You look mahvelous!
Isn’t that what we all want to hear?
It’s what I like to hear, or something to that effect! As a woman in this culture, I have experienced my share of the pressure on appearances that our culture exerts.
Ouch when “surgical enhancement”goes awry. Enhancement means to make something better, but how do we know if we’re enhancing, or the opposite, (sometimes quite literally), de-facing?
I once knew a stunning girl at summer camp. She had a dancer’s body, waist-length strawberry-blond hair, and an aquiline nose that, to me, made her look aristocratic and elegant. She did not feel the same way; I bumped into her post-camp, with a brand new ski-jump nose, made to order. If it made her feel better, I’m happy for her, and that truly is all that matters, but I couldn’t help regretting the loss of the exotic, patrician beauty that she once was.
Perhaps she preferred to conform to a more generic standard of attractiveness. Or perhaps it’s just that I saw her beauty, but she didn’t.
We can easily think of celebrities that lose their unique beauty, even seemingly their personality, by losing the endearing quirks of nature that made them so attractive in the first place. I’m not naming names; just google before and after shots and try to recognize once-loved Hollywood stars who have had their faces remade.
It takes great courage to accept your own beauty.
My friend from camp wanted someone else’s type of beauty so badly that she couldn’t see the beauty that she possessed. Self-love is the doorway to accepting our own unique beauty, our own unique stories, and our own unique gifts.
I’ve been there, too, in that unhappy state of wanting to be something other than what I was. As a young aspiring dancer, I wasn’t one of those naturally thin types that the field of dance favors. Thus, I was on a perpetual diet, and never satisfied with how I looked. I turned this self-criticism outward, and judged people according to their weight. I was always mentally shaving a few pounds off, thinking how great others would look, “if only…”
As if they cared! The problem was me, not them, and the real problem wasn’t my weight, it was my lack of self-love. Funny thing was, whenever I lost weight I felt uncomfortable; I needed to work on my self-acceptance first.
When is cosmetic surgery right, and when is it wrong?
When is it an enhancement, and when is it an unintentional S.O.S. of emotional distress?
What makes one person a “plastic surgery junkie” and someone else simply “maximizing their potential”?
And what does self-love have to do with it?
This is no hate post! Hooray for those who see a challenge and do something about it. Cosmetic surgery is a far healthier response than Garbo’s reclusive withdrawal in the face of the challenge of aging. I only want to suggest that there may be a less painful way, a more successful way, a more self-loving way of managing the questions of beauty and appearance.
6 Questions to Ask Before Undertaking Cosmetic Surgery
- Are you doing it for someone else?
You might think “guys will only like me if I have DD breasts” or “I won’t be accepted by my female friends unless I am a size 0,” or “I need to do XYZ to get a certain job,” but if you are not comfortable with your choice, no one else will be, either.
Besides, others’ responses are NOT guaranteed. Furthermore, they may be wrong. Cindy Crawford and Lauren Hutton both were advised to correct their physical ‘flaws’ if they wanted to work as models. They taught the industry a thing or two: they ignored the pressure to alter their looks, they kept their trademark quirks, and we all were swept along in the tide of their self-loving beauty.
When I was a ballroom dance instructor I taught a lot of wedding couples. As a then single woman trying to make sense of the dating world, I was frequently amazed at which women ‘got the guy.’ I noticed that it had NOTHING to do with their looks, or even their personalities. My conclusion: it had, mainly, to do with their feeling of deservingness and entitlement.
IF ONLY attaining happiness, approval, respect, love, success, and belonging was as (relatively) simple as undergoing minor surgery, I would be the first on line – but it’s not.
- Are you trying to attain an image, rather than a reality?
Are you like the famous “Human Barbie” who modeled herself after a plastic doll? Don’t substitute art, craft, or artifice for reality. An airbrushed glossy magazine image may be fabulous, but that’s just what it is: an image, a 2-dimensional layout made of pixels and ink.
In case you need a friendly reminder, we real people are messy, quirky beings that inhabit 3 dimensions.
Enjoy the hype, but please don’t buy it hook, line and sinker. Take a break: get your head out of the magazines and computer screens, and interact with some real, live, messy people if you need a reality check.
- Do you think you’re fooling someone?
Youthful beauty is great at any age, but know that the youthful ‘glow’ comes from within, whereas hoping to ‘fool’ everyone you meet most often produces the opposite of its intended effect.
In olden Tibet, the mountainous terrain was susceptible to intense windstorms, and anyone traveling in the region would don a leather mask to protect the face from the stinging elements. Women decorated their masks by painting facial features on the surface of the leather. Funny thing is, the painting on the mask was a dead giveaway of the age of the wearer: the more youthfully painted the mask, the more ancient the wearer!
Unless you’re in a witness protection program, trying to fool everyone you meet is not a healthy life-style.
The problem with wearing a mask is that you don’t get to be yourself, and you, I strongly suggest, are lovable and deserving of love, just as you are.
Yes, you are beautiful, just as you are, all of you, happy bits, sweet bits, hurt bits, broken bits, and all. You are fully human (not a 2-dimensional image), and you are beautiful.
- Do you feel social pressure to ‘keep up’ with your peers?
Do me a favor and take a good look at your peers. Are they worth going under the knife for? Are there more meaningful relationships you could cultivate that would not put so much emphasis on your appearance?
Ask: what are their motives? Don’t let their fears dictate your actions.
- Are you prepared for unexpected consequences?
What if you don’t like the results? What if there are complications? Are you ready to walk down that road and live with the consequences?
