Seeking Self-Esteem Through Surgery

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seeking Self-Esteem Through Surgery

To the rigors of teenage grooming — waxing, plucking, body training and skin care regimens that were once the province of adults — add cosmetic surgery, which is fast becoming a mainstream option among teenagers. But with this popularity, some experts are concerned that the underlying motivation for many of the young people seeking surgery — namely, self-esteem — is being disregarded in the drive to look “normal.”

The latest figures from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that the number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youths 18 or younger more than tripled over a 10-year period, to 205,119 in 2007 from 59,890 in 1997. This includes even more controversial procedures: liposuctions rose to 9,295 from 2,504, and breast augmentations increased nearly sixfold, to 7,882 from 1,326.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 girls in the United States ages 8 to 17 sponsored by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund — which has a partnership with the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and is linked to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, a program aimed at changing narrow cultural definitions of beauty — showed that 7 in 10 girls surveyed believed that when it came to issues including beauty and body image they did not “measure up.” Only 10 percent found themselves to be “pretty enough.”

“It’s clear there is an epidemic of low self-esteem among girls,” said Ann Kearney-Cooke, director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute, adviser to Dove’s study and author of the book “Change Your Mind, Change Your Body.”

“I work with a lot of teens on body image,” Dr. Kearney-Cooke said. “I have girls who say they want lipo when really what they need is to learn how to exercise and diet. If a girl thinks no waist, big breasts and chiseled features is the only definition of beautiful, I try and teach them to recognize the narrow view of what’s considered acceptable appearance in our culture, and how to challenge that view.”

Source: New York Times