Image Is Everything ~ Our Cosmetic Surgical Culture   4 comments


In today’s society and throughout the world instant identity-transformation has become all the rage. This is the era of the surgical culture. Procedures from head to toe enhancement such as Botox, collagen fillers, micro-dermabrasion, mini-facelifts, liposuction, eye lifts, breast implants, and tummy tucks, Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), Otoplasty (ear surgery), breast reduction, breast augmentation, and liposuction are all the rage. This describes not only the very structure of a global economy that has brought profound changes in the contemporary institutional structure, but also has set the emergence of obsessions and fears that people increasingly experience in trying to alter their identities, personalities and bodies. Julie McCrossin (2000) wrote in her article,”Cosmetic surgery has become so unexceptional a part of self-enhancement that its use in ensuring job security is now commonplace.”

          According to investigations regarding these types of procedures there is one main conclusion suggesting that this could be considered a cure for both a sagging face and sagging careers. Margaret Littman (2000) reports that, “From 2000 to 2004, the number of facial plastic surgery procedures and injections increased 34%. In 2004, the academy found that 22% of men and 15% of women who had plastic surgery did so for business purposes.” There is an increase of individuals throughout the years who believe that cosmetic surgery will help them to achieve getting ahead in the workplace. Littman also states, “Previous studies in the US have indicated that attractive and younger-looking people are more successful and earn more.”

   Presently, images of beauty are universal and everywhere an individual turns. Images of well-developed macho males and slender attractive females fill magazines, television and the music business. Women go through diets, fads and work out regimes while men are at the gym, striving for that toned body they think is the answer to all their problems. How did so many people become obsessed with this ultimate image? Everyday people go by their assumptions by what they can see physically. Even in the supermarket, society distinguishes good products from bad products based on appearance. Individuals in general are apt to choose good products because they do not have flaws. These assumptions and ways of thinking reflect on the way we judge ourselves.

          Ever since civilizations were around there were different ideas of beauty. Historical research has uncovered ancient Egyptian formulas for things such as the removal of stretch marks, reduction of wrinkling, and the diminishing of scarring. Art in Ancient Egypt illustrated young men as broad shouldered and muscular while women were portrayed as having round busts and small waists.

          In China, a beautiful woman would have what was called a three-inch golden lotus. From around 950-1912 A.D., women in China practiced something called foot binding. At age three Chinese girls feet were wrapped with long strips of cloth beginning at the foot. By age five all the toes on the foot would be broken except the big toe, and the two first years of the binding were filled with agonizing pain. The bones in the feet never healed… all in the name of beauty.

          The workplace out there is a lot more competitive. An individual may have talents in their industry but must an attractive appearance no matter what anyone says. The reason being with the economy changing, workforces are being replaced with younger people for a lesser cost. The baby boomers for one, both women and men are opting for cosmetic procedures to compete in and out of the office to maintain their status. Aging is not a bad thing. As individuals live fuller and longer lives, they are becoming increasingly aware of this natural occurrence. The external signs of aging are all obvious in the physical and mental state.  From the simplest fine wrinkles on a face, to low self-esteem, to the awareness of aging comes from all around us, in the media, medical breakthroughs and In fact the concept has been introduced to the Miss America contests. Miss America contestants include artistic and gifted women who have changed their outer appearance through working out, controlling their intake of food, cosmetics, and occasionally even surgery to generate the “perfect doll-like image.”

         The Miss USA/Miss Universe association diminished padding ban due to feminist demands. As anti-pageant supporters like Ann Simonton stated,” Under endowed participants felt they had to undergo dangerous cosmetic surgery in order to be competitive.” Women have had their ears pinned, their upper lids enlarged, buttocks tucked, cheeks and chins implanted, and eyes widened.”  With parts of a woman’s body going through a cosmetic surgical procedure of being, tugged, pressed, and surgically stitched into place, they can turn their concentration to verbally saying and doing the right thing. With talent and interviews comprising more than fifty percent of the points granted by a panel of judges, saying and doing the right thing is what lets one surgical processed woman win out over another.

          In this quest for perfection, women are now turning to extremely drastic measures; they are physically changing their bodies through cosmetic surgery. These surgeries range from breast augmentation, to face lifts and liposuction Women see these surgeries as a way of improving their image, and thereby increasing their success, happiness, and desirability. They believe that breast augmentation will make them more attractive to men and that face lifts will make them look younger, and that liposuction will make their body look more appealing.

