I don't care how good you look, we've all been there. Obsessing over any and every imperfection. Small breasts? Crooked nose? Pudgy tummy? Flabby arms? Roaring thunder thighs? Yes, we've all been there.
Perhaps after doing everything humanly possible, you've decid
ed to seek professional help in the form of plastic surgery. It seems like a quick and easy fix, but is plastic surgery, like a breast lift, the answer for people with low self-esteem?
Plastic surgery is still a medical procedure that can take a toll on you physically, emotionally and mentally. Just because you think that you look better (assuming the best possible scenario here) is no guarantee that you'll feel better. In fact, going under the knife can reopen old mental and emotional wounds.
The Lowdown on Low Self-Esteem
Before delving into the ways surgery can impact self-esteem, let's define what self-esteem is.
The National Health Service (NHS) defines self-esteem as "the opinion we have of ourselves."
People with healthy doses of self-esteem tend to see the glass half full. Their positive and optimistic outlook on life help them face and conquer life's challenges. Meanwhile, people with low self-esteem are their own worst critic. Instead of bouncing back from challenging moments and situations, they tend to dwell in the negativity. Worse yet, they hold themselves back, e.g. shying away from social events or never moving out of their comfort zone(s).
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to grasp about low self-esteem is that the message that "you're not good enough" started somewhere in childhood. Psychology Today identified 10 of the most common sources of low self-esteem as:
1. Critical authority figures
2. Aloof caregivers
3. Battling authority figures at odds with each other
4. Bullying (with unconcerned parents/caregivers)
5. Bullying (with overbearing and smothering parents/caregivers)
6. Bullying (with absent parents/caregivers)
7. Academic challenges
8. Trauma in the form of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse
9. Strict belief systems, like religion
10. Unrealistic standards set by society and the media
Do any of these sound familiar? If they do, then you're not alone. While the concrete numbers have yet to be solidified, it could be that 85 percent of people suffer from low self-esteem, 4 out of 5 women or 47 percent of young girls. No matter the cause, none of it was your fault.
Bullying, Surgery and Other Risks
Interestingly, bullying showed up three times, and it's directly related to surgery. New research from the University of Warwick (2017) shows that teen school bullies and their victims are both more likely to desire cosmetic surgery. The University of Warwick researchers worked from a sample size of 800 United Kingdom adolescents from the ages of 11 to 16. Here's what they learned:
While 11.5 percent of the bullying victims really desired cosmetic surgery, 3.4 percent of bullies also wanted surgery. The researchers explained the bullies' desire for surgery as "they [bullies] need people to admire them," while low self-esteem could explain the victim's desire. In the end of the study, the researchers note that mental health screenings by surgeons, with an emphasis on bullying, could reduce the growing global desire for surgery. After all, cosmetic surgery never can really address the real reason(s) behind low self-esteem.
It's worth noting that low self-esteem can lead to postoperative, or postsurgical, depression, which is more common in medically necessary surgeries. A 2007 study published in Psychiatry explored the relationship between depression, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)and cosmetic surgery. The researchers learned that patients were at an increased risk of psychological issues, low self-esteem and, in some extreme cases usually related to breast augmentation surgery, suicide.
Possible Benefits of Plastic Surgery on Self-Esteem
But is there no room for surgery in the life of someone with low self-esteem?
For instance, researchers in Norway
followed 155 women after their surgeries. The researchers learned that while many of the women's body image improved (in other words, "the satisfaction with [their] own appearance), there was only a small spike in self-esteem improvement. Ultimately, the researchers noted in the study, published in the 2009 Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, "few psychological problems before surgery predicted a greater improvement in appearance satisfaction and self-esteem after surgery."
Another study in 2014 followed breast augmentation and implants (or Sydney breast lift) patients. The researchers discovered that the post-op patients saw positive results in the areas of quality of life, personality, self-esteem and emotional stability. A whopping 71 percent of the participants noted an increase in sexuality, and a staggering 74 percent of the participants admitted that their lives improved.
In the end, cosmetic surgery itself isn't inherently bad. But it's not a magic bullet that will fix all of your problems. If you suffer from low self-esteem and want to take drastic measures to alter your appearance, then you should explore other options first before going under the knife.
A fantastic resource for patients is: Positive Psychology
Guest Article by;
Northern Beaches Cosmetic Plastic Surgery
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