time.

All these recent encounters reminded me that sometimes we may need to listen to criticisms to put things into perspective. Whether they become destructive or constructive is really up to how we take them.

We can choose to ignore them and move on or listen and reevaluate. But whichever we choose, we should never let criticisms break our spirits.

I am still happy with my body type and I am not expecting to magically turn into a curvaceous bikini poster girl by the end of this year. But I will be watching my own weight more closely and objectively for the next couple of months or until I personally feel that I’ve physically recovered.

This little sack of bones and I have 27 years of challenging relationship and, clearly, still counting. But surely that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to be in a better-looking and tougher piece of sack, does it?

So it’s back to the Nutritionist for me.

What physical criticism gets to you the most and how do you handle the blow?

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  • Michele

    I like this post. There’s so much emphasis on losing weight but I’m sure it can be hard on the other end too. My take is, there’s really no need to comment on a woman’s weight; she’s probably overly aware of it already, plus it’s rude. I think it’s good to get support for your health, that never hurts.

    • Vivi

      Thanks, Michele. Yes, I noticed that too as I grew older. All the teenage magazines talked about “Losing Weight” and as an underweight teenager wanting to be chubby, I wondered what was so good about being skinny. I think there should be more emphasis on achieving a ‘possible’ and healthy weight — which is really relative to a person’s bone structure — than working towards a universally acceptable weight.

  • Lynn

    I think women likes this kind of”weight or look”things as comparison competition. Like”you’re thinner or thicker than me”or”You look uglier/older than me” things,and I found it that actually those who said that want to get self satisfaction to conceal and heal their own lackness of “something” issue. In short,by saying that someone is worse than us,so that way we can feel better about our selves.

    When I was teens,I really hated it when someone said that I look darker(general Asian fact,everybody wants to be”white”).I don’t have problems with my body weight(165cm,51-53kg).I’m comfortable with it.But really Asian can be “racist”to the same Asian,even if you’re from the same ethnicity. I said this since I’ve ever read even in India,Korea,and sure here,fair skin color women are considered”prettier”. So skin color was my issue back then.But now as I grow older,I absolutely don’t care anymore about what people will say about me and my physically. Because I’m sure that those kind of people are actually trying to comfort them selves when they’re saying that others are”worse” :) I mean,just look at those whom say that!They’re not perfect,you can always see their flaws..
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    • Vivi

      Nowadays, I’ve learned not to look too much into the intention of people giving criticisms about how I look. I tend to listen to everyone but I judge for myself which makes sense and which is subjective to that person’s taste only. It’s hard to measure another person’s sincerity, it’s easier to measure how their comments should affect me.

      My sister has dark skin and when she was young, she tried to apply lots of whitening lotion to become fairer. She got teased a lot by her friends and some relatives called her “brownie”. :( But when she grew older, she started to appreciate her natural skin color. She didn’t try to become fairer anymore but rather focus on making her skin healthy and smooth. And now, the skin on her body is so smooth! :D When she applies bronzer on her shoulders, she looks very healthy.

      • Lynn

        Oh,right!When it comes to some people that are in our”circle”,they may give it based on sincerity. But others,I doubt it. The best way is not too think about it. this case,I don’t even think about it! :D

        Oh,so your sister got that racist treatment too? This is what is weird about our society in Asia here. I have a good friend,she is an Indonesian Chinese. More,she’s from a very wealthy family.Her granpa is listed on Forbes 200,I’d be very happy if it’s me :D However,before she got marriage she always”self complaining”about how”dark”she was and that’s why she hasn’t dated any guy yet. In my opinion,nothing’s bad on her,really!.She has double eyelid(while some of chinese ppl don’t have it and do the surgery for it),she is taller than me,and no matter how many foods she eat,she won’t get fat! She’s also a nice person and sincere,a good girl and religious also. Basically,she’s perfect in my eyes! But that’s not what she focused on.She focused her self on her”dark”skin color only. So I said to her not to bother it since I’m even darker than her,she just didn’t buy it! Now that she’s married,I see her doesn’t complain about anything anymore and live a happy life.
        Now this question comes to my mind: do we need others to make sure that we’re pretty and good just the way we are? I think what we need to build isn’t a good physical appearance,but a good mind instead.That we’re good and pretty just the way we are… :)
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  • rae

    This is something I’ve become accustomed to. Every year, during family reunions, I always here comments about how much I’ve gained weight, or lost weight, or how my acne has worsened or improved, etc. I guess the expectation of hearing comments like this made me numb.

    But it taught me a lot… When I meet with friends and family that I haven’t met in a long time, I always ask them how they are, or what they’ve been doing lately. Anything other than, making a comment on how they look like.
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    • Vivi

      Me, too. I try not to make any comments about a person’s appearance because I’m afraid of hurting their feelings. I may be filled with genuine concern but sincerity isn’t really something tattooed on our foreheads, right? I don’t want the person to take my sincerity the wrong way.