          The older generations who are more knowledgeable individuals feel that in order to contend with the younger invasion of applicants that they need to look younger. Toracco (2000) stated, “That although knowledge is now recognized as one of an organization’s most valuable assets most organizations lack the supportive systems required to retain and leverage the value of knowledge.” (p.52) Dr. Stephen Greenberg, a plastic surgeon, has dealt with patients who consider cosmetic surgery due to the desire to appear more attractive and to look youthful in their position.  Greenberg stated, “By having a younger appearance, patients believe they can net that hard-to-get job or earn promotions that would otherwise elude them.”

           The primary reason in history for cosmetic surgery was proposed to support injured and distorted soldiers in war. Soldiers that would come back from combat with absent legs and cut faces entrusted their appearance to the hands of experienced surgeons. The development of cosmetic surgery received a push from the need to restore gross deformities to the need to change normal physical appearances.

          More and more men are considering and even going through with cosmetic surgery to fit the trim and youthful appearance desired by so many. Male pectoral implants, calf implants, nose jobs, face lifts, eye lifts and tummy tucks are just a few of the popular procedures in which males are recently partaking.  Barbara Biela, director of marketing for the Liposuction and Cosmetic Surgery Institute stated, “From the man’s standpoint, there are no more golden parachutes. We get men who are 45 to 55 years old and they are worried … because there are all these 35-year-olds on their backs.”  Dr. Jay Pensler discusses his opinion by talking about this issue, “It used to be, in our parents generation, that you stayed with one company, being promoted until you retired. Now, there is a lot more competition. I see a large number of middle managers, a large number of them in information technology, where often anyone in their 30s is considered old. I have one client who came in and said some of my customers see me as a dinosaur because I’m not in my 20s. If the perception among my clients is that I’m old, my ideas are old, too.” If you’re not young Dr. Pensler concludes, “You are out of the loop.” According to a survey, an estimated 4,400 people taking it through the Monster.com website, nearly half said they definitely believed plastic surgery or cosmetic dental work would help advance their career.

          Although cosmetic surgery in the past was only for the elite, the rich and famous, now everyone is doing it. From school teachers, to trial lawyers, to real estate agents, all kinds of people are opting for cosmetic surgery. If an individual’s position in a company places them before the public, it is possible that they may be particularly interested in cosmetic surgery.

          Clearly, both men and women want to look good at any age. Today, even many older people who are competent, in shape and often still working don’t want to look their age. In Kreitner-Kinicki’s (2006) “Organizational Behavior” it was stated that, “In addition to vanity, these executives are driven by job insecurity.  They believe that looking older in business now means looking vulnerable, not wise and experienced, as might have been the case in the past.” (p. 229) Individuals know that contemporary society and the business world are often discriminatory against them. A young looking appearance can often be the key to maintaining a position in the work force through and cosmetic surgery could be the means to achieve that look. Brian Amble (2005) stated, “Good-looking, slim, tall people earn around five per cent more per hour than their less attractive colleagues, it found, while those with below-average looks tend to earn nine per cent less an hour.

          Research from executive training specialists, the Aziz Corporation, shows one in four career women would have cosmetic surgery if there was a potential of improving their professional success within an organization. Amble reported (2005), “…More than a quarter of female executives saying they would be prepared to undergo a face lift, plastic surgery or Botox treatments if they thought it would boost their career prospects”. Meanwhile, almost one in five male directors said they would consider facelifts if it would enhance their career.

          I agree plastic surgery has its place for some individuals but as for myself, I would not choose to go down that path for a career opportunity.  A good candidate for this type of procedure in my opinion would be someone with a disfigured nose, droopy eyelids that disrupts their vision, scarring from an auto accident and work-related accidents. However, superficial plastic surgery is not a wise idea to enhance employment. In my opinion these people on some level have an inferiority complex connecting individual mental health with their physical appearance and therefore went in search of cosmetic surgery. People suffering from an inferiority complex because their breasts are small, their chins droop or they have age lines feel they require medical intervention to alleviate their psychological suffering. These individuals believe that they needed help in gaining their self confidence and reclaiming self-esteem.

            Most people don’t comprehend that once they have plastic surgery on their face that’s not the end of it…but the beginning of more to come. You can’t smoke, drink, or be out all night since these actions will begin to show on the face. When a person has too many plastic surgeries they end up with a very waxy look to their face.

            There are, however, costs to such modification, and these costs extend well beyond the financial. L.A. Brinton (2005) discusses one study of women, “Research indicating that breast augmentation patients are 4 times as likely to commit suicide compared to other plastic surgery patients improving their self-confidence.” With any type of surgical procedure there are certain risks one should consider. Infection such as Connective Tissue Disease is one of the diseases that are caused by cosmetic surgery. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases defined Connective Tissue as, “Material between the cells of the body that gives tissues form and strength. This disease is one simple example of diseases that is highly probable to take place as a result of doing cosmetic surgery.”

