Plastic surgery and the power to change ourselves

I watched BBC presenter Louis Theroux’s documentary about L.A. plastic surgery culture, last night. I had to change the channel a lot because there were too many shots of needles and clamps opening up biceps and boobs. Blood. Guts. Yuck. Did I need more proof that I was never cut out to be a doctor?

Anyway, there was a common refrain from both patients and doctors about how plastic surgery can fix what years in therapy can not – helping people feel good about themselves, starting with the physical self.

Theroux asked some good questions – as he often does – ┬áincluding whether the plastic surgeons felt that they were contributing more to making people feel worse about themselves, rather than helping people to feel good about themselves. You know, the idea that surgery promotes a vanity culture – the imperative to ‘improve’ your physical self – and feel inadequate/wrong if you don’t.

Only one doctor answered spiel-free. He said yes, I think we’re all thinking about looks too much and I do think about it time to time – what I’m contributing to that. Theroux also asked him whether his talents would be better put to use elsewhere and the doctor said he was either going to be an emergency surgeon or a plastic surgeon. Big difference. But hey, he’s not the only person in the world who has chosen the less heroic path for easier hours and better pay. And I must say I do admire (?) these Theroux / John Safran types who get themselves cut up to truly experience both sides of the fence. In this documentary Theroux got liposuction himself, to see whether it really is such a big deal. He came out sort of undecided and feeling a bit guilty that he hadn’t gone to the gym to get rid of it.

I found it all really interesting. Not least because in this blog and in my work I am constantly talking about the importance of loving yourself, accepting your body as a beautiful, powerful vehicle and just feeling good about the way things are. Plastic surgery seems to go against all that. I’m not sure I can be black and white about it though. I have a friend with extra skin on her belly post-pregnancy that no amount of gymming can get rid of – i.e. her belly is back to being flat and firm and fit, but the skin never stretched back, so it’s like an extra pouch of skin. Is it so wrong for her to cut free the excess and be able to wear bikinis again, if she really wants to? Is this vanity culture that will ultimately make her and others around her feel bad about their own imperfections? I mean, clearly everyone is free to do as they wish and far be it for me to judge – but my point is – does there really have to be slippery slope associated with plastic surgery? If it’s available, will it always make you feel bad that you haven’t done it to make yourself look better? And is extra skin so awful? Is it not a constant reminder of your body’s strength and victory in giving birth, a symbol of the many happy sacrifices you make as a mother out of love?

Right now, I’m more in the latter frame of mind. Bodily trophy and all that. That said, I haven’t had to deal with a skin pouch yet. Perhaps it will become clearer after I have kids?

Brave Louis Theroux or mad Louis Theroux? Either way, it is evidence of real open-mindedness!

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