Flaws and All
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Maybe it’s the nose. Or perhaps it’s the tummy. It could also be the lips. Too big? Too small? Ugly, unattractive, too fat or too broad? Whatever it may be, it seems American youth are becoming more proactive in fixing their perceived flaws.
According to the Washington Post, in the United States alone, a number of cosmetic procedures undertaken increased by 115 percent between 2000 and 2015. Millennials account for 18 percent of the operations performed in 2015.
Millennials, 18 to 34-year-olds, live in an era where everything and anything can be posted, shared and liked for the world to see–younger generations are constantly subjected to comparison and judgment.
Given the media’s constant broadcasting of unrealistic beauty standards, it’s not exactly shocking that cosmetic surgery is booming. Those growing up in the digital age post selfies and candid shots alongside the selfies and candid shots of models and celebrities.
“I think it’s because our generation is growing up with completely unrealistic beauty standards. All the celebrities and models online and in magazines are regularly photoshopped to flawlessness, and that unrealistic beauty is what teens are wired to reach,” said junior Lance Padilla.
Even if people are aware of the illusion involved in their idols’ Instagram accounts, it doesn’t quench the need to achieve “beauty”. Dr. Wayne Yamahata, a board-certified plastic surgeon of Sacramento, has noticed this “wiring” in his patients.
“Personally, from what I’ve gathered from talking to the patients I see come in, I think it’s due to the social media…In some cases, they even show the changes they have and I think that because of that, other teens are being encouraged to commit to have those same operations…” said Dr. Yamahata. Many teens and young adults are taking pride in their changes–everyone loves a good before and after shot.
While social media has intensified the way mainstream culture views beauty, it isn’t always the villain. Some beauty ads that have taken on a new mission: empowerment. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Dove’s #MyBeautyMySay celebrate different types of women, dismissing the so-called “standard” of beauty.
“I think the way our generation views beauty is definitely changing because while social media can be negative, there’s also a bunch of body positivity campaigns that are super awesome and promote self-love,” said junior and Feminist Club President Sophie Moore. “We’re seeing a lot more representation of body types and skin colors in fashion shows.”
With that, mainstream media is representing diverse beauty far more than it did before the advent social media. It’s the push and pull of perfection and the imperfections’ overdue praise.
Plastic surgery isn’t the villain either. There are those who view it as a way to correct the not-so-balanced scale of genetics.
“People feel as though they need to look a certain way to get higher up in the world. Especially with women, looking good in the workforce is very important in order to get a promotion,” said senior Hailie Harding. Basically, a visually appealing face could mean a better job and better pay.
According to Professor Daniel Hamermesh of economics at the University of Texas, attractive people are paid 3 to 4 percent more than their subpar co-workers. Employers are far more likely to remember someone who was pretty or handsome than otherwise. There’s also the self-confidence issue. Those considered attractive tend to carry themselves with confidence–something that is taken into account in the career world.
“I think that plastic surgery is fantastic,” said Harding. “I personally don’t feel the need to go through with it, but I know a few people who say they personally would feel a lot happier with some minor fixes to themselves. It’s all about what makes you happy.” And since happiness does supposedly include things like confidence and success, plastic surgery may be someone’s silver lining.
“Most feel better after surgery. Most feel happy about what they’ve done there,” said Dr. Yamahata. “I think that… I sort of compare to these patients to patients who are overweight and lost weight. You know they look at their body after losing weight and you know, they feel happy.”
Whether people agree with that form of happiness is irrelevant. No one can define happiness just as no one can define beauty. Nor can anyone decide what’s the “right” way to be beautiful. In the end, it’s each to their own in an ever-changing world.