Step Aside, Mother Nature!


Lois W. Stern

Those of you who have read Sex. Lies and Cosmetic Surgery already know a few things about me:

  • I was not a great fan of cosmetic surgery until I experienced it for myself.

  • My inner voice looked a bit askance at women who underwent surgery purely to enhance their physical appearance.
It wouldnít have entered my mind to undergo any cosmetic procedures if I hadnít been led to the door of a plastic surgeonís office for the correction of a minor medical condition. Afterwards, although thrilled with the result, I was troubled by feelings of vanity and extravagance that continued to tug at me. Why was I, a woman who had always identified herself by her accomplishments, worldly contributions, family, and friendships so elated by such superficial changes? Was I actually just a vain, narcissistic person underneath it all? I looked up that hateful word in the Webster Dictionary:

Vanity: having no real value, having an excessively high regard for oneís self, for oneís appearance, marked by futility or ineffectiveness, unsuccessful.

That surely didnít describe me. Nor did it describe most of the over one hundred women I interviewed for my book. I needed to think this through a bit more. Part of this ìthinking it throughî process involved research. What had been written about the significance of human appearance in the psychological journals? Another part involved active interviews with other women. What could I learn from their experiences? And finally, what could I sort out from my own emotional responses?

By the time I was well underway with these three self-appointed projects, I was asking myself another question:

Is it blatant vanity or latent sexuality that propels us?

On a trip through Mid-Eastern Europe, while in a Ladiesí Room in the Budapest countryside, I was reapplying my lipstick when another member of our groups asked, ìAre you still concerned about your appearance?î What a strange question! When I answered, ìYes, I guess I am,î she smiled as she scoffed: ìNot me, I couldnít care less anymore.î Well, if that works for her, that is fine. But we shouldn't be quick to confuse pride in oneís appearance with vanity. The unspoken truth is that for many, that complicated phenomenon of body image, (the individualís perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors relating to their physical appearance), is closely connected to sexuality. Vanity is such a simplistic explanation for such a complex issue. Some individuals obviously will derive greater self-esteem from their physical appearance than others. And yes, I would agree that those who undergo such surgeries have a higher investment in their appearance than those who do not make this choice for themselves.

During my interviews I heard several anti-cosmetic surgery arguments, the most commonly voiced one being: ìThere should be more value to a person than just appearance.î I totally agree. I do believe that ultimately it is our values, contributions, humor, accomplishments, the quality of our relationships . . . that define us more than our physical appearance. But for those who contend that we should derive our self-esteem from what we achieve in life, rather than from our appearance, I need to qualify with a question of my own: Why must we view these two thoughts as mutually exclusive? Canít we feel good about our appearance while still fulfilling ourselves as contributing members of society? Rather than viewing these two approaches as mutually exclusive, I believe they often work in tandem. In many cases, women have confided in me that after cosmetic surgery, their improved self-esteem has helped them become more outgoing, confident and productive, not less so.

But the anti-cosmetic surgery statement that I really need to address, is the one that suggests that we ought not to mess with Mother Nature.

"Be happy to age the way nature intended," they advise. Should we also forego bone density treatments or reject the implantation of stents because nature intended our bodies to deteriorate as we age? Both the art and the science of cosmetic surgery have advanced significantly in the past decade. What was once considered high risk surgery in terms of safety and results has dramatically improved. The technology is all out there. If you are a good candidate for cosmetic surgery, why not take advantage of what modern science has to offer? After all, Mother Nature does make mistakes that can be rectified!

Further Resources

While we're taking about intimate thoughts, you might want to read my article: 12 Questions Women are Embarrassed to Ask Their Plastic Surgeons

Finally, I think we need to be realistic and recognize that cosmetic surgery is not the best answer for everyone. It is important to strive for balance in the many facets of our lives. You need to ask yourself this important question: Is Cosmetic Surgery Right For You?


(c) 2008, 2013 by Lois W. Stern

Lois W. Stern is the author of two award winning books: Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery, and Tick Tock, Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour. Lois invites prospective cosmetic surgery patients, physicians, and media to read some fascinating articles and cash in on a few great *F*R*E*E* goodies at her Beauty Blog. Visit Now.