For the past decade, we can say that there have been major changes in the way people perceive beauty. From inclusivity to body positivity and beyond, we have seen and heard so many encouraging messages about 'loving yourself' and 'being more genuine about your own beauty'. Even I did my piece on stopping makeup and bare-faced shaming a couple of months back. Still, this doesn't change the fact that the issue of cosmetic surgery is tricky, not just as a point of discussion, but also as a choice for many.
While in some countries like South Korea and Thailand where they rarely bat an eyelash over the matter — not to mention tons of cosmetic surgery billboards put up in the streets openly — it still remains an item of gossip, and even considered taboo, in other countries in both the East and the West. On one hand, we continuously hear and see advocates who say that you should do whatever that makes you feel confident and happy about how you look, whether it be makeup, tattoos, etc., while still conveying the message of embracing 'true and authentic' beauty. So let's set the record straight: which one is it really?
On the privilege of 'being pretty'
A couple of months ago, a colleague shared this article by TV host and activist Janet Mock about her own account of how being pretty is a privilege. It cited how, even as our definition of beauty varies, there are still instances that it shares a commonality: those who are perceived as 'pretty' have a certain advantage over those who aren't. And no matter how many inspirational quotes and photos we share about being beautiful in your own skin, sometimes, seeing as how people treat you differently depending on how you look is enough evidence that the world isn't as ideal as we want to believe it is.
I've read and watched a lot of confessions about why people started using makeup and found a common denominator: it made them feel more confident, more beautiful, more — just more. It started off as something that they wanted to do for others and ended up as something that they do for themselves. And while it is something that can easily be washed off at the end of the day, doesn't it offer the same value as cosmetic surgery?
Beauty, flaws, and authenticity
We often claim that embracing your flaws is the start of meeting your 'true beauty'. And to some, it is. But things are easier said than done. Lucky for you if through the years you've somehow come to terms with how you look and you're content with it — maybe even happy and confident ever since the beginning. But to a number of people, it is difficult to love your own skin. It is human nature to be overly critical of our own selves more than others. Or sometimes, even the smuggest person in the world tend to project their own insecurities on other people. The bottomline is that beauty may be a simple word but it is hard to live up to. So who are we to judge if there are people who want to go for a more permanent solution?
Similar to how people use makeup, get an eyelash extension, or get a tattoo, cosmetic surgery is also a way for people to redefine who they are in their own terms. Say it is a result of society's impossible standards but isn't everything like that? Everything that happens to us is a ripple effect of what society does. Even non-conformity is a result of our perception of society. It is an unbending thing.
So what should we do? We can and should not stop encouraging people to embrace their true selves but we should also remember that, at the end of the day, it is the sole individual's decision that will determine their own definition of beauty. And if that means going under the knife and emerging with a whole new look, I honestly think it's still worth all the respect in the world.
True beauty is achieving happiness
In an ideal world, superficiality should never be our source of happiness. But is cosmetic surgery really superficial? In perspective, it requires hard work, courage, and a sense of fulfilment. It entails a backstory that most of us tend to overlook when judging someone who's had a nose job. It requires sheer will and perseverance to save up for how costly it is. It gives a more genuine smile to the person who's had it as soon as they see their reinvented self in the mirror every morning. To the people who are getting them, they literally live up to the phrase 'no pain, no gain'. There's more to these people than just 'vanity' and they're pretty much like all of us to the core: in a continuous journey to self-actualization.
So moving forward, I hope that when you feel like judging someone based on the alteration they made on their face or body, you keep in mind that it's their money, it's their face, it's their life, and — most of all — their story is never really just skin deep.