Personal Development

Why Plastic Surgery Won’t Fix Low Self Esteem

Man. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much naked ass in my life. I scroll through my Instagram timeline, browse through my explore feed and all I see is naked, pouting, bending, and all other types of ‘ing’ women. I understand that ‘if you’ve got it flaunt it’, and that ‘it’s my body and my choice’, but I can’t help but wonder what the motive behind it is. I know many women reading are ready to stone me because this is the era of doing what makes you happy and living your best life but I can’t help but wonder how this makes people happy. Is it the weird DMs you get from promiscuous men and women or the emoji-filled comments that flood every provocative image and video you post that bring happiness? Or is it a way of trying to fix low self esteem ?  Genuine question by the way. Perhaps from another point of view, it’s an expression of freedom. By the way, I’m not telling women what to do with their bodies. Just feel the excessive display of nudity is distracting *shrugs*

Anyhow, I started with this observation because I have also been marveling at the number of enhanced bodies I’m seeing and how normal it’s becoming. I remember when plastic surgery was taboo and was only something that the rich and famous did, but nowadays it’s become a lot more mainstream. I know that everyone is living their best life and not going back and forth with us ninjas, however, are all of these people going under the knife truly happy or just looking for a quick fix for low self esteem?

You may have clicked on this because you’re either struggling with low self esteem or thinking about going under the knife to fix something that maybe isn’t even broken. Before we get into why you’re getting surgery and why it likely won’t fix low self-esteem, let’s look at some research on both surgery and self-image amongst women.

What is Research Saying About Plastic Surgery and Self Image?

Being the curious Joanne that I am (my name ain’t Joanne by the way), I decided to see what research says about both plastic surgery and self-image. The older I get, the more that I realize that everyone has an opinion. However, to have one that is well-informed you should see what opinions are already out there as well as what research there is. So, I found some interesting statistics about plastic surgery to begin with.

Plastic Surgery Statistics

Some of the first statistics on plastic surgery I came across stated that in 2016, Americans spent a record-breaking 16 billion on elective plastic surgery which is absolutely mind-blowing if you ask me. This statistic implies that there are a lot of humans that are unhappy with what they look like physically. This also means that I need to have a plastic surgeon as a bestie. If you look at the below chart, you’ll see which types of surgery have been most popular.

Top 5 Cosmetic Surgery Procedures_Low Self Esteem

What’s even crazier is the spike in plastic surgery procedures that have taken place over the last couple of years. It makes you wonder what has caused this sudden trend of people going under the knife and where the pressure to be picture perfect is coming from. Even though you didn’t ask me, I’m going to tell you any way that I suspect it’s because of all of those ‘perfect’ naked bodies people are seeing on Instagram and ratchett ass reality TV. For some strange reason, we all want to look the same forgetting that God made humans in different shapes and sizes because he understands that there’s beauty in diversity.

Cosmetic Surgeries Low Self Esteem

Moving on to the motive behind plastic surgery, research has also found that some reasons people pursue plastic surgery include;

  • body dissatisfaction
  • teasing about body parts
  • media influence
  • not being happy with physical appearance

It’s also interesting to know that women are more likely to have surgery than men are. This is probably because we’re more likely to be objectified, thus creating more pressure to be wanted and desired. Seeing as men are doing the wanting and desiring they could give two fugz whether they look like worn mops or something from outer space half the time.

 Self-Image Research

Seeing as we’ve established that many people are motivated to have surgery because they’re unhappy with their image, I decided to do a little more research into self-image. Please guys, help me tell my moms that her money wasn’t wasted and I’m using some of those skills they taught me in the school house.

So back to my research, do you guys remember seeing those Dove adverts floating around a while back with women of different shapes and sizes talking about self-image? Well, Dove actually commissioned a report that did research on self-esteem, body image, and body confidence and found that women all over the world hate their bodies and struggle with self-image. Below you’ll see some of the statistics that the report found.

Dove Report on Self Esteem Stats

In conclusion, the report found that beauty-related pressure continues to increase while body confidence decreases as girls and women grow older. This is said to stop young girls from seeing their real beauty. Having said that, it seems the pressure from the media, individuals and those around them triggers low self esteem for girls and women. I’m not sure what the sample size was nor the demographic they used, but these statistics do give us an insight into what women all over the world think about themselves. They also give us a hint about why plastic surgery may be becoming so pervasive.

Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Surgery

Deciding to get surgery is a personal decision. There’s no denying that it could give your self-esteem a boost and help you feel more accepted. However, before getting surgery, I think you should ask yourself these three questions and answer honestly.

  1. What Is Wrong With My Body and Why?

For someone to make the decision to go out and get plastic surgery, it often means that they feel that something is wrong with their body as supported by the research above. If you happen to share these sentiments, ask yourself what you feel is wrong with your body and why. As I discuss in my book The Naked Butterfly, for many years, I was repulsed when I looked at myself in the mirror because I thought my nose was too big and it made me ugly. I also felt like my skin was too dark and my butt was too flat. These became things that I was ashamed of because I thought they made me unattractive, not good enough, and unaccepted. In retrospect, this is really stupid, but I couldn’t imagine myself willingly getting plastic surgery, so I hoped I’d get into an accident and break my nose so I could get a new one. I even used to stuff clothes inside of my jeans to make my butt look bigger. I cried, I fought with myself, I looked for validation in men, I tried bleaching, I fed off of the praise of others, but still, at the end of the day, I was broken by the disapproval of those who would never find me beautiful no matter what I did.

