Recently I read a blog post in which the author openly described the process of her considering plastic surgery on her nose so to improve her looks. My reaction? A blog post-worthy comment. I was so inspired because I have had my own troubles relating to my nose and to other parts of my body. This post is a further exploration of my thoughts and feelings.
I cheer for everyone who chose to not use plastic surgery but to accept themselves as they are instead. Or to at least aim to learn to accept themselves. Getting to self-acceptance takes a lot of practice, I acknowledge that.
I cheer for this because the positive effects of plastic surgery are so little. I would almost say that they are insignificant to the unwanted side-effects. The only positive thing about it is the change in looks, really. The other effects include: physical stress or damage, financial costs, negative side-effects that are associated to making the surgery happen (e.g. carbon emissions, involved money flows). Then there’s the psychological effects of the change in looks. Let’s explore how positive these are.
The desire to look differently than you do, is a symptom of the notion that you are not good enough as you are. It is a symptom of our culture in which especially women are being cultivated to be in constant competition with each other. It is a symptom of a culture in which women are taught that their looks are their most important asset and that these looks are never good enough.
How I see it, by physically altering your body through plastic surgery only for your looks, you reinforce these un-truths of our culture, and you thereby maintain the need for others to have surgery too. And you maintain this need as perceived by yourself.
We tend to think that something is wrong with us and we look for a quick fix.
There is no quick fix. We can alter our bodies all we want, figuratively speaking, but it won’t fix us. It won’t make us happy. The only thing it does is allow for a shift in our focus: is the nose fixed? What about the other parts that aren’t good enough?
Here is my story:
I used to have trouble accepting my nose as it is. I perceived a responsibility to look a certain way and my nose looked different. I felt responsible for my nose looking different. I expected others to hold me responsible for it, as if I had chosen it and I had chosen wrongly. I felt like apologising for it, like telling others that I agreed with them and did not like my nose either. As if liking my nose would mean that I had bad taste. I was pressured by our cultural idea of beauty to dislike my nose.
Now I find these experiences very shocking. Thinking about it makes me feel so much love and compassion towards myself and my nose. Clearly my nose was underappreciated all along. My nose functions perfectly and I am so thankful for that. I do not have to apologise in any way for my physical looks. People can look at me and think all they want, but I am not apologising. I love my body.
I like how our bodies and faces have different looks. I like how this has a great social function: it helps us to tell each other apart. I love how we can recognise each other so easily. I love how others can recognise me by my distinct facial features. Also, I love observing people, especially faces, and seeing what makes them themselves. It is one of my favourite things to do, actually. Our different looks are somehow expressions of our different personalities and qualities. On top of that, each of our bodies is amazing in itself.
Our diversity shows us the way to acceptance of all there is. If we are triggered by something we see, this trigger can be seen as an invitation for us to learn to appreciate the thing we are triggered by. If we judge a certain nose as ugly, which is the example in this post, this can be an invitation for us to learn to appreciate this nose. This new-found appreciation can help us to appreciate all other noses. It goes even further. If we can learn to appreciate one nose we did not like before, this means we can also learn to appreciate other things we do not like. It can be a gateway to a more loving life.
As mentioned before, using the ‘quick fix’ of changing the physical part of yourself that you do not like to ‘more accepted features’, actually strengthens the thought patterns that make you dislike parts of yourself and others.
I also like to think of it like this: changing your unwanted features actually takes out a part of your contribution to the diversity. If you have an exceptional feature, you can think of it as on one end of a spectrum of possibilities. This does not mean anything other than just that. In my case, my nose is on the ‘large’ side of ‘the spectrum of nose sizes’. If I would change my nose, I would thereby change my nose’s place on the spectrum. The variation on the spectrum would change. Eventually, if all people with large noses feel pressured to have nose jobs, large noses may largely disappear from the spectrum. Thereby, the spectrum would ‘shrink’.
I find this a horrible idea. What would it mean for newly born people who did not yet get the chance to get this nose job? Or people who do not have the means to do it? They would feel super abnormal and could have all kinds of psychological issues. Kind of like many of us are experiencing these right now, but possibly even worse.
We could think we have made it with our nose jobs, but we are contributing to more severe suffering in others.
Last weekend I noticed that people find ‘looking natural’ an important argument in justifying having lip fillers. People say that having the fillers looks natural on them, so it is okay. It occurs to me as if the naturalness argument is used with this rationale: ‘Other people have such-looking lips naturally, so there is nothing wrong with that. I want that too and because others already have it, I deserve it too and there’s nothing wrong with that.’ There is sense in this reasoning, but it only addresses a very small part of the processes at play. Interestingly, the reasoning incorporates some idea of equal rights to certain looks and it seems to insinuate that this idealised natural look is achievable by all. I think this is a very twisted way of approaching it. It misses all the points I am making in this article and that I deem more important.
Instead, I like to think that my very natural nose shows others that people with a nose like mine, people like me, can be perfectly happy. My example can help them to be happy with their noses too. That is the natural situation.
But if you do not learn to accept yourself and instead drastically change your looks through surgery, what would that mean for your children? Your parents? Grandparents? Siblings? Your friends and your lovers. Many people in your life have loved you and supported you. These people see you as you are and love you for who you are it. They want you to be happy, they want you to appreciate yourself, to love yourself. And then you show them you cannot do that, not to the fullest.
I think plastic surgery is like a middle finger to yourself, your parents, kids and all your loved-ones. If you cannot accept your own looks, how can you be trusted to accept theirs? If you cannot love yourself, how can you love them?
I would not be able to tell my kids that nothing is wrong with their looks if I had found it necessary to drastically change mine to be able to accept it.
In the same way, I wouldn’t be able to take myself seriously if I told others to love themselves fully if I couldn’t do it myself.
I want to show my kids, my family and everyone who sees me that it is possible to fully love yourself as you are. I am a living example of what I preach.
Nothing is wrong with us. We are perfect beings, all of us. We just have to learn to see it.
I started to make art to my inner struggles. The painting is called All the smells (and yes, it is a drawing of my nose!) and the following is a poem: My dearest nose.
My nose resembles my curiosity, my boldness, my shyness. My nose resembles my ability to take up space.
Like any part of my body, my nose resembles my parents, as well as my children, my sisters, and all my family members.
It resembles the people who love me, because they see me as I am, completely.
It resembles everyone who has ever believed in me and supported me.
It resembles my ability to love myself and others.
It resembles my individuality.
It resembles me.
I wish we can all learn to love ourselves as we truly are.
Note: Of course did not address everything in this article. I realise that there are very different situations in which people consider plastic surgery and I do not mean to generalise these. However, I do think we would benefit from broadening our perception of ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’ looks and from learning from our insecurities instead of looking for quick-fixes that do not address the root cause of the problem.