Facing Facts: Is our addiction to cosmetic procedures a mental health issue?

by , on
12th December 2017

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.”

 “We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short term signals – hearts, likes, thumbs up.”
So, the bad guy in all of this really isn’t cosmetic surgery at all.   The real issue lies with the diet of illusion and pursuit of perfection that our Millenials are being continually force-fed – every single day. As a result,  it should be no great surprise when they’re turning to solutions that offer a short term buzz.  It therefore should also be no surprise, that they’re becoming addicted in the process.



The Perfect Christmas Gift: Why this book needs to be on your list to Santa….

by , on
14th November 2017

Seemingly, we’re living in the midst of a epidemic. A fast spreading plague of information centred around achievement, success and wellness. Each daily look at my social media feed sees a deluge of quotes from “boss babes” who “nail/slay it” every day, along with  self-proclaimed guru’s offering financial abundance, backed up and endorsed by imagery of cars, holidays in exotic locations and private jets.

Now as one of the biggest fan of self-improvement out there; you might be forgiven for thinking I’m being judgemental about these so-called Guru’s  I’m not.  No, really I’M NOT.  I’m an avid subscriber to the social media pages and YouTube channels of many top life coaches and I probably read two to three books a month of the subject of personal development.  I’m a self-confessed -self-help junkie. But as such, I recognise that these people I follow so avidly; are a rarefied breed.  Whether it be life-experience, unbounded drive and energy, an ability to see through the bullshit we all tell ourselves or just an other-worldly knack of reading people; genuine guru’s are few and far between.  And thank god for that because it really takes the pressure off us mere mortals……

Or at least it should….. but in an age where seemingly the goals around how we should be living are dictated by pictures on Facebook and Instagram; to not feel that pressure, can be easier said than done.  Particularly when every other person on our feed is espousing how loved, rich, successful or just plain wonderful they are… that they too are a life-coach/guru/role-model.  You’d be forgiven for feeling somewhat inadequate.

“Social media has become a space in which we form and build relationships, shape self-identity, express ourselves, and learn about the world around us; it is intrinsically linked to mental health.”

Shirley Cramer CBE, RSPH

And that’s just the problem, isn’t it? In social media land, “life” is curated, filtered and photo-shopped to the point where “real life” just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Being ourselves just isn’t enough when we’re constantly force-fed that we need to be more. Prettier, funnier, richer, thinner………..the list goes on.

No wonder there’s a growing mental health crisis and that it’s no more evident than within our young people, who’ve co-incidentally grown up glued to their smart phones. …. And no bloody wonder that people are looking for that one person…that one small nugget of gold that might just help them steer their way through this storm of enforced perfection we’ve found ourselves in.  All in the desperate hope it might just help us feel more comfortable in our own skin.

In such trying times, only the straight talkers and tough-lovers of self development will do.  Those life-coaching superheros whose special powers include the ability to laser-cut through the constant chatter and pressure of what we believe we should be/feel/ have/think/ and to give it to us straight.  Which brings me neatly onto Mark Manson and his latest book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*!K”.  Mark Manson is a prolific self-improvement blogger and New York Times best-selling author. In his own words…….

“I write about big ideas and give life advice that doesn’t suck. Some people say I’m an idiot. Other people say I saved their life. Read and decide for yourself”.

The text above is lifted straight off his website and pretty much sets the scene for this amazing read.  (Now at this point, I was going to to do a “Mark Manson’s top five life tips” kind of thing but I’m not going to because I really, really want you to read this book.  No, scrap that, I want EVERYONE to read this book because I honestly think no matter how great or together you think you might be; there’s absolutely, positively something you will learn out of picking it up.)

I’ve read and enjoyed many, many great books on self-development.  But right now, right here in this stifling atmosphere of unrelenting pressure to be everything, to have everything to achieve EVERYTHING; this is the one book I’d pick out as a shining beacon of hope.

Why? TSAONGAF delivers a tough-talking, no nonsense wake up call in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel…well….. like a failure.  In fact, in no time you’ll be looking at your perceived failures/flaws/quirks with a fresh set of eyes.  Unlike many books of it’s kind, Manson’s isn’t remotely preachy or evangelical – it never talks down to its audience or expects you to blindly follow its lead.  The irreverent and self-deprecating story telling takes you through the author’s own journey and as such demands your attention and participation in doing the deep soul-searching that establishing just what you really do give a f*”k about entails.  As such; I reckon it should be on everyone’s gift list this season.

And whilst I don’t give a f**k whether you read it or not, I sincerely hope you do.


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