- Are you looking for an emotional return?
Be very sensitive to an inner dialogue that goes something like: “I will feel beautiful when I lose 30 pounds,” or “I will feel lovable when I have higher cheekbones.” These conditional statements place happiness away from you, at the completion of the goal.
If you think you will feel more confident if you had higher cheekbones – just know that even if you had the surgery, the feeling of confidence comes from within, and it is the feeling – not the cheekbones – that is creating the more confident you. Can you cultivate the feeling you are seeking without the surgery?
It is immediately apparent when cosmetic surgery is used for the wrong reasons. It is as visible and as tragic as it is to see a young person strung out on drugs.
This is the truest distinction between cosmetic surgery as an addiction, vs. using it in an emotionally mature way: the addict is chasing an emotional dream. Like any addiction, cosmetic surgery presents, to the addict’s mind, an escape from an emotional trauma that they are not ready, or perhaps do not know how, to work through in any other way.
In the addict’s mind, the surgery will resolve issues that, in fact, cannot be surgically resolved.
5 Red Flags that cosmetic surgery might NOT be right for you:
- It would put you into debt
- It could put undue strain on your health
- It would cause you to be absent, emotionally and physically, from your family or other obligations and/or life goals
- It would cause you to be judgmental of others who are not ‘surgically enhanced’
Will you morph into a holier-than-thou ball of judgment once you’ve altered your appearance? Will you find yourself saying or thinking things like: “She really should take better care of herself,” or “if only she would take off 20 pounds,” or “She really should get that fixed.”
If you’re in danger of becoming that person, self-love before surgery is indicated. Our attitude towards others is a reflection of our attitude towards ourselves; criticism of others is the flip side of non-acceptance of the self.
When you love yourself, warts and all, you will find yourself able to love others as well, crooked noses, muffin tops, warts, and all.
- It would be the start of a long string of procedures
Cosmetic surgery for the wrong reasons is the start of an endless road. Surgery won’t scratch your itch, though you may keep trying. You may spend your time, money, energy, your entire LIFE chasing a dream that can’t be caught through cosmetic surgery.
The guys seem to believe that “whoever dies with the most toys wins.”
Ladies, let’s be smarter than that! Let’s not spend our entire lives ‘fixing’ our bodies – for what?
Let’s live, and let’s love, both ourselves, and others. Let’s be, like the velveteen rabbit in the beloved bedtime story, “real”; his velveteen fur got rubbed off, he lost one of his button eyes, but being loved is what made him real, and being real is what made him beautiful, and what made him matter.
No-one on her deathbed will think, if only I had straightened my nose – or whatever – life would have been different. Nobody else cares that much about your nose – or whatever – they care about YOU: who you are, and how you interact with them.
2 Signs that Cosmetic Surgery IS right for you:
- You’ve thought about it for a long time and you’re getting a strong yes from within.
I studied with a spiritual teacher who would meditate on any question three times on three different days until she was sure of the answer. Don’t act till you get that clear inner yes.
Stick to your guns. If this is the path that feels right to you, then by all means, go for it.
- Not doing it will stop you from following your dream.
Full disclosure, I got braces as an adult to straighten my teeth. I wanted to create e-courses, and I was uncomfortable with how I looked on video. I went round and round, consulted different dentists, and discussed it with all kinds of people.
I was scared that the braces might damage my teeth. Would I still be able to eat an apple? Was I fixing something that wasn’t broke? Was I asking for trouble? Was it more self-loving to accept myself as I am, or to change?
In the end, I decided to get the braces. I feel good about the decision, and about the process I went through of being really sure about it before I proceeded. And, I feel more comfortable on video, which was the goal.
It is fantastic that we have the option to improve something we want to change about ourselves. For me, it was my teeth, for Bruce Jenner, it was a lot more, but I believe him when he says that surgery was something he had to do – that he didn’t want to die without expressing his truth.
You are the only one who can decide for you
This isn’t easy, folks. After all, even Hollywood stars, with all their access and funds, have a hard time getting this right, at great cost. It’s a fine-line thing, and the only person who can know if surgical enhancement is right for you is YOU. You have to do the inner work to be sure that it is the right choice, for the right reasons.
Know what cosmetic surgery can and cannot do. There is great joy in being real, in giving up an impossible fairytale, of letting down the facade, in favor of your truth. There is freedom in admitting – gasp! – failure at something that wasn’t worth doing in the first place because it is an impossible, undo-able task.
Pretty is pretty, but beauty comes from within. Before signing up for surgery, see if you can grow to love the unique quirks and characteristics of your own natural born face or body. Don’t be like my friend from camp, who, before she even knew what she had, threw away her unique natural beauty in exchange for the safer off-the-shelf kind.
There is only one of you. No matter how much you try to look like a glossy image, or a Barbie doll, or this celebrity, or that one, there is only one YOU.
You are so beautiful, if you only knew it. Get to know it.
The more you learn to accept yourself, the more your unique beauty will shine forth.
Your self – your true self, not who you are supposed to be, or should be, or wish you were, but your true, authentic, beautiful, shining self – is a gift for you, and a gift for all who know you. Be yourself.
Reba Linker is a guide, a coach and a teacher, ready to lead you on the path of self-love to a happier, more fulfilled way of life. We have the answers we need within us; coaching is a process of uncovering the wisdom that exists within. Click here to learn more about Transformational Life Coaching.
Get ready to fall in love again – with YOU! Reba Linker’s new book, Imagine Self-Love, is available on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1KGzjto