           Dry eye problems/decreased tear production, bleeding, blindness, damage to nerves, blood vessels and muscles within the eye are other complications that can occur when one opts for surgery to be performed. Less serious risks can include allergic reactions, asymmetry (a notable difference in appearance of the eyes), chronic pain, delayed or prolonged healing of the affected area, permanent or temporary nerve damage, scarring, and dissatisfaction with the end result, among others. Not to mention, additional risks involved with local and general anesthesia administered to patients receiving surgical treatment.

          With so many risks personally and in society, why do so many people continue to go through with cosmetic surgery? Satisfaction of one’s appearance is intrinsically linked to one’s happiness and overall mood and performance within a workplace. Will enhanced or reduced breasts really make someone a different person? I believe that it is all a state of mind. It is their willingness to gamble with their health in order to achieve a sense of physical accomplishment.

          Though risks such as blindness, blood clots, and serious lung problems are rare, it is critical that an individual be aware of these possible outcomes. If someone cannot live with the potential consequences, it is best to think twice and weigh out their options before plunging into a procedure that could change your life forever all in the name of employment.

          There are numerous negative stereotypes fueling the use of cosmetic surgery to change one appearance. Stereotypes still abound in the mainstream media of the unkempt, homely man or woman with the belief that changing their body equates with happiness personally and professionally. The key motivation for these people is the desire to be attractive, with the intention and hopes of resulting in higher self-acceptance, mental comfort and better self-esteem. This pursuit of perfection may stem from their own disappointment that they do not fit the ideal stereotypical attractive individual working within the workforce and able to climb the ladder of success. There was a time when men with wrinkles was considered distinguished and masculine with respect to their years of experience, but in today’s society this same individual is looked upon as just being old and useless. For a woman, the belief that success, confidence and happiness comes as a result of being physically attractive is imbedded into their minds. Every day the media portrays young, thin, big busted woman as the epitome of the perfect, businesswoman who can have it all…a career, family and the home with the white picket fence.

           The Pygmalion effect is a self-fulfilling prophecy in which an employer’s expectations regarding an individual’s job performance can influence that performance. It is the concept of high expectations equaling high performance. The concept portrays that an employer’s high expectation influences and positive attitude toward the employees affects the self-expectancy of the individual. The individual’s self-expectancy then improves their performance. What managers expect of employees and the way they are treated determines their performance and career progress. The extent that the Pygmalion effect plays in the case study is that our perception of what we believe other people think of us becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is the increased achievement that’s due to the high expectations and beliefs of others. In many cases individuals accept certain labels as reality when in fact they are unfounded. While labels are usually difficult to overcome, it is possible to develop unconditional worth and high personal regard. Forming an accurate sense of who we are is important to high self- esteem. When an individual perceives that employers view them as unattractive or old, their self esteem decreases and feels the employer has lowered their expectations. This is when cosmetic surgery comes into play. After the surgery, the individual changes their self-fulfilling prophecy, people around them see a younger, more vibrant individual which in turn portrays a more positive feeling, a higher self confidence level, greater competency and worthiness within the organization. An employer’s expectation should be expressed to an individual regarding job performance therefore, employers need to express progression, discuss their untapped potential and offer new tasks to continue the striving confidence level within the individual.

          The Galatea effect suggests that if an individual thinks they will succeed, then more than likely they will succeed. It is a persuasive aspect in employee performance. An employer, who aids employees by taking into account their worth, will begin the process of allowing them to harness their performance potential within the organization. This occurs when high self-expectations result in greater personal achievement. It reflects the individual actions upon the Pygmalion and fulfilling their own prophecy about themselves. This entails the transferring of their high expectations, beliefs, and confidence to employees who then fulfill that positive prophecy. By giving employees new tasks and providing them with new opportunities to expand their knowledge this will follow by an increase in their experience and confidence level within their position without the need for cosmetic surgery. Communication is also a key factor that increases self-confidence as an employee must believe in the honest efforts of a manager who is providing new opportunities to learn. This enhances an individual’s motivation, performance level and perception of self esteem instead of looking to physically change their appearances by surgery, as in the case study.

          The Golem effect occurs when a low expectation from others has a demoralizing and adverse impact on a person’s performance. It is the result of less than desirable performance that results from expressed negative expectations. This concept is the reverse of the Pygmalion effect when low expectations equal low performance. As in the case study, it appears to be a domino effect as the employer views the individual as old and out of touch then the employee begins to feel the repercussions and it begins to show it in their workplace behavior. These consequences result in a negative relationship that is fuelled by negative expectations and leads the individual to consider cosmetic surgery to change their outlook into a more positive viewpoint about themselves.