It took ten years or more for me to realize that everyone is made differently, and this is never something to be ashamed of. I realized that nothing was wrong with my nose and nothing was wrong with my body and it was okay if I wasn’t represented in the media as a prototype of beauty. It is my job to define and accept my unique beauty, not my job to meet the standards of the world’s definition of beauty.  I wasn’t going to have a big old ghetto booty and I’d have to live with my pants sagging at the back if I didn’t get a European fit. You know Europeans usually have that cute lil booty. I also had to accept that my nose would be the center of attention and my skin would always be ‘too dark’ for many. But guess what guys? I’m still here. It didn’t stop me from achieving in life, it didn’t stop men from approaching me, I wasn’t socially excluded from the black community for having no ass, and it enabled me to put more focus on who I am instead of what the hell I look like. What I’m saying is, if you think something is wrong with the way you look because it isn’t societies idea of beauty, then you may need to adopt a positive self -image instead of  getting surgery. Plastic surgery may change how you look on the outside, but it won’t fix what’s broken inside of you.

  1. Is the Problem With My body or my Perception?

As mentioned above, another question you should ask is whether the problem is with your body or your perception. Whether we like it or not, our perception and self-image is greatly influenced by what other people think. I thought that I wasn’t attractive and wasn’t beautiful because other people told me so. They said I needed to be a few shades lighter and that my nose was too big and because their approval mattered, I believed them and struggled with low self esteem. So, in light of this, ask yourself whether you don’t like your image because other people don’t like it, or because it doesn’t look like the people that you admire. Are you only getting surgery so that you can feel better about yourself and be liked by others? If so, why not change those negative perceptions about yourself inwardly before you attempt to do so outwardly? Beauty has been conditioned and greatly influenced by the media, so don’t make permanent decisions based on what’s trending. Be proud of your peculiarities whether it’s an A cup, being a slim ting, stretch marks, a flat booty or broad shoulders because that in itself is beautiful son!

  1. How Will This Positively Impact My Life?

If you do feel you need surgery, think about how it will affect your life. Do you think it will make you feel more accepted, less vulnerable or more liked? Or will it only make you more discontent, encourage low-self esteem and elucidate other imperfections? Think about what your purpose is in life and how altering your image will help you achieve it. For me, I found the less I focused on how I looked and the more I focused on who I was, the more beautiful and attractive I felt. I know that I’m not the prototype of beauty and I’m absolutely fine with that. Instead of aspiring to be beautiful, I aspire to be smart, kind, empathetic, and human because these things are eternal and indestructible. Beauty changes and eventually fades. This quote by Henry Miller quite resonates with how I feel;

   “Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” 

Why Surgery Won’t Fix Low Self Esteem

For those who don’t know, self-esteem is defined as confidence in ones worth or abilities, and I feel that this shouldn’t be solely tied to what you look like. The issue I have with surgery being used as a quick fix for low self esteem is that it focuses on fixing what you look like and not your overall perception of who you are. Often times, the problem is not in your image but in the way that you view it and the standard you measure your beauty by. I do understand that it isn’t always black and white as you have more complex issues like birth defects, burn victims who may want corrective surgery, mothers who once had standing girls and are suddenly grappling with saggy boobs, mommy pudges and so on. All i’m saying however, is that your self-worth shouldn’t be tied to what you look like.

Also, think about what you’d tell your daughter, niece, or younger self if they were struggling with low self esteem as a result of feeling that their beautiful wasn’t good enough. Would you tell them to go and get surgery to fix their “flaws” or to focus less on what the world says they should look like and more on who they are? It is important that the coming generation of young women know that a woman’s value doesn’t lie in her beauty, but in her intelligence, her wit, her grit, and her being. It is key that women know that there are more important things to be than beautiful.

I feel like if women focused more on snatching the mind and spirit instead of the waist, they’d be a lot less inclined to get surgery and struggle less with low self esteem. As Jada Pinkett-Smith rightly said the other day, self-love is a process and can take a lifetime to achieve and it isn’t something that happens overnight. You can’t escape the ugliness of the process, the hard work, the painful realities, and the transformation that has to take place in your mind so that you learn to love yourself. Ultimately it’s about never forgetting that you don’t need to be found beautiful by everyone because the only person that needs to find you beautiful is YOU.



  1. Very apt article and at a time when it is very much needed.

    We don’t naturally seek to treat the disease, instead we focus on relieving the symptoms temporarily.

    Cosmetic surgery is a symptom relief. And that is why we find that those who start can’t stop at just 1.

    Nothing will change until one’s perception changes.

    Thanks for highlighting this.

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