There has always been pressure on women to look good, usually requiring them to be slim, to look after their skin, hair and nails, to wear make-up and flattering clothes. However, this pressure has intensified, and it affects both men and women, to the extent that cosmetic surgery is increasingly being regarded as normal. Why should people have to conform to a narrow definition of beauty in which a uniform kind of perfection is favoured over quirkiness and uniqueness?
Often people have an area of their body or their face that they dislike, and which they tend to fixate upon, believing that if that one area were improved they would feel much better about themselves. In some cases this may be true, particularly if they have been bullied about a certain aspect of their appearance. However, surgery does not target the problems of low-esteem and lack of confidence which often accompany the desire to have cosmetic surgery.
Surgeons, in particular, are not the best people to consult with if you are unsure about whether to undergo a surgical procedure, since their main priority is surely to make money. If a person has a consultation with a surgeon he or she is unlikely to say ‘you are fine as you are’; in fact they will probably pick out more flaws than you even realised you had in the first place. People who choose to have cosmetic surgery should really educate themselves about all that is involved and about other people’s experiences, because it is not in the best interests of surgeons to be completely open about the implications of having surgery.
This may not stem simply from a desire to mislead their patients, but rather from a failure to understand how a person who has serious hang-ups about their body feels. Such individuals should have reassurance not be criticised for looking ‘bad’. Cosmetic surgery simply addresses external problems; it does not deal with internal struggles.
However, this is not the impression given by extreme makeover shows in which the producers are keen to stress how each individual undergoes an internal makeover, as well as an external one. The people start off lacking in confidence, feeling bad about themselves and the way they look, then they have a few operations, and suddenly they are confident and out-going. Something there does not quite ring true. The people usually have many cosmetic procedures and come out looking slightly strange; maybe or maybe not better than they did before, but certainly different.
It is easy for audiences to buy into the idea that looking better will make you feel better because such shows tend to take the most extreme examples of people who are not regarded as typically beautiful and completely transform them. But do we really want to get to the stage where everybody looks exactly the same? In the last couple of decades cosmetic surgery procedures have become cheaper, meaning that surgery is an accessible option for increasing numbers of people, and so it might be more tempting for people to have surgery rather than to address the relationship they have with their own bodies.
Just because cosmetic surgery is a realistic option for people who were previously priced-out of such an option does not mean that people should choose it. People should stand up to the pressure placed on them by society and start to appreciate themselves for who they are. After all, surgery is not going to change the person you fundamentally are, and if you don’t like yourself, this is unlikely to alter radically after surgery.