  • Sara

    Whatever size, I think it’s most important to be healthy. I think constructive criticism is important; it makes us improve. Perhaps criticism from family and friends let us know what we are unaware of. E.g growing thinner could mean we are too stress/not eating at regular time and should look into our lifestyle?

    Having said that, I always feel that commenting on someone’s physique is always rude. When I meet my family and friends I haven’t see for a long time, I like focus on the things that they do and what they are up to, not whether they have grow fatter/thinner/older/prettier.

    • Vivi

      When I was younger, everyone told me being thin was unhealthy. And I believed them because I was really an incredibly sickly child. My family fed me lots of milk, weight gainer drinks and even contemplated giving me steroids.

      Anyway, now that I’m older, and after having consulted with doctors from various fields, I now understand that every person is built with a certain bone structure. Someone like me with incredibly tiny bones won’t be able to carry the weight that some people have, and thus, I should not try to achieve beyond what my body can manage.

      I only comment on someone’s appearance when I see a huge improvement, so I can motivate them and make them happier. But when I know I don’t have anything nice to say, I keep it to myself regardless of the sincerity of my intentions.

  • Swati

    great post, Vivi :) since many days, I have also been facing somewhat similar issues which I now realize I have stopped really bothering myself about but when I was a girl, I would have cried my heart out for the same stuff!!! so, yup, we do grow up when we steel ourselves towards such remarks :)
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    • Vivi

      When I was a teenager, I even asked God “Why?!”

      Ahhh! The drama. I can’t believe how over-acting and whiney I was as a teenager. People starving and I was worrying about being thin. -_-

  • ritac.

    let me start by telling you that you are really my inspiration. i am a girl from hk who suddenly became allergic to almost everything one day and due to that reason i have to be really careful of whatever i do or whatever i eat even wherever i go. i have been struggling so hard until recently i was told by a healer who asked to start blogging to share with ppl about my experience and the importance of wellness and health. it’s hard esp in hk (among the chinese teenagers). to my friends, im weird, annoying and just plain picky. they think im being dramatic and some of them think that my “different” came from being in a “wealthy” family. they said it’s pretty impossible for “poor” ppl to say that they are allergic or live healthy. im sure it’s not what the majority think but this culture is making me really difficult to blend in. i came across your blog when i was looking for reference. and im just so glad that there are people in the community who is not all about glam and beauty and fashion. i love fashion myself im not saying that it’s a bad thing. but being sociable and glamorous won’t normally be linked to green living lifestyle. so i love your blog really! and im hoping that i can be as inspirational as you, spreading thoughts and believes in my hometown with my language.

    • Vivi

      Thank you and welcome to EBS! :) That really made my day. If I can inspire just one person in this world with what I do, I would feel incredibly grateful already.

      Like you, I never had lots of allergies when I was younger. I never even knew I was allergic to milk because I love it a lot. But when I grew older and noticed bad things happening (eczema, huge pimples, tummy problems) when I ate certain types of food or applied certain products, I realized I had to start making major adjustments in my life. I blogged for the same reason — I think that each person is in a lifetime journey of healing, whether physically or spiritually. And I started my blog to also share my journey with others.

      Allergy as a rich person’s sickness is definitely not true. A lot of poor people have allergies, too. It’s just that most of them don’t even know it or bother because, of course, having food on the table is top priority. I worked as a medical show researcher before and once, I brought about a dozen people, who were suffering from digestive problems, from an impoverished community to the doctor. About 5 of them were diagnosed with gluten intolerance.

      You would be surprised how ‘glam’ you can still be while being healthy. I sure was! :)

  • Beauty Box

    I wonder why people feel the need to comment on others’ looks so much. My pet peeves are “Your face looks chubbier!”, “You’ve put on weight!”, and “You’ve gotten so dark!” – all said by Chinese relatives and parents of course… I know it’s a cultural thing in my case where older Chinese folks just speak their mind. Oh and in my teenage years, “Wow what happened to your face?!” when I had a massive break out. In Japan, I think people comment on looks because it’s a way to make conversation and it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Though I really wish it weren’t so because it always makes me feel so self-conscious. But you do have a positive attitude and these criticisms only feel bad if you read too much into them.
    Beauty Box recently blogged..Dupes In My Collection: Chanel vs Visee

    • Vivi

      Argh, I also hate the “You’ve gotten so dark!” comment. I can’t help it, the Sun owns Singapore. :p

      I never knew that in Japan, appearance is a usual point of conversations. I had the impression that the Japanese would be more tactful or at least, careful about saying/doing things that may offend the other party? Whenever we meet and discuss with some Japanese investors/company representatives, we’ve always found them a bit ‘up and down the loop and back again’ when it comes to getting their point across, especially when it’s something negative. But probably it’s because those were business and not casual conversations?

  • Katrina

    Hi vivi!

