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I am 20 years old and think I’m addicted to plastic surgery. In the last two years I have had 3 operations and am considering rhinoplasty (nose job) as my fourth procedure this summer. I would go under the knife tomorrow but I’ve accumulated quite a bit of debt from my other surgeries and am trying to pay it down before more. And that’s where I think I have a problem. I always want more. The strangest part is that I’ve never been surrounded by women with obvious plastic surgery. There may have been some Botox within my mother’s group of friends, but nothing anyone talked about.
I found myself first becoming obsessed with the idea of altering my average body on a college visitation overnight. I stayed with an incredibly confident sophomore who was also incredibly vocal about how she fixed her freshman 15. She had undergone an abdominoplasty “tummy tuck” and was back to washboard abs. And they were incredible! Fast forward three years. I have had breast augmentation, abdominoplasty and a chin implant to elongate my face. My friends think I’m crazy for wanting more, but it’s all I can think about. In fact, I’ve just stopped talking to my friends about it since they don’t get it. I thought my face augmentation would be the last one, but two months after I found myself obsessing over the perfect nose. As I stand in front of the mirror I can continue adding to my list and I think that’s where I need help. When is it time to call it quits?
Dear More Plastic,
I am sure you have heard your share of opinions about plastic surgery, but here’s my take. If going under the knife contributes to a positive association with self image, great. If it is done with the expectation that a tuck and a lift will solve a life issue, not great. Since you mentioned concerns of being addicted, I believe we may be talking about a bigger problem here.
Research has found that “negative mental outcomes are typically associated with people who have unreasonable expectations of what [plastic surgery] can achieve, who expect the impossible, or hope it will solve their problems or transform them into a new person.” Flipping the coin, in a recent Swiss study conducted by the University of Basel, patients who underwent procedures reported that they “felt healthier, were less anxious, had developed more self-esteem and felt more attractive.”
How do you feel after surgery? Does it bring you more happiness and confidence, or does it leave you wanting to “fix” another part of your body? Are you obsessed with trying to change your physical appearance because there are things in your life you want to change?
My wish for you is that there will come a day when you can look in the mirror and see how uniquely beautiful you are, surgery or not.
You are 20 years old and have an incredible life ahead of you. I’m unsure how you are paying for the surgeries, however with most college students in the US living with debt, I would think very carefully about the financial implications of pursuing another surgery. It is your choice where you spend your time and money, but my wish for you is that there will come a day when you can look in the mirror and see how uniquely beautiful you are, surgery or not.
Dear More Plastic,
We are surrounded by ideals of perfection. Magazines, tv, movies…You name it, there is a presentation of perfection. It seems like beauty is a competition that we are all struggling to win. Just like play by play announcers for football games, we have fashion police and beauty experts giving us their analysis of the ever changing beauty landscape including what we should and shouldn’t be doing to make ourselves appear beautiful too.
It can be perfectly cruel to subject ourselves to this competition. It’s a fight we can never win. While your initial efforts to make yourself more attractive seemed like the natural next step in this self-imposed fight, it also sounds like there is a part of you that is having doubts. A part of you is unsure about where this is all heading, even claiming yourself as being addicted. You feel torn. While part of you is tempted to get more surgery, another part of you is hesitating.
Before you make any more decisions about any more surgeries or procedures I would encourage you to listen really carefully to this second part of you. It may just be the part of you that has your best interests in mind. I encourage you to give yourself some time. Commit to remaining procedure free for at least 6 months, although I believe 12 months or more may be helpful. During this time, I would encourage you to talk with someone.
I encourage you to give yourself some time. Commit to remaining procedure free for at least 6 months
A professional would be preferable, but a close friend or family member who you trust could be a good place to start as well. Someone with expertise or experience in body image struggles may help you to sort through the questions you are experiencing. Struggles with body image can be an indication of several different issues including mental health struggles such as body dysmorphia. In the event that you are experiencing a more specific mental health struggle, you may find it quite relieving to discover these issues and to know that effective treatments are available.