Does Plastic Surgery Make You Feel Sexier?

The myth goes something like this: the more you look like Pam Anderson, the sexier you'll feel. Okay, maybe Pam is an extreme example, but the vast majority of women believe that the prettier you are, the sexier you will feel. Our proof? In 1998, over 900,000 women had some form of cosmetic surgery. The most popular are breast implants or reductions, face-lifts, nose jobs, collagen injections and chemical peels. In Getting The Sex You Want (Crown), Sandra Leiblum and Judith Sachs discuss whether cosmetic surgery actually makes women feel sexier, or if it makes them feel even worse about themselves. Here is a summary of their findings.

There are four reasons why a woman decides to have cosmetic surgery. The first, and best reason, is to feel more comfortable in her body. For example, women with extremely large breasts may opt for a breast reduction to reduce back pain and catcalling. Women with large noses may choose to make it smaller to feel more comfortable looking in a mirror, or speaking in front of people. The second reason women choose cosmetic surgery is to feel more visible. For example, elderly women might choose a face-lift so that their bodies look as young as they feel. Widows often use this logic before reentering the dating scene.

The next two reasons can be detrimental to a woman's psyche. Some women want to achieve an advantage over other women and so they alter their appearance. For example, to look sexier than her competitors in the workplace, a woman may get breast implants. She feels that looking younger makes her appear more career oriented. To such a woman, the physical body, not the brain, is a tool to get ahead. The last reason women alter their appearance surgically is that because they want to attain the perfect body we see advertised in the media. In today's world, that means a woman should look like Liz Hurley. Few of us are born with such genes.

The authors believe that the first two reasons may actually help women feel sexier. But the last two reasons are based on the idea that a woman needs a perfect body to be happy. Trying to achieve such an impossible ideal will only make a woman feel worse.

The main problem with fixing your outer body is that you can't always change your perception of yourself, regardless of what the mirror or other people say. If, as a child, you were mocked for your big nose, as an adult, even a cosmetically altered adult, you will still think of yourself as a big-nosed girl. Once a procedure has been completed, the harshest critic is the woman herself. The improvement may not be enough, and so a woman will still feel bad about her looks and become even more focused on her body.

So how does a woman learn to feel sexy without looking perfect? By increasing her self-confidence and ability to have fun. If plastic surgery will help accomplish this, then go ahead. But if plastic surgery will only make you notice more flaws, and make you more critical of yourself (21% of those who seek cosmetic surgery come back again), leave it behind and work on feeling sexier in other ways. The authors suggest that for a woman to feel sexy, she has to learn to love herself. They write, "Our personal history is what makes us attractive. Our awareness, our intelligence, our laughter, our pride, and of course, the way we fit in our skin." Feeling this way about yourself isn't something a doctor can fix with a knife.

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