Plastic surgery isn’t new. It’s not like it’s something that has just been invented. In 1000 AD, rhinoplasty was a common procedure. In 1798, the term “plastic surgery” was coined. And the first modern rhinoplasty was performed in 1923. So, to say that plastic surgery is a new phenomenon is incorrect.
Plastic surgery isn’t uncommon, either. In 2014, there were 15.6 million cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. The number of plastic surgery procedures has gone up 5% since 2011. Top procedures include: Botox, breast augmentation, soft tissue fillers, liposuction, and facelifts. The chances are overwhelming that you know someone who has had plastic surgery. In fact, you probably know more than one!
If plastic surgery isn’t new, and it’s a popular procedure, then why is there such a negative connotation associated with it? Some might say it’s because of the cost of plastic surgery. There are some people who pay $100,000 to look like their favorite celebrity, but that isn’t the norm. Even if it were, we don’t mind when that celebrity buys a $500,000 car. We don’t shame them for throwing their money away, when a $20,000 car would have gotten them where they needed to go.
Others might say that it’s a risky procedure, and you shouldn’t risk your life for a cosmetic procedure, but plastic surgery isn’t necessarily risky. When performed by a board certified plastic surgeon, it is relatively safe.
If it’s not the cost, or the risk either, what is it that makes us shame those who get plastic surgery? Based on recent research, it’s because we think of those who have plastic surgery as insecure and shallow. We tend to think that all they care about are their looks, and that they are reinforcing the narcissism in our culture.
Our society does have a problem with body image. We push images of what we think the perfect body should look like. People are bombarded by these ideal standards, and we emphasize that if you don’t look like that, then you are inadequate. And the kicker is that most of these images are photo-shopped to a body type that is unattainable for most people.
Yes, there are people who go into plastic surgery for the wrong reasons. Too much plastic surgery can be bad, but most of the people who are getting plastic surgery today have realistic expectations. They understand what they are getting into, and they know they aren’t going to come out looking what society considers perfect.
Most people who get plastic surgery are doing it to feel better about themselves. There is something on their body that they aren’t happy with, and they choose to change it.
We shame people who have had plastic surgery, and call them vain or superficial, when we have no idea why they got plastic surgery. There also are real benefits to plastic surgery. Those who have had plastic surgery for the right reasons are reported to be happier and healthier, and have an improved quality of life. They also report to have a much higher self-esteem.
People shouldn’t have to be ashamed of plastic surgery. They shouldn’t have to try to hide the fact that they tried to fix something about themselves, and we as a society shouldn’t shame them.
We should show them the same respect we give people who have made other types of body modifications.
We think of people with tattoos or piercings as artistic individuals who are showing their individualism. We don’t talk down to people who wear makeup or dye their hair. How is that any different? That’s changing a part of yourself because you want to be happy, and it’s just as superficial. Your hair color doesn’t really make or break who you are. But you dye your hair because you want it to be different. Just like you want some other part of your body to be different.
We shouldn’t judge people for wanting to be happy. We have three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We should be able to pursue our happiness without judgment from others.