Can Plastic Surgery Fix Low Self-Esteem?

Recently, I’ve been marveling at the number of enhanced bodies I’m seeing and how normalized it is. I remember when plastic surgery was a taboo and seemed to be exclusive to the rich and famous. Nowadays, it’s far more mainstream and I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. I know that everyone is living their best life, but are these people going under the knife truly happy, or are they just looking for a quick fix for low self-esteem?  

You may have clicked on this article because you’re struggling with low-self esteem or thinking about going under the knife to fix something society told you is unattractive. Before we get into why you’re getting surgery and whether it will fix low self-esteem, let’s look at some research on both surgery and self-image among women. 

What Does Research Say About Plastic Surgery and Self Image

Being the curious Joanne that I am, I did some digging to see what research says about both plastic surgery and self-image. Over time, I’ve realized that everyone has an opinion, however, to have one that is well-informed, you should explore that of others. That said, I came across some interesting statistics about plastic surgery that I’ll share below. 

Plastic Surgery Statistics

First things first, I wanted to know how many people have had plastic surgery in the past few years. According to research from the American Association of Plastic Surgery, 17.7 million people had plastic surgery in 2018, reflecting a 2% increase from 2017. Another interesting statistic I came across is that 92% of all cosmetic procedures that took place were by women while men only attributed for a mere 8%. For me, this isn’t surprising as women seem to be on the receiving end of body shaming and media pressure.

What was even more interesting is that the total number of cosmetic surgeries increased with age. For women between the ages of 20-29, they had 831,000 total cosmetic procedures, while those in the 30-39 age bracket shot up to 2.9 million. it doesn’t stop there. 40-54-year-olds had a shocking 7.8 million total cosmetic procedures. It is no surprise that the older generation feels like they have to do cosmetic surgery considering society treats aging like it’s an incurable disease.

Last but not least, $16.5 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures in 2018 which means I need to have a plastic surgeon as a bestie. Here are the top 5 Procedures for 2018;

  • Breast augmentation (313,000)
  • Liposuction (258,000)
  • Nose Reshaping (213, 000)
  • Eyelid surgery (206,000)
  • Tummy Tuck (130,000)

What’s even crazier is the spike in the number of plastic surgery procedures that have taken place over the last couple of years. It makes you wonder why an influx of people are going under the knife and why the pressure to be picture perfect is becoming record-breaking. 

Research has also found that some reasons people pursue plastic surgery include; 

  • body dissatisfaction 
  • teasing about body parts 
  • media influence
  • not being happy with physical appearance 

Self- Image Research

report commissioned by Dove researched self-esteem, body image, and body confidence among women. They discovered women all over the world hate their bodies and struggle with self-image. I’m sure you likely saw imaged and videos from the campaign floating around with women of all shapes and sizes talking about self-image and what not. Below you’ll see some statistics the report found. 

• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful

• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful

• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but do not see their own beauty

• More than half of women globally (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic

In conclusion, the report found that beauty-related pressure increases whilst body confidence decreases as girls and women grow older – stopping young girls from seeing their real beauty. Having said that, it seems the pressure from the media, individuals and those around them triggers low self-esteem for girls and women.

Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Surgery 

Before getting surgery, however, I think you should ask yourself a few of these three questions and answer honestly.

1.) What Is Wrong With My Body and Why

For someone to decide to go out and get plastic surgery, it suggests they feel something is wrong with their body. If you can relate and feel your body isn’t as it should be, ask yourself what you feel is wrong with it and why. For many years, I looked in the mirror and thought my nose was way too big and it made me ugly. To add insult to injury, my skin was too dark and my butt was so flat, I doubted whether I was a black African girl. I even used to stuff clothes inside of my jeans to make my butt look bigger. I cried, I fought with myself; I looked for validation in men; I fed off of the praise of others. But still, at the end of the day, I was broken by the disapproval of the majority. I found it so hard to accept that I wasn’t a mainstream beauty and might never be.

It took ten years for me to realize everyone is created uniquely and my image is never something to be ashamed of. I now accept that nothing is wrong with my nose, my body is perfectly fine, and it’s ok that my kind of beautiful isn’t portrayed in the media. It is my job to define and accept my unique beauty, not my job to meet the standards of the world’s definition of beauty. What I’m saying is, if you think something is wrong with the way you look because it isn’t society’s idea of beauty, then you may need to adopt a positive self -image, not get surgery. The real issue is in how you view and value yourself. Thankfully, it’s nothing a little more kindness, less scrutiny, and self-acceptance can’t fix.   

2.) Is the Problem With My body or my Perception? 

As mentioned above, before getting surgery, figure out if the problem is with your body or your perception. Even if you don’t realize, your ideas about beauty are greatly influenced by the media as well as the opinion of others. For a long time, I thought that I wasn’t attractive because other people told me so. They said I needed to be a few shades lighter, my ass was too flat, and that my nose was too big. Because their approval mattered, I believed them and struggled with low self-esteem. 

Before going under the knife, explore ways you can change the negative perceptions you have about your image. Be sure you aren’t getting surgery just to meet society’s standard of beauty as it’s ever-changing. Also, remember you don’t have to be picture-perfect and it’s not fair to put unrealistic pressure on yourself.

3.) How Will This Positively Impact My Life? 

Another thing to consider before getting surgery is whether it will positively impact your life. Think about what your purpose is in life and how altering your image will help you achieve it. For me, I found the less I focused on how I looked and the more I focused on who I was, the more beautiful and attractive I felt. This quote by Henry Miller resonates with how I feel; 

   “Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” 

The issue I have with plastic surgery is the message it sends to the coming generations of young women. It says that if you don’t like the way you look physically change it.

When plastic surgery is the first solution we offer to fix low self-esteem, it tells women that society’s standard of beauty is more important than theirs. I also feel that it further objectifies women and reiterates the underlying message that a woman being beautiful is of more value than her being smart and successful; however, you define success. 

For the sake of a balanced discussion, let me put out there that I am not anti-surgery because I would be a hypocrite to say I am. All I’m saying is ask yourself hard questions before changing everything about yourself that you don’t physically like. Think about what you’d tell your daughter, niece, or younger self if they said that they felt they were too skinny, their butt wasn’t big enough or their tits were too small. Would you tell them to get surgery or to focus less on what the world says they should look like and more on who they are? 

I feel like maybe if women focused more on snatching the mind and spirit instead of the waist, they’d be a lot less inclined to get surgery and maybe they’d start setting their own standard of beauty. As Jada Pinkett-Smith rightly said the other day, self-love is a process, and it isn’t something that happens overnight. You can’t escape the ugliness of it, the hard work, the painful realities, and the transformation that has to take place in your mind so you learn to love yourself. Plastic surgery may fix your outer appearance, but it is only a temporary fix if the real issue is your inability to love who you are. 

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