“B eauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It is a well-known phrase that almost all individuals may be familiar with. This phrase suggests that beauty, by definition, is subjective to the individual appreciating a form of beauty and not how beauty is defined objectively by others. However, this may not always apply to all as some might view themselves differently than what other people say.
In today’s society, the standard as to how beauty is defined has been heavily objective and influenced by the internet, which includes the entertainment industry and social media. For women, a slim body, fair and light skin, straight hair, and a perfectly symmetrical face are just a few of the so-called standards that society had universally deemed as the ideal beauty. On the other hand, the ideal beauty for men involves them having a muscular and lean body while, at the same time, possessing a chiseled and well-groomed face. These ideal characteristics can often be seen in movies and television shows wherein the main female and male leads are depicted by actors and actresses who are deemed by society as having these criteria. With these beauty standards getting popular and universal, it is no surprise that there had been an increase in individuals questioning whether they are physically attractive, while also being diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorder.
Aside from the societal beauty standards, the continuous technological advancements may be one of the reasons that caused a massive impact on today’s standards of attractiveness. Various tech companies had created technologies such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and the internet, which had now become a gateway for people across the globe to look at the latest beauty trends and fashion (Mills et al., 2017; Henriques & Patnaik, 2020). With these technological advancements, various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, etc., had also been developed in recent years. This had also contributed to the growing numbers of individuals who had become insecure about their physical appearance due to the deceptive filters that users use on these social media platforms. This is especially true for those individuals who were born with physical flaws and who are also victims of bullying.
The increased usage of these social media platforms had allowed users of various nationalities to connect, which is not necessarily a bad thing. What is negative is the way that some of the users of these social media platforms use filters to change their appearance and deceive others regarding their looks. Past studies (Hamermesh & Abrevaya, 2011; Van de Grift et al., 2015; Mills et al., 2017; Sánchez-Miguel et al., 2018; Barczak & Bednarek, 2020; Henriques & Patnaik, 2020) had suggested the direct relationship between physical attractiveness and one’s life satisfaction or happiness, which could account for the reasons why these users use filters when posting a picture or a video of themselves. However, it could not account for the individuals who were born with facial flaws or those diagnosed with mental health disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorder, depression, etc., which had become victims of bullying due to their flaws. Due to this, there had been a rise in the popularity of cosmetic surgery as the means to enhance and improve one’s physical appearance, which is more commonly observed in women than in men. This is especially prevalent in societies wherein it had become a societal norm. In South Korea, for example, teenagers are given the go signal by their parents to undergo cosmetic surgery when they reach a certain age to improve their physical appearance, as well as to boost their self-esteem and wellbeing (Yoon & Kim, 2019).
Undergoing cosmetic surgery is not necessarily a negative thing as it does improve one’s mental health and overall wellbeing (Chen et al., 2019; Ip & Ho, 2019; Walker et al., 2019; Yoon & Kim, 2019; Esmalian Khamseh & Nodargahfard, 2020; Bonell et al., 2021). In particular, Ip and Ho (2019) found that cosmetic surgery had resulted in the healing of childhood traumas or the emotional scars of the individual, which were primarily caused by constant bullying. The change in their appearance had allowed for their self-esteem to recover, thereby, improving their overall mental health. However, modifying oneself too much, which could result in losing one’s genuine self, maybe what is detrimental when undergoing cosmetic surgery as there might be negative side effects that individuals might experience in the long run.
Bonell and her colleagues (2021) had found that women who undergo cosmetic surgeries had become victims of stigmas wherein they are labeled as mentally unstable or are insecure about their looks, which is quite contrary to the truth, although some are also diagnosed with mental health disorders. On the other hand, there are individuals who indicate that they feel even worse than when they did not undergo plastic surgery since only a few or even no one noticed that they had changed their appearance, which actually defeated their purpose of undergoing cosmetic surgery (Ip & Ho, 2019). Contrary to the popular belief that people will immediately notice the physical changes caused by cosmetic surgery, people, mainly strangers, rarely notice as they might only think that it is their natural beauty that they are seeing in the individual. This, in effect, resulted in the decline of their mental well-being.
In essence, the more people say that one is unattractive, the higher likelihood it is that the individual will start to believe this. The negative impact of such words can cause lasting effects on the individual, which could end in the individual being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Undergoing surgical procedures to modify and enhance one’s appearance is an easier and faster solution to alleviate mental health and wellbeing, which had become popular in recent years. It does promote mental health stability in some individuals. However, it may not be as effective to some since there are individuals who feel even worse than when they had not undergone cosmetic surgery. On the other hand, although there are negative side effects, the benefits of undergoing cosmetic surgery far outweigh these.
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