Difficulty discerning the truth when it comes to comments on physical appearance

Posted by watchmen
February 5, 2018
Posted in OPINION
After a couple encounters this past week, am left confused over matters of personal appearance. Last week, had family over, and an aunt I hadn’t seen for a few months (maybe a year) – in typical fashion of most family members – at the same time as saying “Hi” made a weight comment, which was a remark about “gaining weight.” This was quickly responded to by another family member talking about my visiting the gym five days a week. Yet again, those thoughts of “is the gym worth it?” began to creep up again, considering all the effort made with, apparently, no results.
However, later that week, while walking around the gym, on one of the daily hunts for the bottle of cleaning solution, one of the regulars, someone who I have exchanged pleasantries with before but hadn’t seen in a few months, popped up and complimented me on weight loss; accompanied by a big smile and light applause, it was a welcome statement after the observation from my aunt.
Who is telling the truth? Having not seen either individual for a period of time, neither had the perspective of seeing me every day, which could alter how one sees changes. Doubt either one was trying to be deceptive, yet, somehow their objective opinions were divergent.
Have always struggled with body image issues and matters of personal appearance, particularly after  having been called “ugly” in middle school (even penned a column last year after being called “ugly” on social media, which brought back some unpleasant memories); it’s something that still lingers. Today, it’s not something in the forefront of my mind, but something that does occasionally come up – particularly since motivation for going to the gym is almost completely for superficial improvement rather than a concern over health. And it is this history of image issues that creates a self-doubt over being able to judge one’s own appearance; in the end, from the personal perspective, it’s always a negative.
Even the last time seeing relatives in the US, despite the same gym routine, was still told nothing appeared to have changed – one relative, a physician, talked about the possibility of death if nothing was being done; as if to suggest they were skeptical if I was indeed going to the gym. That revelation was a huge blow to the psyche, considering how much time was being spent at the gym and, from the view of people who I hadn’t seen in a while, it appeared to be a useless venture.
However, on that same visit, had friends tell me, “You look great!” It really is hard to tell.
Do I believe family, who almost unanimously have a negative view of how I look, or friends and acquaintances? One would assume they both have good intentions in what they say. On the one hand, family should be telling you the truth, while a stranger has nothing to lose or gain from offering such a comment. One might even believe, considering the acquaintance is a fellow gym-goer, perhaps it was just a matter of motivation or being friendly. Would like to believe the gym acquaintance, but it may just be wishful thinking and my mind wanting to side with the person making the observations I want to hear, rather than accepting the negative comments from family members.
Is there also a perception of what one is “supposed” to look like? The typical body type locally is very slim with a small frame and, according to personal dimensions, not one accustomed to broader shoulders and chest, and “sturdy” legs. Looking at some of the clothes acquired locally, it is evident, even losing all the weight in the world, these clothes would never fit over my shoulders. Is it also a matter of one’s body type, not about fitting a god-like celebrity physique, but just not fitting the “norm?”
When it comes to family in the US, can only assume, after years (decades) of criticism and commentary, not sure what will get them to offer a compliment; maybe not until the “ideal” is achieved – which has yet to be made clear.
Would hate to lean on a crutch of low self-esteem, but given comments by other people in the past, the seemingly unachievable presented by family and with compliments all-too-rare, it really is hard to discern what is the truth. Like most people, it’s hard to judge one’s self, so it develops into a dependence on others to determine how one looks; and the part of the mind that knows the effort is being made is always drowned out by the endless negativity.
Already over 30 years old, but still having difficulty thinking for myself when it comes to something (that should be) frivolous, like personal appearance./WDJ

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