Can We Change Our Looks Too Much? Part 1

February 24, 2011
Why are we so focused on how our bodies look?

Morris Oxford MO

[See note at the end for why I have used a picture of a car as an illustration for this post.]

Yesterday morning after I had my hair colored, I thought about an email I received from a friend the other day.

It seems that a 54-year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience.  Seeing God she asked “Is my time up?”

God said, “No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live.”

Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a facelift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair color and brighten her teeth! Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance.

Arriving in front of God, she demanded, “I thought you said I had another 43 years? Why didn’t you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?”

God replied: “I didn’t recognize you.”

Apparently the moral of the story is that God loves you the way you are.

Unfortunately, people tend not to like themselves very much. What with the diet, supplement and fashion industries telling us what we “should” look like, it’s not surprising that some of us color our hair. Others have face lifts, tummy tucks, breast implants, and liposuction.

When we’re told we would look better if _____, it’s hard not to think a little improvement is needed to make us more acceptable. But does that mean acceptable to us or to others?

I have convinced myself that since my face doesn’t have much natural color, I think I look washed out when my hair is gray. My sister has gray hair and it looks attractive on her. On the other hand, people tell me I look younger than I am and I admit I like the compliments. Is it my hair or my face or the way I act? I’ll let others decide.

In any case, I think God would still recognize me.

But when is change too much? When do we go too far beyond the simple act of doing something that adds a bit of flair and style to our persona, like coloring our hair; applying mascara, rouge and lipstick; or having a tattoo. When do we negate the person we are meant to be without operations and botox?  When do we announce to the world that we aren’t okay just the way nature made us, when our bodies reflect someone we were not born to be? Michael Jackson comes to mind. Would he have been less talented if he hadn’t had all those operations?

In the middle of writing this post I took a break on my exercise bike and read a little more from Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. This is what she had a man thinking about the female protagonist:

She’s the first woman he’s ever known who doesn’t give a damn how she looks or is completely happy with the way she looks, which amounts to the same thing. Usually women are aware of complex formulas regarding how long the legs should be in relation to the waist in relation to the eyelashes — a mathematics indecipherable to men but strangely crucial to women.

Since my weight is about the same it been for years, but shifting to the front, I know what he means. I’m trying not to pay too much attention to the mathematics of it, but it isn’t easy.

If you think you have to change your body in order to be liked, or in order to like yourself, here are four questions that may help you decide whether you’re okay the way you are.

What woman (or man) had the greatest impact on you growing up?

How much of her (or his) influence was related to her (or his) size?

How much time in your life have you spent thinking about changing, promising to change, wishing you could change aspects of your body?

If you could have all that energy back, where would you direct it?

These questions were suggested by the Real Women Project, a website I strongly suggest you visit. Especially look at the sculptures of women of all sizes and shapes and read the wonderful poetry describing each person. Here is an explanation of the sculptures from the website:

The sculptures are a limited edition of thirteen bronzes created in the lost wax process. They were commissioned to provide real evidence of the real bodies of women in contrast to the illusion of Barbie. They are the same size as the popular doll. The limited edition sells for $50,000. The hope of the founders of the Real Women Project is that these sets of bronzes will be used by teaching and healthcare organizations to focus and facilitate experiential learning regarding body image and self-esteem.

Note about picture above:

I didn’t know when I started looking for a picture to illustrate “face-lift” that I would find pictures of cars. You guys (and maybe a few gals) would know why. I didn’t. I just wanted to have before-and-after pictures of someone who had a face-lift. But I didn’t have time to get permission to use any of them and was intrigued by the pictures of car. Why cars?

So I went to Wikipedia and discovered that according to Laurance Yap, Canadian Driver, and apparently a Wikipedia editor: “Mid-cycle facelifts for cars are usually just cosmetic: a little nip here, a little tuck there, new lights and maybe a couple of different trim pieces to maintain interest in an aging vehicle for an extra couple of years before a full redesign.”

So I went to one of my favorite places for royalty-free illustrations, Wikimedia. Since I love old cars, this struck my fancy. Wouldn’t this be neat to park in your driveway?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


7 thoughts on “Can We Change Our Looks Too Much? Part 1

  1. What an intriguing article! You brought up a number of really important points.

    I’m going to differ with you and say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing your looks completely — if you can do it without damage to yourself, and if the act doesn’t stem from mental or emotional problems, as in the case with Michael Jackson.

    I haven’t had any of the procedures you’ve mentioned, but if I ever want to, I will — if I have the money, and I think that I can bear the pain and discomfort. (It may be a moot point because I have a low pain threshold.)

    As to women and body image, I agree about the way the media pushes certain looks, society’s youth obsession, etc. But, I want to look as good as I possibly can, for as long as I can. And, in my case at least, it’s not just for women. I wish men would do the same, too. I hate seeing men who’ve let themselves go. Don’t get me wrong, I can like, love, and admire a man who doesn’t look good, but all things being equal, I’d rather he looked like a hunk than not. I mean, what’s wrong with a little — or great — effort? Too many men are uninterested in their looks. Things are changing a bit, but not enough! I’m very visual, so it pains me when I see someone who doesn’t seem to care how he/she looks.


    1. It has taken me a few days to answer your comment because I’ve expanded this topic into three parts and want to be clear about what I say.

      I only know you through our mastermind group, conversations on the phone, and photos on your site, but you have always struck me as quite attractive and of sound mind. So I wonder why you might consider changing your looks completely. I realize you didn’t say that you, personally, would want that, but that you felt there was nothing wrong with it.

      It is not for me to determine whether what anyone does with his or her face or body is “right” or “wrong.” However, I think it is important for us as a society to think more carefully about how we compare our looks with the looks of others. What does it say about our acceptance of people “just as they are” when we are bothered by how they look? If you read Part 3 of this post (to be uploaded on Friday, March 4), you will see my own confessions on judging others and how I have come to much more easily accept those who would not, in the past, have lived up to my expectations.

      I can clearly understand why someone would want to have extremely dropping eyelids raised. I can understand why someone would want to have a large wart removed from the tip of her nose if she wanted to work in a field where appearance was important.

      However, as I say in Part 3, I believe we would do well to explore “why” we want to look different. Do we think that somehow we will be better people when we will look different? If we can all learn to accept and admire people who come in all sizes and shapes, then we will feel less need to change ourselves.

      I think about the teenager whose mother told her to “just be yourself” and “you are fine just as you are.” Then she realized that she was going out to a botox party where everyone would get shots so they wouldn’t look like themselves. (Incidentally, I find botox an extremely weird effect. You can’t tell whether the person is worried, happy, concerned, or anxious. It all looks the same. A person whose face expresses her feelings is much more attractive to me than one who has tried to stop the clock.)


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