Our increasing acceptance of cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery is hardly headline news anymore but there’s no denying the sheer velocity of it’s popularity over the last three years…..particularly amongst young girls.
So what has changed? Why are twenty-something hotties getting regular Botox injections and lip augmentation treatments? What is making attractive young girls with dewy, line-free skin and already ample lips, visit the cosmetic surgeon?
It’s no accident that in this current world of instant gratification – the one where young women are addicted to their social media feeds – the need for acceptance and to conform to the images they’re continually shown; is immense. And it’s not just how they should look. There’s the designer duds they need to wear, the car they should be driving and the (perceived) lifestyle they need to be living. It’s exhausting and it’s relentless.
A case in point is the current poster-girl for cosmetic procedures – Kylie Jenner. Along with completely changing her face (check out the infamous time-lapse video on YouTube and you’ll see she’s virtually unrecognisable from the girl she was three years ago) she has seemingly set the precedent for the image that girls in their teens and twenties want to project. We now have an epidemic of young women who fanatically control and curate every element of their lives, all so that they can post the perfect selfie on Instagram.
Now you might be forgiven for thinking I have a downer on Ms. Jenner. I don’t. However, she’s a girl born into relative wealth (even before the explosion of KUWTK ) and who has every contact and resource available to her in order to carve out the life she wants. Does that mean she doesn’t work hard? No. Does it mean she deserves to be verbally pelted on social media? Of course not. But it does give her a huge advantage and set her apart from the vast majority of other young women her age. Kylie Jenner is not the norm. Nor should she be held up as being so. It’s an unrealistic benchmark and moreover, it sets people up to feel like failures.
Which is precisely where things get to start a bit messed up. Here’s a synopsis of what Freud believed about The Pleasure Principle and our need for instant gratification.
“The id is an important part of our personality because as newborns, it allows us to get our basic needs met. Freud believed that the id is based on our pleasure principle. In other words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation”.
So, how does this relate to an addiction to cosmetic procedures? Well, it’s ultimately the pursuit of instant gratification (how many people liked our photo, viewed our video etc.) through altering our appearance or portraying a certain lifestyle; at the expense of what is actually going to give us long-term fulfilment. And this is where – like any unhelpful behaviour or coping strategy – the need for many young women to continually get cosmetic procedures, is potentially a mental-health ticking time bomb.
“That’s all a bit dramatic Laney”, you might say. Well no, it’s not. Just think about it. In a sea of young women fighting for social airspace and acceptance; what happens when your wrinkle- free forehead, overly large lips and teeth veneers still haven’t landed you a rich boyfriend/husband or a career as a millionaire Beauty Entrepreneur? Plus there’s the mounting cost of all this work (not to mention the financed Mercedes parked on your mums drive). Just what happens when you’re still feeling desperately insecure about your appearance ( now your celebrity idol has had yet another procedure done and you literally can’t …well…..keep up) despite having all of this stuff done? What then?
It’s because of this very factor, that the cosmetic enhancement industry needs to not feed this potential mental health issue. From an emotional standpoint, they have a real responsibility to manage expectations about what a cosmetic procedure can (and can’t) do.
Before you start thinking I despise the cosmetic enhancements industry; it’s actually quite the opposite. In the right circumstances, a cosmetic procedure can transform someone’s life and provide them with a new-found level of confidence they didn’t have before. In those cases, it’s not just about instant gratification. It’s a life-changing and pivotal decision in their lives that provides them with real fulfilment long-term. That’s why any cosmetic intervention has to be a well thought out decision and not something done on a whim (or because all your friends have it). No amount of fillers or injections will make you happy, if fundamentally what you’re unhappy about or pursuing, actually isn’t (in reality) related to the size of your lips or how many people like your selfie on Instagram.
Need further convincing? As I was writing this blog entry, a story flashed up on my Sky News feed. The story had broken that day and involved ex Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya. He was voicing his concern over our unhealthy relationship with social media sites and how this manifests in our attaching importance to gratification, not fulfilment. In his words:-
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. We are in a really bad state of affairs right now.”