Nowadays it’s fashionable to undergo a surgical procedure to alter part of your physical appearance that you are unhappy with and after the procedure there is a boost in confidence, yet it is still a taboo subject with lots of criticism and medical complications. So, is cosmetic surgery now the solution for self-confidence or is it a business that makes money off the insecurities of others and helps to dictate that ‘right standard of beauty’ often dictated by the mainstream media?
Most people regard Plastic/Cosmetic Surgery a relatively new speciality but according to records it was reported is started as early as 600 B.C, in India under the clinical text known as ‘Sushrata Samhita’. Documentation suggests this was a combination of two seminal texts. These were Charaka Samhita, who specialised on the medical aspects, and Sushruta Samhita who incorporated the surgical details and operative techniques. In this text they mention reattachment of limbs, tissue grafting, organ transplants and even alleged, cross-grafting of head. This knowledge was kept alive, even after the gradual decline of this golden era around (562-472 BC) as it was passed on in secret.
India and Egypt are considered the fountain heads of this knowledge as it streamed through the Middle East, Greeks Romans. Gradually these methods were introduced to surgeons from Germany, France and England. This event in history lead to other milestones of this practice; Italian surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi writing the first text book on the subject, the first female plastic surgeon, the first silicone breasts and Liposuction coming to the US in the early eighties. With its long-complicated history, it’s no wonder there is still complicated debate around the subject.
The response to a posting of the question to peers on what their general thoughts on Cosmetic Surgery was a mixed bag; there were positive comments stating that if they wanted to something done about their physical appearance then what’s stopping them. Like getting a tattoo, a haircut or contact lenses; anything to modify your physical appearance for confidence or just purely for modifications to the body for artistic purposes. Having spoken with those who have undergone surgery there was a mixture of reasons why they had it done; confidence, not looking the way they originally wanted or influenced by the media or peers. A young mother spoke of a tummy tuck she had after a C-section; she felt the overhang was abnormal and it made her self-conscious, she described the operation as more painful than childbirth but it was worth it due to the result. Others described having lip filler and a boob reduction to help boost their self-esteem as they were unhappy with how they were . They described how their insecurities started from teenage years and have had cosmetic surgery in their minds as the solution to fix it. A young woman described her fears and doubts about how men saw her; were they paying attention to her or her breasts before they were reduced in size? After her operation, she felt like a new woman full of confidence.
Another woman describes that she felt her upper lip was barely there, even when growing up from the age of a small child. She described wanting her lips to be evened out, after a procedure with no side effects she stated she felt more confident and that she would have it done again in a heartbeat.
The one thing in common between these stories was that they had lots of emotional and financial support from their family and friends when they told them they wanted surgery. This was extremely reassuring to know since as this is still regarded as a taboo subject that causes debate on both sides. As with any potential permanent modification to your own body, a great support network can for some be extremely important.
For any topic with an element of controversy, diverse opinions or emotional engagement, there is a dark side to this practice that has been described as ‘the shortcut to perfection’. Those against it state that it helps to encourage a seemingly unreachable standard of aesthetic beauty that a lot of us are used to seeing across the mainstream media. When we talk of addiction we often jump straight to drugs, alcohol, smoking etc., but there are those who are addicted to surgery. It is suggested those addicted to cosmetic surgery often have mental and emotional illnesses where going under the knife is an outcome stemming from your insecurities and negative influences from the most commonly available sources particularly mainstream media setting an impossible standard or simply being told you don’t have the right look. This is an increasing problem as people turn to social media for support rather than physical real support network or friends, colleagues, family or acquaintances. It’s a huge money maker with operations often costing as much as $20, 000 (£16, 000). With these high prices and with some people getting addicted to surgery, it’s no wonder how these prices can rocket sky high and break the bank.
Someone spoke of how she blamed the media for wanting fuller lips as a lot of the advert campaigns for lipstick used models with seemingly fuller lips, whereas there is a potential chance that the model’s appearance may have been modified, setting false expectations, through post-production.
Here is an example of an advert from the around the turn of the 20th century, promising women that this treatment will roll back the years on your face.
Even then achieving the ‘correct standard’ of beauty was shown across the media and although techniques for influencing perceived “norms” have evolved a great deal since, sometimes you’re not conscious of how that perception has been created or altered (or may change over time) when you consent to undergoing a cosmetic procedure. It is sad that someone can feel that insecure about their body not looking the right way, that they feel they need to change it.
Cosmetic surgery remains an emotional and controversial topic, taboo for many. For some there are clear medical benefits. At the other end of the spectrum are those that do it for art. In between there are those that undergo procedures to boost their self esteem or confidence; some will do so because of their internally held perception of what is normal, whilst for others the cause of the low confidence or doubt in our own natural beauty, may be the same media that peddles cosmetic surgery as the solution.
The only conclusion we can draw is that it is each person’s personal choice and should be respected.
Even if you yourself may be against the idea of getting cosmetic surgery done, it’s vital you offer the emotional support to those who say they need it; one can imagine it’s not an easy decision to make.
And finally, for those considering getting something done, ensure you really understand why you want it and if you do proceed: it is recommended that you do your research particularly into which surgeon or service to turn to, before making this potentially lifelong commitment.