Putting a New Face on Self-esteem

Julie Leung writes about people who have plastic surgery to look like celebrities and links to the site for the MTV program I Want A Famous Face.

She quotes Mike and Matt, two quite unattractive twin brothers, who supposedly had surgery to look like Brad Pitt. She writes:

The hardest case to read was the one of the two twenty-year-old twin guys – Mike and Matt – who each longed to resemble a different version of Brad Pitt:

MTV: What would you say to teens reading this who are thinking about getting elective plastic surgery?
MIKE: Those who are down on themselves for a fault in their looks, if you know that surgery will make you happy, go for it. It will change your personality, the way you act and carry yourself forever. I never knew that I could be as happy as I am right now. I feel on top of the world by the few tweaks that I went through. Go through with the surgery now because you don’t want to go through life always feeling down with the way that you look, or just accepting the way that you look, that there is nothing that you can do to look better. I am…happy for once.

MATT: Why are you waiting? If any part of you drains all your self esteem, then why live like that? The longer you go on living like that, the more it’s going to affect you, and bring you down There is something you can do about it. It will change your outlook on life, and make you a happier person There’s nothing to be scared about, just push yourself out the door and stop making excuses. If you don’t believe me, then prove me wrong!

Matt and Mike’s entire interview is on the MTV site. They both know that they don’t look like Brad Pitt after their surgery but both feel more confident. They were clearly looking for more than Brad’s appearance; they wanted the confidence that comes from his looks and a chance at his fame and success.

MTV: Why did you pick the celebrity that you picked?
MIKE: I looked at many faces in the media, faces that I might want to imitate. I saw Brad Pitt and his success with the way that he looked. He was able to fit and suit all genres of films with his look. He had the perfect jaw, chin, cheeks, that was the masculine appearance that I was looking for. I knew that if I imitated Brad Pitt’s appearance that I knew I would be happy with mine. And the thing is…I am happy with the results. Thanks Brad!!!!

MATT: I was unhappy with my bone structure, and wanted a look that could help advance me in films I wanted a strong bone structure, and a face that could fit any type of movie Well, I turned to actors who had a lot of success in movies, and still had a good look. Then that’s when I came across Brad Pitt I didn’t want to look like him, but I wanted that strong bone structure I have my own look, but influenced by Brad Pitt.

When you look at their “before” pictures, it is easy to understand why they wanted a change. With faces terribly scarred by acne and bad teeth, their chances for the kind of success that they wanted in life were terribly limited.

Using famous faces as a supermarket of desirable facial features is not the same thing as wanting to assume another person’s identity. People who think they are going to assume the identity of another human being by reshaping their face are very delusional. There is much more to a celebrity’s identity and success than their face. They had a drive, were in the right place and the right time, slept with the right producer, or were obsessed with stardom as a way to compensate for past emotional scars. All of those factors made the celebrity who they are and got them where they are. Plastic surgery will not give somebody a celebrity’s experience of life, it will only put a celebrity’s face on the experience of being a celebrity wannabe.

On the other hand, people who use famous faces as a guide for their plastic surgeon are being rational about the process and attempting to give a concrete picture of what results they hope to achieve.

At one point, Matt says:

Plastic surgery gave me my life back It’s a different kind of cure. When those blinds were pulled up from my eyes, I saw everything in a new light, and now I walk with my head held high The worst thing was waiting for the minimal swelling to go down I just wanted my face to be healed right away, but it takes time, and it’s frustrating when you’re not a patient person

They same thing applies to acquiring confidence and a strong sense of self. It’s painful, it takes time, and frustrating when you’re not a patient person.

Throw in the fact that a strong sense of self is not something that cultures built on self-sacrifice encourage and you can begin to understand what a huge challenge it is.

On the plus side, Mike and Matt, seemed to know what they wanted and they went out and got it. That’s a sign that they are well on their way to defining themselves and their own values. That’s a good thing. The fact that they want the best for themselves is evidence of self-esteem.

If they have unrealistic ideas about what a handsome face will get them, that is not entirely their own fault. Their elders can shower them with trite bromides like “beauty is only skin deep,” or “it’s what’s inside that counts” or any of the countless variations on that theme. But all they have to do is look around and they can see that life is often easier for the better looking.

Beautiful people might be nice to you and might pretend that they see and value the “real person” inside of you. But it is not any fun being used to assuage the guilt of those to whom nature was more kind. Nor is it fun to keep your inner beauty hidden under and ugly skin. Why settle for being the object of their sympathy if some plastic surgery can help you to shine a light on their insecurities? After all, if your surgery is successful, you will have met a challenge that they never had to face.

You might also be competition. If the uglies of the world can be convinced to stay ugly, doesn’t that make a beautiful person’s beauty more rare and desirable? Perhaps that is why they keep telling you that that real beauty is inside. They want you to keep it there, hidden.

Good looks don’t last long and by themselves they don’t buy much that is long-lasting. But the confidence that these boys showed in defining a problem that our culture denies, setting a goal to fix the problem, defining their values, going out and getting what they value, and being able to rationally evaluate the results will buy them a lot!

All the factors that played into their decision to fix their faces came from inside. In their case, it seems that it was not from a lack of self-esteem that they had their surgery, but an expression of self-esteem. They wanted more respect than they were getting from others and they wanted to feel proud when they looked in the mirror.

It sounds like they succeeded. That builds confidence which makes them more attractive to others.