    I know this is off topic, but I really am curious. Do you still keep up with your blood type diet, or do you eat everything under the sun now? Does it have an effect on your skin, if that is you have strayed from your blood type diet? I have been keeping up with a relatively clean diet for a few months, but have recently re-introduced staples like rice, and the occasional sweet treats a few times a week!

    and you are beautiful girl, don’t let people bring you down!

    • Vivi

      Hi Katrina, thank you! :)

      Regarding the BTD, I’m not following it anymore because I simply became too lazy to cook and I’ve been very busy with work. :(
      In fact, recently, my diet has been quite unhealthy. I think I stopped following BTD for about a year already.

      Now, for my observations while on BTD vs when I stopped:
      1) Yes, my skin is definitely not as healthy. In fact, I started suffering from breakouts on my temple area since late 2012. My skin also seems very dehydrated and the fines lines around my eyes are back. Not to mention, my dark circles are back to their full glory.
      2) My Hubby told me several times that my skin was positively GLOWING while I was on the BTD compared to now or when I was just trying to eat healthy on my own without following any diet/guide. So yup, it wasn’t just my imagination, haha.
      2) Now, I seem to be losing weight but not in a good way. When I followed the BTD, I lost weight in the right places (e.g. tummy, thighs, etc) but it never really made me ‘thinner’ than I already was since I’ve been underweight ever since. Now, I’m losing weight mostly on my face which is just… bad.
      3) Been sickly since late last year.

      Some things to take note of, however, are:
      1) When I was on BTD, my diet was very healthy; Lots of salmon and veggies, almost no beef and dairy, low in white rice and white bread and only had sweet treats once a week. I also steamed my food most of the time. For grains, I took mostly quinoa, millet and buckwheat. If I wanted rice, I took only brown rice.
      2) While on BTD, I drank green smoothies first thing in the morning for at least 18 days a month.
      2) Due to the ‘healthiness’ of my diet while on the BTD, I can’t really say whether all the positive effects were due to a diet that was suitable for my blood type or simply because my diet was very healthy and balanced.

      In summary:
      I found BTD to be a good beginner’s guide in exploring healthy eating.

      Hope I answered your question :)

  • sesame

    I’ve seen you Vivi and you don’t look underweight to me. I thought you look just nice. I wish I have smaller butt but oh well.

    Such responses are very human. I don’t fault them but yes, turn away. Most people are self-conscious and they can’t look away from self. The only way is to look at someone else and then what comes out is usually…negative.
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    • Vivi

      Thanks, Sesame. :) But I’ve actually grown thinner. I noticed it myself but I always thought, “I’m so thin already, how much thinner can I get?” until I lost track. So now, I think I need to do something about it already.

      I try not to read much into people’s intentions when they criticize me and I guess that helps me cope. I just focus on whether I think I should consider the comment or shrug it off. :)

  • Aging Belle

    Well, at least we are at the thin side of the spectrum. You know what, many people in my real life actually admire my body shape (I’m the thin type). But I don’t care so much about my body shape, because for me, my skin is way more important!!!

    And for me, there is a down side to being thin. Thin people are more prone to aging. This may not be right for some, but this thought has somehow riveted in my mind (oh, am I discriminating against myself?).
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    • Vivi

      Haha, ditto again. I care more about my skin. I don’t need a Victoria’s Secret Angel kind of body. Give me good skin and I’ll be happy.

      I also agree that we become more prone to looking older after a certain age if we’re too thin. I have pan-asian blood from my Dad which gave me a thin and sharp face. I tend to look old, haggard and dry whenever I become too thin…. D:

  • Olivia

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am, and have been, underweight for the majority of my life. Growing up, I always thought it was bad to be this small. I was friends with many girls who were normal sized, or a little above normal sized. Very often, I was a target of bullying because of my scrawny body. Now a days, people strive to be skinny, bigger, or another size. But they should not be trying to be something they are not. Most people are a good size, and should be happy with their weight. I am still quite young, and I often worry that I won’t grow bigger. But you have given me a new perspective on my size and made me realize it doesn’t matter what others think. Thank you so much.

    • Vivi

      Hi Olivia, I’m glad my post inspired you. :)

      I got bullied a lot, too, when I was younger. To make it worse, I had buck teeth before I went for braces — so I was the typical scrawny girl with big teeth as a kid. When I grew older, I realized that my bone structure was really small — and so there’s nothing I can do about it.

      Then I told myself — I may not be able to grow bigger bones but I what I can do is to focus on not losing any more weight, that I try to be healthy so that at least my skin would look healthy (because thin and sallow skin makes me look like I’ve got terminal illness); and to learn how to pick the right clothes for my body size and shape. :)

      What others think may matter sometimes (like my story above) but we shouldn’t let them get to us. At the end of the day, it is WE who decide what is useful criticism and what is just plain hurtful.

      • Olivia

        Thank you so much for everything. I’ve never really talked to someone who is also small. I have really enjoyed reading what you have said.