Earlier this year, I saw a photo of myself and absolutely loathed it.
I was already having a bad day. I was approaching a professional deadline, sleep deprived, and seriously hangry – not a great combo for emotional resilience. While I was in this irritable-zombie state, a friend took a Snapchat of my profile and embellished it randomly with all the brilliance the emoji keyboard has to offer. Objectively, the snap was hilarious, but upon seeing it, I recoiled with sadness and disappointment.
I hated the way I looked.
More specifically, I hated my nose.
Unfortunately, my temperamental predicament did not fabricate these thoughts, it just made it more difficult to ignore them. I became well acquainted with the sharp anguish of physical insecurity in my tweens, and now, in my mid-twenties, alternating between detesting and ignoring the centerpiece of my own face had become standard daily procedure.
Until quite recently I had a very large nose.
From its inception, it made a sharp, immediate jolt outwards and then a long, gradual descent from pinnacle to tip. It then protracted past my mouth and even had a tendency to dip when I smiled.
(Does this kind of sound like erotica? Well, it is the human body.)
I in no way intend to inflate or overexpose my ego when I say that I have always believed I am beautiful (brace-faced, acne-ridden years of puberty excluded). I’m a mutt of many breeds, housing Italian, German, Syrian, Dutch, English, Irish, and French heritage within my genetic makeup. I’ve never encountered anyone else who truly resembles me besides members of my immediate family, and I take a certain pride in my distinctive looks.
[bctt tweet=”Would I really stoop so low as to augment my physical appearance? ” username=”wearethetempest”]
However, beauty is an elusive concept that carries with it heaps of small print to discern itself from pretty. Growing up as a young woman with a sizable, arguably disproportionate, distracting, and ever-growing piece of cartilage in the middle of my face was the most potent of lessons in defining and never ever confusing these two words for one another.
Alright, so I didn’t feel perfect.
No one does. No one is. But I was fed up with feeling terrible about myself.
There was only one solution to eliminate my facial insecurity, but considering surgery made my aesthetic dilemma more complex.
Would I really stoop so low as to augment my physical appearance surgically?
How incredibly vain and selfish of me.
What a waste of money.
How utterly un-yogic.
What happened to transcending the media bullshit?
What about self-love?
Wow, you’re not who I thought you were, Sophia.
It’s no secret that qualifying self-worth through physical appearance is an unjust and emotionally wasteful formula for constructing identity.
It’s unfair and yet it remains a sour social reality that ushered me to a crossroads. My nose had become a constant and forceful hindrance to personal and positive self-affirmation, yet merely entertaining the idea of a rhinoplasty was grounds to punish myself for egotism, frivolity, and betrayal.
Here’s the thing: we live in a world where conventional beauty rules.
Only the most striking of uncommon features are given ethnically charged, quasi-flattering, and, honestly, rather unconvincing labels like “exotic” or “unique” (at best). To be a pretty millennial woman in the West curates power, privilege, and a consequential breed of elite happiness. I hate that we created and continue to enforce this cultural standard.
I hate it, and yet I abide by and promote it as I sit here writing this article with a facial feature I paid for – a facial feature that acts as a much swifter catalyst for self-love than its predecessor.
In the general time frame of my aforementioned bad day, I was in a rare position to take some financial and professional liberties. Knowing that I would not have the privilege to luxuriate in hypothetical scenarios forever, I booked a consult with a surgeon. Within his rendering of my smaller, straighter nose, I saw the potential for a reality in which I did not cringe at my own reflection.
A reality in which I might not sabotage my love life out of fear that I was too ugly to deserve it; one in which I could permanently eradicate the word “ugly” from my private vocabulary.
It was as if I could feel these emotional burdens evaporating from beneath my skin. I felt like I could finally breathe, I felt free, I felt love.
I got a nose job and I’m happy I did it.
I understand the temptation to criticize my decision, I do.
But instead of engaging in women-on-women crime as our first means of dialogue, I would like to point out that any omission of my pre-operative narrative would be a falsified account of my reality.
If you want a story of effortless and unwavering self-acceptance, please choose to read another work (maybe one of fiction).
If we are to scrutinize any facet of the cosmetic and plastic surgery industry in connection with my own journey, it should be the paradox of self-love brought to light through self-hate.
Although much of this piece is an examination of surgical augmentation, there’s more to be said regarding why we turn to permanent change at all.
Yes, there is a disgusting social double standard that allows self-loathing but chastises the possibility for emotional growth if it involves anesthesia.
But the underlying quandary is that I now love myself more as a result of evaluating myself through dissatisfaction. The cultural end game for women has always been and probably always will be the improvement: something to change, to enhance, to decrease, to make more desirable, etc.
It’s patriarchal oppression at its most transparent.
And although I knew that, and although I tried to love my nose, it was just too hard. Of course, I never wanted to be averse to any part of myself, to begin with, but oh how joyous it felt to discard negativity and replace it with a higher grade of love.
My decision to get a nose job was driven by my yearning for contentment in a life I felt had been devoid of persistent self-worth. In addition to some more recent soul-searching, my desire to remove the bump in my nose was partially legitimized by its stronghold against the test of time.
[bctt tweet=”Beauty and aesthetic trends evolve, dissolve, and recycle themselves.” username=”wearethetempest”]
But our trend-manic culture is notorious for presenting fleeting fads as fact, which often leads us to augment our bodies out of an urgency to fit in instead of resulting from meditation on the self.
Beauty and aesthetic trends evolve, dissolve, and recycle themselves again and again.
In the early 2000s, droves of women sported the hyper tweezed, ultra-thin eyebrow. Now, not even twenty years later, we celebrate the full brow. Women are coating their eyebrows with gel, filler, dye, and even tattooing their brow bones with darker pigmentation.
Remember crimped hair and butterfly clips? That was a thing.
Now we chemically straighten our manes and laser off the majority of our hair below the waist. So how do we decide which of these movements warrant indulgence – and to what degree?
There is a fine, blurred, and often entirely indistinguishable line between change for trend’s sake and change in the name of self-fulfillment. The dangers of addiction to cosmetic procedures and perpetual self-loathing through trend-worshipping are absolutely real. But the truth is we all engage in body augmentation, and we are always at risk to make the “wrong” decision.
People will judge if you hop from trend to trend. People will scrutinize your cosmetic procedures.
And people will label you even if you never radically change yourself (whatever that means).
The idea that self-love is only truly attainable through the condemnation and avoidance of “shallow” acts is credible in theory, but ultimately just another constructed and restricting edict that dictates how all individuals should live their lives.
There is a difference between recklessness and decision making in pursuit of lifelong serenity, but there is no definitive answer for how to treat our bodies or love ourselves. Change is inevitable as we age and grow as physical, emotional, and spiritual beings.
But it is not change in general that endangers one’s sense of self; the impulse to find a quick fix for self-acceptance in lieu of true fruition of identity will always leave us feeling emptier, greedier, uglier, and more perplexed as for how to find ourselves at all.
I made a choice as a seeker of clarity and happiness. Self-love is real, but the rules for achieving it are bunk.
Pursue your true north, your happiness, your you.
Be conscious, be kind to yourself, and you’ll find that the details are irrelevant and the answers are obvious.