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RESPECT co-author, Courtney Macavinta, blogs for girls and women about how to build your self-respect and spread respect for all! At The Respect Institute she teaches people of all ages how to integrate The Respect Basics into their lives, work and advocacy. More about About Courtney

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respectrx
Body Image + Health

When Girls Want Plastic Surgery

Hot Topic

Dove asked 3,300 girls and women ages 15 to 64 from around the world what they thought of their bodies and beauty. The answer? 92% of teen girls would like to change *something* about the way they look. And when girls don't love their bodies, what do many think will "fix" it? Plastic surgery. More than 1/4 of the teen girls surveyed said they are considering cosmetic surgery.

I've been asked recently why girls think plastic surgery is a viable option to make themselves feel better. Uh, might this trend have something to do with plastic-TV? From Extreme Makeover to I Want a Famous Face to Dr. 90210, nipping and tucking are coming across as a totally mainstream option for girls who don't like what they see in the mirror. Celebrities—many girls' top models—seem to celebrate when they've gotten a facelift, breast implants or Botox.

It's as if plastic surgery is now being thought of like a trip to the beauty salon. Girls are picking up on this attitude: Hey, if you don't like how you look—or *who* you are—you can easily recreate yourself with an extreme makeover (forget just getting a new outfit or haircut).

Parents are even giving cosmetic surgery as a graduation gifts. According to the American Society for Plastic Surgeons, the number of girls under 18 who got cosmetic surgery was 80,896 in 2004, compared to 13,314 in 1992. This is not including "non-invasive" procedures like Botox or chemical peels, which brings the overall number up to 326,233.

The organization is quick to note that most girls are getting nose jobs (almost 52,000). But in 2004, nearly 4,000 got breast implants and 3,200 got lipsuction (compared to 978 and 472, respectively, in 1992). And a quick whirl around teen community sites reveals that's what lot of girls really want or feel they need to do based on outside pressure:

"Today me and my mom went to a plastic surgery office because my mom wants to get her nose fixed and stuff. I've always been the chunky girl. The 'cute but she's a fat girl.' You know what I mean. So my mom is willing to give me permission for lipo..."

Rx: To look good is to feel good? We can't sell girls this bill of goods. You know the pitch: To be "happy" or "confidant" or "liked," you have to look a certain way (even if it means going under the knife to make it happen). This concept is truly barbaric. It not only encourages girls to hack into their bodies at a young age—before they're even done growing!—but it does nothing to improve their self-respect (and makes their low self-worth even lower when surgery doesn't "solve" their problems). How about instead, the girls of the world get the universal message that:

A. You are here, so you rock and deserve to be appreciated (and respected) as-is.

B. Liking yourself takes time. You have to devote energy to getting to know *you*, following your passions, learning from your mistakes/rejection, and surrounding yourself with encouraging people to build up your confidence and belief in yourself.

C. Invest in yourself—and take care of yourself—so you can accomplish your mission in life. In other words, don't throw money down the drain on cosmetic surgery (and, no, I'm not talking about breast reductions or reconstructive surgery after an accident.) What are more worthy investments? Educate yourself, make healthy choices that nuture you, explore your talents and spirituality, practice speaking your mind, fight for your rights, help other people, become a leader…for starters!

Hey, if you want to freshen up with some lipstick and a cute outfit along the way, fine (enjoy!). But shortcuts and cutting yourself up does not add up to true respect on the inside. If you get the urge to drastically change your body, look at what's *really* making you unsatisfied, instead.

Like I have a good friend who thought she needed breast implants (and her boyfriend thought she'd look "hot," too). But deep down, she really needed to get something else off her chest: Her relationship was unhealthy and rocky, and her career was in a lull. She needed to make changes, but it wasn't to her body. Eventually she dumped the guy, lobbied for a promotion, started hanging out with her friends more—I haven't heard a thing about that boob job since.

Check out these self-respect boosters—they're better than Botox!
1. The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which we're honored to be a part of through the Real Beauty Book Club, offers tons of great tips for both girls and parents here.

2. See my latest Respect Rx body-respect tips here .

3. RESPECT, Chapters 2 and 3, also has many activities(*), including:
The real you: Make a list of what's special about you and keep it in your wallet, purse or backpack. Why are you unique? What are your talents? What do you like most about yourself? Pull it out when you're hatin' on your body or think you need to "change."
Passions list: Make a lit of all things you want to try or love doing. And for the next month, work one of your passions into your schedule each week. How do you feel now?
Take a risk: To boost your confidence, try something that you've been afraid to tackle. It could be just talking to someone new, or going out for a team or job or entering yourself into an election. Start small (where deep down you know you can do it!).
Record your body thoughts: Keep a journal of how often you think negative thoughts about yourself for one week. Add up the minutes. The next week, spend the same amout of time volunteering or helping someone in need. Compare the weeks. What's the difference in how you felt about yourself?

4. And if someone else is putting down your body, here's how to set a boundary.

Still wondering "what's real beauty?" Take a peek in the mirror—you're looking at it!

(*) Activities adapted from Respect: A Girl’s Guide to Getting Respect and Dealing When Your Line Is Crossed by Courtney Macavinta and Andrea Vander Pluym © 2005. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 1-866-703-7322; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

 

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