In the age of social media and an unhealthy obsession with erasing our flaws and imperfections, where do we draw the line?
The chase for perfection starts at a very young age for many people, especially if they’re constantly exposed to things such as flawless skin, thin and straight noses, perfectly arched eyebrows, and other features often accentuated through Instagram filters and cosmetic touch-ups.
However, when you really think about it, can you even explain what "an imperfection" is? And how did we come up with a collective agreement that removing or adding stuff to our bodies is the beauty standard?
Imperfections Are a Part of You
First of all, the word "imperfection" implies there’s something that shouldn't be there. That something isn't perfect and, therefore, isn't a part of us (or at least, isn’t a good part of us). But things like crow's feet, smile lines, or even that vertical frown line between your eyebrows are all things that are a part of you because they happen naturally, and they tell a unique story about you.
Then there are other things, such as pores, which are the first thing we rush to smooth out before posting a photo on Instagram. Everybody hates pores, and most of us have at least once attempted to or wished we could shrink or get rid of them by simply editing them out. However, as I already mentioned in another article, pores have an important function – that's why they are a part of you, much like everything else on your face and body. Your skin can never be poreless because our pores exist as a passage for the sweat that keeps us cool when our surroundings are warm and the sebum that lubricates our skin and protects it from environmental aggressors.
So, the question is, should we really think of these things as "imperfections" or simply as something that's a purposeful part of us and is here to stay?
Should Physical Imperfections Be Changeable?
Some physical imperfections (like acne scars) have a cosmetic cure. Whereas others (like a wide or long forehead) are with us for life.
In theory, some imperfections can and should be worked on. For example, acne is a skin condition that happens when something gets thrown off balance. This could be our hormones, some medications that can change the way our glands produce oil, or even our diet and lifestyle. This means there’s something that needs to be fixed instead of accepting and glorifying this condition as a coping mechanism.
Not even a plastic surgeon can produce a flawless canvas – we will still find fault with our face.
But not everything deserves to be obliterated forever just because we think it doesn't belong there. With that being said, flaws and imperfections will always be with us. A plastic surgeon can’t produce a flawless canvas. You can take the best eyes, lips, nose, and cheekbones in the world, put them together, and still find fault because, sadly, this is something that comes from within.
Plastic Surgery Isn't a Cure for a Lack of Confidence
In a survey of more than 1,000 women nationwide, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) found that 11% are more interested in cosmetic plastic surgery than they were just before COVID hit.
Another 35% of surveyed women who have already done one or more cosmetic procedures plan to spend more on future procedures. And this is not shocking when you consider that "these are people who have experienced first-hand how an aesthetic procedure can enhance beauty, confidence, and self-esteem," according to New York-based board-certified plastic surgeon Adam Kolker.
In fact, research in the journal of Clinical Psychological Science showed that people who chose to go forward with their procedures reported mental health improvements across a wide range of factors, including anxiety, social phobia, attractiveness, self-esteem, and quality of life.
However, there are some caveats to these effects. Research published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery revealed some circumstances in which the psychological and psychosocial outcomes of plastic surgery were not positive. While most people in the study reported improved mental well-being, certain groups didn’t experience good psychosocial effects, even when their surgical results were as planned. Specifically, individuals with unrealistic expectations, previous unsatisfactory plastic surgeries, and a history of certain mental health disorders didn’t gain the psychological benefits that others did.
Body dysmorphic disorder appears to be much more prevalent in people seeking cosmetic surgery.
These unsatisfactory results could result from the very reason people seek plastic surgery in the first place – body dysmorphic disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a disorder that’s characterized by an individual's intense preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance. BDD occurs in up to 1% of the general population but appears to be much more prevalent in people seeking cosmetic surgery. According to research, people with BDD appear to have higher levels of anger and hostility, lower self-esteem, higher levels of perfectionism, eating disorders, higher depression rates, and more frequent suicidal attempts.
Additionally, several studies have identified an increased risk of suicide among people who have had some sort of plastic surgery or cosmetic augmentation. It's worth mentioning that none of these studies have linked dissatisfaction with the outcome of the cosmetic procedure as a sole reason for increased depression rates, because it's quite impossible to pin it completely on that when there could be a million other potential factors, but we can only assume this could've played a role.
Therefore, it's not a stretch to assume that there’s an internal reason why many (particularly young) people are willing to undergo plastic surgery, and studies show that changing something they don't like about themselves isn't a guarantee for happiness and satisfaction.
On the contrary, it appears to be a slippery slope that has a huge potential to make a young and vulnerable mind willing to continue taking it a step further, chasing imaginary perfection while completely disregarding the harm it does to their physical and mental wellbeing.
For Whom Are We "Fixing" Ourselves?
There are so many questions without answers when it comes to the increase of cosmetic procedures and this internal need to "fix" things that are completely normal such as an asymmetrical face or an aquiline nose.
Granted, some physical features make us uncomfortable for many reasons, but these are reasons that we need to recognize and deal with without potentially jeopardizing our lives or our sanity. For example, many people who decide to make an extreme change on a highly exposed part, such as their face, list bullying as a main factor for their dissatisfaction with their features.
However, you have to consider that if someone were bullying you over a particular physical feature, they likely wouldn't stop doing it, even if you go ahead and change the feature in question. Chances are that bullies aren't going to be nicer to you because you made the change because...ding ding ding...it was never about the particular feature but how these people felt about you and the way they expressed their feelings.
So, isn't distancing from bullies a better thing to do instead of undergoing extreme measures to change or remove a physical feature of yours just because someone else said so?
Focusing on Other Things Is More Important
Instead of falling prey to potentially dangerous cosmetic procedures just to improve something that we don't like about our physical look, isn't it a better idea to focus on improving other, more important things, such as our physical and mental health, vitality, fertility, and vibrancy? These are things that last and bring joy from the inside out.
Botox doesn't last longer than a few months, and hyaluronic acid fillers are the same. And even Brazilian Butt Lift, which is one of the most popular, and coincidentally most dangerous, plastic surgeries will require maintenance and a touch-up in a few years, which means you will have to continuously put your body through immense pain and your life in danger to maintain the desired effect.
Having a strong, healthy body lasts longer, costs less, and is a guaranteed path to happiness.
Having a strong and healthy body, on the other hand, takes much less pain and effort, lasts longer, costs less, and is an (almost) guaranteed path to happiness and wellbeing.
By trying to constantly look perfect and Instagram-worthy, we often underestimate how the mind and body work both ways, and we tend to look for a quick and easy fix instead of a long-term dedication to maintain good results.
By looking after your body, you are creating a sacred environment for your true being. It makes acceptance a lot easier when you look after the house your soul resides in, and when you pay attention to this, you will most certainly see your "imperfections" in a very different light, and, who knows, you may even come to love them as a unique part of who you are.
We’re finally starting to see how dangerous an easy fix such as getting plastic surgery can be. This is a slippery slope because once you start, where do you stop?
We have to remember that everybody’s body and face and hair are different, which is why it's impossible to have only one standard of what’s beautiful. To this, I say that you should always aim to keep yourself content and healthy, instead of going out of your way to make your face and body worthy of Internet points.
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