Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A Commonsense Approach to Cosmetic Surgery
While several definitions of this disorder have been provided by eminent clinicians, they all concur in that it constitutes obsession with a real or self-perceived physical flaw. This belief can curtail, or even destroy the sufferer’s progress throughout life. As such, it deserves to be explored and respected with the care due to any condition which impedes the sufferer’s pathways.
Sadly, some celebrities have had so many well-publicized operations as to render seeking cosmetic procedures as almost farcical. Perhaps we need to rethink whether this cynicism is valid or fair to those in search of uplifting benefits, without seismic expectations.
The Endless Quest to Appear Young Forever
There is some debate as to whether Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon, (1474-1521), truly sought the fountain of youth. Born in Spain, in time he became governor of Puerto Rico. Eventually he sailed to Florida, where some believe he hoped to locate this enchanted wellspring. Whether or not this was his mission, the eagerness to believe in this potential indicates the depth of yearning by so many to appear eternally young and alluring.
Though almost certainly coincidental, a large percentage of the wealthy elderly retire to Miami Florida. One documentary stated a large number of residents purchase face-lifts which, rather than looking natural, make their faces appear “cut”.as an additional proof of their wealth.
A Healthy Response to Potential Taunting
The daughter of one young couple was born with a distinctive mole on one cheek. Given their awareness of children to prey upon the sensitivities of others, these parents understood the potentially lasting damage generated by childhood ridicule.
Hence, they decided, if at around aged eight, their daughter mentioned hurtful remarks, they would try to deflect her sadness by saying her tormentors, in all probability, were doing all they could to distract others from their own shortcomings.
Still, if this harassment continued, the couple agreed to ask their daughter if she would like a doctor to remove the mole. Fortunately, this issue did not arise. As the girl matured into a lovely young woman, the mole stayed the same. Currently, as an adult, she has worked as a long-term anchor person on a TV program in a major American city.
On the other hand, when a wealthy couple found their son, in his late teens, being mocked and ostracised due to his weight, they paid a hefty sum for his liposuction. Currently, he has gained back the weight, and may well be heavier than he was before.
The danger in this approach can be the belief in the ability of a skilled surgeon to erase any traces of ageing or self-indulgence, long after the elasticity of the skin and muscles can bounce back from an ongoing onslaught.
The Fear of Being Fat
Writer Caitlin Moran has written in her 2011 memoir, “How to Be a Woman”, the current penultimate insult, ranging from playground to office lounge, is to be called fat, or one of its synonyms. Even someone who has always been slim, aware of the caloric content of nearly every bite, can be gutted by the sense of this underlying horror. What if this malevolent person intuits some vulnerability which may result in future corpulence?
A humorous mirror has been made which, while functioning as a looking-glass, can also “say”, at the push of a button, any number of things women revel in hearing, spoken in an amorous tone. Market research has shown “You’ve lost weight” to be the most frequently visited. Though other buttons provide further compliments, the one praising weight loss is the first to receive an avalanche of attention.
Why Should Weight Be An Issue?
In her delightful though at times searing book, “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman”, actress-comedian Lindy West overrides the taboo of mentioning weight as a factor in finding success and being viewed with the same respect as their slimmer peers. Why, Ms. West asks, should anyone slog through life with a disheartening body image, simply by weighing significantly more than societal boundaries allow?
Her viewpoint, endorsing self-acceptance, freed a bandwidth of women from viewing themselves as unworthy of a choice of worthwhile careers, as well as romantic relationships. Inferentially, such procedures as liposuction reinforce the shallow nature of societal values, and the willingness of so many to succumb to their pressure.
The beautiful is that which is desirable in itself.— Aristotle
A middle ground is offered by Novelist Judith Krantz, in her autobiography “Sex and Shopping: Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl.”
Ms. Krantz believes lines and wrinkles do not represent developing character. Such qualities as empathy, compassion and strength evolve within our maturing selves, and need not be illustrated by signs of ageing. For those who can afford them, Ms. Krantz advocates their use, assuming their goals are within reasonable boundaries.
Contracts in Relationships.
Body dysmorphia is on the spectrum of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders: (OCD.) In the most serious cases, the victim can become agoraphobic, due to an overpowering terror of being rebuffed. It can feel cruel to insist on a contract, sometimes written and signed by both parties. Still, this can prove essential in order to preserve a relationship. Those who do not understand OCD do not realise providing reassurance can be akin to giving an addict a drug, or a diabetic food with a high sugar content. Such contracts can sometimes mean reassurance at longer and longer intervals, until it is eradicated.
What Constitutes Attractiveness?
One partner in a long-term relationship persisted in asking her partner whether she thought she was ugly. In time, overwhelmed by these ceaseless queries, the partner responded, “I find you beautiful because of my love for you. Whether or not you truly have global beauty is not for me to define.”
German psychologist Sabine Wilhelm offers in her book “Feeling good about the Way you look”, a step by step way for those agonising from a sense of their own unattractiveness. In addition, she provides suggestions for those close to those trapped by their sense of being less attractive than almost anyone else.
One helpful but non-confrontational method might be to ask, when appropriate, ”Does shaping your right eyebrow mean more to you than walking in late to your closest friend’s wedding?”
"Is your mother’s view of your hairstyle more important to you than your own?”
Ability to Create a Unique Type of Beauty.
French Actress and director Eva Le Gallienne, was revered for years in the French theatre. According to actress Mariette Hartley’s memoir, “Breaking the Silence” at some point during her middle years, a fire gravely damaged her hands to the point of ruining the acting career which she had begun to build during her teens.
This actress decided to shape an illusion, which could bring her hands grace and elegance.
In time, she began receiving letters praising her for the hand gestures which enhanced her performances.
Arguably, this praise could have been offered by way of sympathy, still, seeing her during her final years, Ms. Hartley believed such compliments were based on genuine skill, rather than sympathy or compassion.
Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.— Confucius
Exploring The Wish For Cosmetic Surgery
While some cosmetic surgeons will operate on anyone willing to pay the price, ethical doctors will do all they can to ascertain expectations. At times, with the aid of a psycho-therapist, the surgeon will opt not to operate if the requested results cannot be achieved.
If a woman over 50 brings photos taken during her high school graduation, senior prom, wedding day and such, a meticulous surgeon will explain the benefits and limitations which can be provided, and those which cannot be.
The Search For “The Other One.”
In her final memoir, “Unsinkable”, its title based on her major film performance in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, long-term actress Debbie Reynolds recounts the vicissitudes of the ageing process. Whatever method may be deployed, the erosion of time can be halted for only so long.
Debbie Reynolds admits the reflection shown by her mirror looks like it must belong to someone else. Still, along with other ageing actresses, Ms. Reynolds made every effort to continue her career, applauded by many.
This truth is continued in her daughter, Carrie Fisher’s last memoir, “The Princess Diarist”.
Recognised by a young mother and small daughter, Carrie showed them a picture of herself as Princess Leia in the film Star Wars. At that, the child brightened, but only for a brief enough time to understand the difference.
Seeing an updated photo, and the true Carrie Fisher, she wailed, ”But I want the other one.”
Perhaps, on some level, no matter how old we become, many of us continue to yearn, and even believe, in some miraculous way, we can return to ”The Other One.”
Questions & Answers
© 2020 Colleen Swan