Illustration of a woman with plastic surgery markings on her chest and face and an angel and devil floating on each of her shoulders.
The promotion of plastic surgery has increased dramatically in the past few decades, and older generations are beginning to question the negative effects it may have on their younger counterparts. (Illustration by Mack Niemietz, Southern New Hampshire University)

Society’s Plastic Surgery Fixation: Toxic Femininity or Self-Empowerment?

The trend has been around for decades, but society has polarizing opinions concerning the effects that its promotion has on adolescent girls.

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Illustration of a woman with plastic surgery markings on her chest and face and an angel and devil floating on each of her shoulders.

The trend has been around for decades, but society has polarizing opinions concerning the effects that its promotion has on adolescent girls.

Plastic surgery is a popular trend in today’s society. We see billboards on our drive to school advertising its magical effects. Our eyes are cradled with images of its “wondrous” impact in commercials and the “ideal,” perfectly toned women in television shows.

We also constantly see celebrities indulge in plastic surgery. Reality television stars, such as the Kardashians, are especially known for engaging in the artificial practice. In fact, the Kardashians have openly subjected themselves to multiple kinds of cosmetic procedures, which include but are not limited to Botox, nose jobs and lip injections. Even younger stars, such as actress Ariel Winter and viral TikTok sensation Nessa Barrett, have admitted to getting various forms of plastic surgery.

Plastic Surgery Is Everywhere

In today’s world, plastic surgery is inescapable, and its presence cannot be avoided. If you own a television or smartphone like most of the population, you have probably been exposed to images of it at least once in your lifetime. The viral trend has grasped tightly onto our society like a parasitic worm, and it does not seem like it is going to release its grip anytime soon.

Plastic surgery is being aggressively promoted to adolescents and young adults not only on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram but also in magazines, commercials, television shows and other forms of popular media. Currently, there are two competing opinions regarding the long-running trend. There are those who support it, believing plastic surgery to be a form of self-empowerment and an effective self-esteem booster. In contrast, there are those who believe that plastic surgery is a detrimental tool of toxic femininity — one that greatly contributes to the epidemic of depression and anxiety among young adults.

Many worry about the harmful effects that this promotion could have on young people, particularly adolescent girls. They fear that these messages set a bad example for youths, teaching girls that vanity and outer beauty are prized qualities. Many believe that this omnipresent societal trend shows girls that their body is all they have to offer in life; thus, they are encouraged to disregard their other redeeming qualities, such as intelligence and determination, in favor of physical beauty. Many are also afraid that society’s renewed obsession with plastic surgery pressures girls to adhere to unrealistic and unachievable beauty standards. It is a highly common concern that this viral trend forces girls to perceive perfection as normal.

Does It Really Improve Mental Health?

Those that oppose plastic surgery share concerns over its impact on mental health, another trending topic in contemporary culture. This group believes that cosmetic surgery does not alleviate mental health problems, but instead worsens symptoms of depression and anxiety. They feel that individuals who undergo procedures have more problems than others.

After the surgeries, their symptoms of mental illness, eating disorders and excessive drug or alcohol consumption increase. Surgery may appear to be a fast and efficient remedy for insecurity, but this relief is not sustained. For a more permanent solution, they need to get to the root of the problem, and getting plastic surgery is not the way to do that. If they want to see real positive effects that are long-lasting, they should seek other answers, such as therapy or medication.

A Tool of Empowerment

On the other hand, others argue that the normalization of plastic surgery does not have an adverse effect on youths. They claim that society’s infatuation should not be viewed as a weapon of destruction that crushes the self-esteem of young girls around the world; rather, it should be seen as a form of self-empowerment. They insinuate that it is a form of self-love, capable of doing wonders for an individual’s self-esteem. They believe that it can help eliminate all undesirable aspects of a person’s appearance, allowing them to look in the mirror and feel confident about the way they look.

This group argues that plastic surgery is a form of self-empowerment because not only does it boost a person’s confidence, it also makes them feel more desirable to potential partners. When someone feels more attractive and confident in the way they look, they will be more likely to put themselves out there, in pursuit of a healthy relationship. This, in turn, will increase their chances of finding the partner of their dreams. These people truly believe that plastic surgery is a form of self-love, not self-hate, as the opposing side would argue. More specifically, it is equated to self-love because it means that a person is giving themselves the gift of improved self-esteem.

Individuals that believe in the self-empowerment of plastic surgery accept that having high self-worth and self-confidence is vital because it yields many benefits. The higher a person’s self-esteem, the more success they will experience in their career, love life and social life. High levels of self-confidence also have the additional benefit of improving mental health, mood, social confidence and overall well-being. Ultimately, the pro-plastic surgery group would argue that as long as a person receives the surgery for the right reasons rather than just conforming to some societal standard of beauty, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Takeaways

The bottom line: These two competing opinions regarding plastic surgery will always be at odds, especially concerning its effects on our generation. In the end, however, it is completely up to the individual if they want to engage in this practice or not. It simply does not make sense to generalize plastic surgery as something that is intrinsically evil or good. What might be right for one person might not be right for another. If you feel that plastic surgery will empower you and improve your self-esteem, then by all means, indulge.

Writer Profile

Daniela Saffran

Rollins College
English and Business Administration

My name is Daniela Saffran, and I am from Massachusetts. I am a junior at Rollins College, where I am currently studying English with a concentration in creative writing. I have published five children’s novels, as well as countless poems and screenplays. I have been passionate about writing for as long as I can remember, and I am beyond excited to be working with Study Breaks Magazine!

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