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Studio 10’s Forum on Body Image

Earlier this week I had the privilege of speaking about Body Image on Studio 10. You can watch the show segment here: Studio 10s Forum on Body Image. The panel comprised of an interesting mix of seven individuals representing different perspectives on body image. They included:

  • myself as a psychologist specialising in treating eating disorders;
  • a plastic surgeon;
  • an ex-magazine editor;
  • a “plus size model”;
  • a man recovering from an eating disorder;
  • and two ladies (who also happen to be Chanel 10 Producers) who are about to undertake cosmetic surgery.

In our Gen-Y,  “fix it if its broken” culture where cosmetic surgery provides an quick-fix solution available to any of us who want to change how we look, I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude of the hosts regarding the young ladies preparing to undertake surgery. They were clearly shocked that the ladies, who most people would consider to be quite beautiful according to today’s beauty standards, would be going to such lengths to change their appearance. Indeed, it seemed that they were cautioning the girls against it:

  • “I didnt read this… What?…Your going under the knife?”;
  • “These are like my kid sisters, they are going to get a talking to after the show”;
  • “In your briefing notes you mentioned you thought it would give you more confidence… Im not sure boobs are things that give us confidence”;
  • “Big decision… its major surgery we are talking about here”;

I must say, I agree with the hosts. Cosmetic surgery is a drastic and serious intervention, not a decision to be taken lightly. I believe that it contributes towards the homogenization of beauty ideals rather than enabling us to celebrate difference. I believe that it is our idiosyncrasies that make us unique and tell the story of how we became who we are. A broken nose, a scar, a birth mark, freckles, a tooth gap, these are all the things that make us “us”. I believe that one of the biggest concerns about the pressure to look perfect is that “perfect” is no longer a relative term pertaining to our grooming. It is very specific: big breasts, tall, thin, hour glass figure, no wrinkles, no grey hair, well manicured etc etc. The accessibility of cosmetic surgery only serves to reinforce this ideal rather than challenge it.

Now over to you: Do you agree with the young ladies undertaking the surgery, that there is nothing wrong in trying to “improve” our appearance if we don’t like it? Or do you think that we should be encouraging self acceptance and embracing our self perceived “flaws”? Do you agree with the dangers of the accessibility of cosmetic surgery on our culture, that it feeds into the homogenization of beauty? Or do you see it as a matter of personal choice and nothing we should be worried about?