          After reflecting on this case study, I have learned that many individuals in the work force are more concerned about their physical appearance and “fitting in” then about their years of experience in a field. It is my belief that age and experience is crucial for long term successful performance within a company.   Based on this case, one thing that is apparent is the contrast effect and its tendency to assess individuals by comparing them with characteristics of others.

          According to Kelley, people make fundamental assumptions after assembling facts about the three dimensions of behavior: consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency. There is a fundamental preconceived notion that represents an individual’s inclination to attribute another person’s behavior to their personal characteristics, as opposed to situational factors. The central tendency perceptual error symbolizes the tendency to shape an overall impression about an individual and then use that notion to judge the person.

          The self-serving judgment reflects one’s tendency to take more personal responsibility for success than for failure. This view of their personal achievements and performance should out way the age factor and the contemplation of cosmetic surgery.

I am not what I think I am.

I am not what you think I am.

I am what I think you think I am…

Reference

Amble, B. (2005 August 2). Better looks would boost career: Career Development. Women & Work. Retrieved July 5, 2007, from Web site: http://www.management-issues.com/2006/8/24/research/better-looks-would-boost-career.asp

Brinton, L.A. & Lubin, J.H. & Burich, M.C. & Colton, T., & Hoover R.N. (2005 March) Mortality among augmentation mammoplasty patients.  Retrieved July 7, 2007, from Web site: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dop  t=Abstract&list_uids=11337605

Kumagai,  Y & Shiokawa, Y. & Medsger, T.A. & Rodnan G.P. Clinical spectrum   of connective tissue disease after cosmetic surgery. Observations on eighteen patients and a review of the Japanese literature. Retrieved July 6, 2007, from Web site:      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_ uids=6691849&dopt=Abstract. p. 1-12.

Kreintner & Kinicki. (2006) Organizational Behavior. McGraw-Hill.p.229

Littman, Margaret (2000 January 10). Execs under the gun go under the knife.  Crain’sChicago Business, 01496956.Vol. 23, Issue 2.

Maginnis, Tara (2007 March 15). Fashion Shows, Strip Shows and Beauty Pageants:  The Theatre of The Feminine Ideal. Career Development: Health & Wellbeing.  Retrieved July 5, 2007, from Web site: www.costumes.org/Tara

McCrossin, J. (2000 December 28). Cosmetic Surgery. Retrieved July 6, 2007, from Web site: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/lm/stories/s164220.htmhttp://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/lm/stories/s164220.htm

Paton, N. (2007 March 15). Canadians happy to go under knife for their career. Retrieved July 7, 2007, from Web site: http://www.management-          issues.com/2007/3/14/research/canadians-happy-to-go-under-knife-for-their-career.asp

Ramlall, S. (2004 September). A Review of Employee Motivation Theories and their Implications for Employee Retention within Organizations. Journal of AmericanAcademyof Business, Cambridge: Hollywood. Vol.5, Iss. 1/2;  p. 52, 12. Retrieved 7/10, 2007, from Web site: www.library.esc.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.library.esc.edu/pqdweb?did=653882471&sid=4&Fmt=4&clientId=63430&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Solnik, C. (2005 May 6). As workers get older, cosmetic surgery becomes an option. Long Island Business News, Vol. 52 Issue 19, p5B-5B. Retrieved July 7, 2007, from Web site:           http://web.ebscohost.com.library.esc.edu/ehost/pdf?vid=2&hid=108&sid=bcee8f49-c991-4915-8ae3-1636a1cab668%40sessionmgr108

(2001 July). Entering the Golden Age of Cosmetic Surgery. Retrieved July 8, 2007, from Web site: http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/59/07645783/0764578359.pdf

(1984 January 27). Questions and Answers about Heritable Disorders of Connective Tissue. Retrieved July 7,2007, from Web site:           http://www.niams.nih.gov/hi/topics/connective/connective.htm#whatis

(2005 March). Epidemiology.  Retrieved July 5, 2007 from Web site:           http://www.virtualmentor.org

(2006 April 26). Plastic surgery could be the key to rejuvenating a sagging career.Personnel Today Magazine. Retrieved July 8, 2007 from Web site:           http://www.personneltoday.com/Articles/2006/04/26/35015/plastic-surgery-could-be-the-key-to-rejuvenating-a-sagging.html

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4 responses to “Image Is Everything ~ Our Cosmetic Surgical Culture

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  1. Rhinoplasty is generally more common among asian women because they like taller noses. :

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  2. either youve removed my earlier comment or its got lost?? to the publisher… you’ve missed a few typos near the ending

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