No one is spared in the battle of beauty standards. It especially impacts young teens as they are now, more so than any other generation, constantly surrounded by media.
With extreme social media filters at their fingertips, airbrushed magazine models on every stand, and TikTok trends that promote unrealistic goals, more and more teens are struggling with low self-esteem and reaching dangerous levels of dissatisfaction with their appearances. One such victim is Zhou Chuna, a 16-year-old Chinese girl who has been labeled China’s “youngest plastic surgery addict.” She has received over 100 invasive cosmetic procedures in under three years – with no plans to stop anytime soon.
How Did It All Start?
Bullying. At school her peers were calling her ugly, specifically targeting her “small eyes” and “big nose.” After being called cruel names, subjected to less than desirable cleanup tasks, and becoming the center of many jokes, Zhou decided that the only way to escape was by changing her looks.
While she’s not the only girl her age to engage in these practices, she is the only one of her age to have had this many surgeries in such a small amount of time. Her quest for beauty began at the age of 13, when she convinced her parents to allow her to get double eyelid surgery (which is reportedly common among Asian women). Despite her parents’ concerns, all Zhou experienced was, in her words, “the sweet fruits of plastic surgery,” as she said people’s attitudes toward her began to change.
Zhou has spent nearly $630,000 on her 100+ procedures.
After receiving this hit of positive attention, she instantly became addicted and has spent nearly $630,000 on her procedures, including babydoll eyes, a smaller waist, bigger breasts, a smaller nose, and fat reduction.
“It’s impossible for me to not get plastic surgery, I’m okay if I don’t eat or drink water, but I can’t live without plastic surgery," Zhou said.
Where Is She Getting the Money?
From her parents, who own a profitable business. You’re probably wondering what kind of parents would willingly enable their child to go under the knife like this. However, with Zhou’s threats to quit school and find a way to finance her own procedures with or without them, her parents reluctantly agreed, knowing that she will at least be in the care of highly qualified professionals and clinics.
The saddest part in all of this is Zhou’s inability to ever see a finish line. She said, “I will never be satisfied with my appearance, I always think I will look better after the next plastic surgery I get.” Just as an addict is never satisfied with one drink or one pill. Although, ironically enough, these beauty ideals have left their mark. Zhou has mentioned having loose skin from liposuction, deep scars from multiple incisions, and even memory loss from the frequent use of anesthesia.
But she doesn't regret the side effects. “No, I like plastic surgery and I don’t mind anesthetics. When I wake up, I know that I will be more beautiful in just seven days,” Zhou said. “Someone once asked me if I have any regrets about my plastic surgeries, but the only regret I have is not having started them sooner."
Zhou has loose skin from liposuction, scars, and even memory loss from the frequent use of anesthesia.
Actually, the news does get sadder. Not only is Zhou subjecting herself to life-threatening procedures with little understanding of how much they can impact her ability to age gracefully or even functionally, but she has over 300,000 followers cheering on her addiction over on a Chinese blogging site, Sina Weibo, where she’s built an online career surrounding the documentation of her transformation. With the ugly side effect of glamorizing self-harm to a large audience of other young girls, the cycle continues.
It’s remarkably heartbreaking to see suffering becoming the epitome of beauty for so many. Isn’t that what’s truly ugly? Even Zhou says, “I am never afraid of pain, I am afraid of ugliness.” However, it seems they have become one.
Many have allowed their confidence, self-worth, and self-respect to rely heavily upon the influence of society’s standards instead of being able to differentiate and embrace their own value. They’ve become puppets to the darkness and guinea pigs to the tagline “you’ll feel better when...”
But the truth is, do we ever really feel better after succumbing to harsh demands and expectations? No. Compromising our own health for the glorification of acceptance (which is an elusive concept) will forever be damaging. The only way to become immune is to find true love for yourself, accept your “flaws,” and become highly self-aware. To be able to distinguish reality versus the media. To responsibly use media if you can still recognize yourself outside of it.
My heart breaks for young girls such as Zhou Chuna, and I hope we as a society can one day take the focus off appearance and start looking at transforming and healing the “ugliness” of character – such as judgment, ridicule, and perpetual bullying that begins with a dissatisfaction of oneself. More love, less fear will forever be the answer.
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