There is such a thing as too thin

Sometimes Singapore seems like it's populated by anorexics. I know, I know, the pressure to be thin exists in many developed countries: it's at the heart of Bridget's insecurities in Bridget Jones' Diary, teenage girls write to their Goddess Ana in America, and so on, but when I was in Boston or New York or London, I don't think I ever felt it to be as pervasive as it is here.

At the very least, even if the "ideals" being promoted through ads and so on in those cities were of inordinately skinny women, there was a sense that to make disparaging comments about a person's size in public would be inappopriate. Whereas here in Singapore, the newspapers are filled with ads for slimming centres which seem to depend on shame to succeed. I can't forget the one in which this woman said that back in school they called her "fat girl" - and then displayed her current size in triumph, instead of reflecting that she went to school with some seriously mean-spirited jackasses. Why should it be acceptable to tell women that you aren't very close to, even the ones who're so thin that they might want to avoid walking too near gratings, that they should lose weight? Why is it acceptable to hurt someone's self-esteem?

Sometimes you overhear women at lunch talking about the food they don't eat so longingly you'd swear they were in some country rent by war, rather than depriving themselves voluntarily. What would my grandmother, forced to grow tapioca just to survive during World War II, make of it all?

When I was in Miami with the Girlfriend, we went to this club where we saw this fairly large-sized woman dressed sexily and dancing and genuinely having a good time and we said to each other, it's too bad you don't get to see this much in Singapore: it's really nice to see someone strut out with self-esteem. And this was Miami, city of supposedly perfect bodies.

Which all leads up my theory of why people don't make enough babies in Singapore, despite all the exhortations to do so: they're feeling too lousy about the way they look, and when you're feeling that lousy, you can't really be in the mood. Self-confidence, after all, is the sexiest attribute.


Bala Pillai said…

You're dead right on low self-confidence. And I would assert that it is a much bigger problem than even you might imagine because it is so pervasive.

The best way I have found to bring attention to the issue is a many-stepped way.

Get discussion going on 2 issues:-

1) Why has Asia minus Japan not produced a single quantum invention since the times of Admiral Zheng He in 1400 AD, when before that it was responsible for most quantum inventions.

Quantum Inventions = significant leap in order of problem solving from cave man days up to now. Eg taming of fire, domestication of rice, invention of language, paper, wheel, printing press, cars and so on.

See the interview with me at

2) Also see Why Is Common Sense So Uncommon? insight by Bala Pillai.
Anonymous said…
Here is some self confidence information you may like:

Self confidence usually is based on how well or not so well we've done in previous situations. This end product is how we feel about ourselves. Our self worth is based upon our previous performance. We all tend to base our own personal values on how successfully we perform in different situations and we often require perfect performance of ourselves. If we don't live up to our perfect standards, we end up lowering our values of ourselves. We're heavily influenced by our society which values flawless performance and places great emphasis on winning and performing perfectly. We often lose sight of the fact that we can value ourselves in spite of making mistakes. While it is only natural to care about performing as well as we can, it is also important to learn to feel good about ourselves just for who we are, mistakes and all. It's probably good to get back to the feeling we had as children. As children, we had self confidence without even questioning it. We were valued for just being people, for just being in this world. The value that other people placed on us and that which we placed on ourselves had very little to do with how well we did or how well we performed. As adults we often believe we must continually justify our place in the world, that we have to somehow prove to other people that we are worthy of their esteem and through their eyes we can, therefore, prove to ourselves that we are really valuable. Often we spend excessive amounts of time doing that and we lose sight of the basic fact that we are usually all right just as we are, in spite of the fact that we are not perfect.

How can we go about increasing our self confidence, when we find it decreasing? There are a number of things we can do. One thing that often helps people who are feeling low, is making a list of the things that they do like about themselves. By making a list like this we can sometimes rediscover those very likable qualities about ourselves that we often take for granted. Another thing we can do when we are feeling low is to take some time to do something nice for ourselves, something we find enjoyment in. We can take the time to treat ourselves with fondness and kindness, as we would a dear and valued friend.

Another interesting thing is that it is easy to forget that there are things that we do well. Continued frustration or attempting things that we have difficulty with can lead to feelings of clumsiness and inadequacy. It doesn’t take long when we experience these feelings to find our self confidence seems to have decreased. One thing we might do at this time is to make a list of the things that we do well and to do one of these things on the list everyday. It has been shown that although this method of increasing our self confidence sounds simple, it is often very effective.

One of the things mentioned earlier is very important to watch out for. When our successful or our good feelings are dependent upon others approval of us, we are placing all of our value in someone else’s hands. This means our self confidence is totally dependent on how other people feel or act toward us. This is what children do out of necessity, because they don’t have the inner resources as we do as adults. But as adults, we can begin to learn how to give ourselves confident feelings and to maintain them. Being aware of what a vulnerable thing it is to put our whole self worth into someone else’s hand, might help to avoid this pitfall. Maintaining our self worth or self confidence might also require reminding ourselves of the things that we value in ourselves, keeping in mind those qualities we really appreciate. Sometimes it helps going to a long and trusted friend or spouse and talking over our feelings of discouragement. In the process of talking with someone else, we might begin to recall the valuable things about us or be reminded of them by our friend.

Finally, another way to rebuild our self confidence is to try doing and risking things that we’ve never tried before. It’s always a little bit of a challenge in doing new things and just the act of accepting these challenges, some little and some big, whether we are successful or not, often increases our self confidence.

What about people who have already tried these things that were mentioned and who still have questions or concerns about their self confidence? Temporary fluctuations in our feelings of self confidence are fairly common, they happen to most of us. However, if our self confidence is low for a prolonged period of time or our mood shifts quite often, it might be very important to seek professional help. One thing that might be happening is that we never really developed a good, solid concept of ourselves as we were growing up and so as result, we don’t have a firm, positive concept of ourselves to build on. A mental health professional can be very helpful in our establishing a positive self image. There are mental health agencies in your community you may wish to contact if you would like to further discuss the area of self confidence. If you are a student or student spouse at the University of Florida, you can call or come into the University of Florida Counseling Center, located at 301 Peabody Hall. Someone will be happy to talk with you about your concerns.

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