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Plastic Fantastic?!

We're too quick to judge those who choose cosmetic surgery

Picture someone who had plastic surgery. What do they look like? Big boobs, bright teeth, tight tummy? Perhaps a certain celebrity comes to mind? Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably a very narrow vision — so allow me to broaden it. Last October, I had plastic surgery. 

The second you reveal to someone you’ve had plastic surgery, you’re pigeonholed into a stereotype. First, however, the other person will usually spend a good few moments looking you up and down as if they’re playing a proverbial game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’. They’ll automatically assume you’ve had one of three surgeries: breast augmentation, rhinoplasty or a face lift. What they’re doing is looking for improvements — something perfect in a sea of mundane features. From first-hand encounters, it’s not a pleasant experience to be subjected to. The problem with my surgery is that it’s not necessarily obvious. Nor is it a popular choice. Consequently, this search for alterations always comes up blank; as though nothing on my face is deemed sufficiently good enough to have been manufactured on purpose, rather than naturally. 

Of course, a lot of discourse surrounding plastic surgery centres around insecurity. I’m not outside of that. The main reason I chose to go under the knife was definitely because of insecurity. I’d wanted the surgery for years, and my insecurity over that part of my body really did impact many daily decisions (and still does, even post-change). I was lucky and privileged enough to have the money to afford the surgery; and I truly believed that the value of undergoing the change was worth it. 

But it wasn’t wholly insecurity-driven, which allows me to shed myself of some of the guilt we often feel about cosmetic surgery. There were medical reasons too, and I knew that if I approached the NHS, I would have been offered the surgery for free. However, I was looking at a waiting list of easily half-a-decade; and I would have also felt uncomfortable contributing further to a suffering and struggling NHS whilst also having the means to do it privately. 

What I didn’t account for enough pre-surgery, however, was the guilt I would feel over betraying the body I was born with. Society likes to simultaneously tell girls that they must be natural, but that they must also be perfect — in a world where perfection is a particular face, body, and skin colour. It becomes arguably impossible to do both. You can’t wear make-up because then you’re not happy with who you are; but you must also hide all your blemishes and imperfections because, if you don’t, you’re unkempt and careless. If you wear low cut tops, you’re showing yourself off; but if you cover your chest, you’re a prude. The attitudes towards plastic surgery perpetuate the same harmful messages. My particular surgery however offers me some control over the narrative: it’s not obvious which surgery I underwent, thus my body doesn’t automatically reveal my decision to all. 

On the whole, I’m a great supporter of plastic surgery. If you have the means, the mindset and mental stability, it can be a great thing to do if your insecurity impacts your daily decisions. Cosmetic surgery shouldn’t put you in a box of being vain, self-obsessed, or overridden with insecurity and ideals of sacrificial beauty. It should, instead, prove that comfort in yourself lies in many actions and aspects. 

At the end of the day, I went under the knife because I could. I was able to avoid the immediate assumptions people shove onto those who undergo plastic-surgery because I could hide my decision from prying eyes and curious minds. Plastic surgery comes in all forms: from rhinoplasty to post-traumatic facial reconstruction; from eyelid surgery to liposuction; and so collating us all under the label of vain and superficial is wholly reductionist. 

Undergoing plastic surgery does come with stereotypes, but it’s the connotations and associations that are harmful — not the surgery itself.

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