Gaining Self-esteem From a Scalpel


Are we facing too much pressure to look perfect and ignoring our desire to be true to our spiritual selves head-on?

Idealised or commercialised beauty standards can be highly damaging. It puts tremendous physical and psychological pressure on the society to fit into today’s concept of ideal beauty, failing which they lose their self-esteem and confidence.

Interestingly, studies have shown that people report increased satisfaction with the body part they had surgery on, but results are mixed on whether plastic surgery boosts their self-esteem, quality of life, self-confidence and interpersonal relationships in the long term. Plastic surgery may certainly be booming, but what’s the mental cost of changing your appearance? We seek our experts’ opinion to fill in the research gaps.

Appearance and Self-esteem

It has long been known that appearance is linked to self-esteem. Despite the fact that low self-esteem is not a recognised mental health problem, the two are closely related. Physical appearance is judged by most to be very important and there is a strong relationship between how one evaluates one’s physical appearance and one’s level of self-esteem. Those who think positively of their physical appearance report correspondingly high self-esteem and vice versa.

Having perpetually low self-esteem can be destructive to both mental and physical health. Individuals with low self-esteem may turn to unnecessary medical procedures, especially cosmetic surgery, suffer depression or other mood disorders, harbour suicidal thoughts or behaviour and display anxiety disorders, eating disorders or even substance abuse. Furthermore, unrealistic messages and images from the media together with expectations from the society may cause one’s self-esteem to go on a downward spiral.

Crafted Self-esteem

People are choosing to have plastic surgery to change what they deem as physical imperfections in order to improve their self-esteem. There are many different sources of influences, from peer influence to media influence such as films, television and the Internet where celebrities and famous influencers are getting plastic surgery to maintain or change their looks and body image. Individuals may even grow overly-reliant on their physical appearance thinking that it is the way to maintain or grow their confidence and self-esteem.

In cases where patients have intense fixation on their appearance, a properly trained plastic surgeon will be able to decide and help patients on what is realistically achievable, to discourage high risk procedures with high complication rates. Plastic surgeons are trained to spot such cases and send them for psychological counselling.

They reject patients who suffer from low self-esteem or patients who are psychologically disturbed about their appearance, a condition called “Body Dysmorphic Syndrome”. These patients need psychological help and not plastic surgery as they will never find satisfaction with whatever outcome.

It is important for people to realise that plastic surgery will not boost low self-esteem. It may help one feel better about their appearance, but it is not a formula for greater self-confidence, self-esteem and happiness. Confidence and self-esteem should come from within. It is believing in your own worth, trusting that you are competent and recognising and embracing your positive qualities.