My Journey with Plastic Surgery is Over!

bddI began this journey with physical embellishment in my early 20s with Rhinoplasty or the nose job. In my 30s: breast augmentation, liposuction and eyelid lifts. In my 40s, a vaginal wall repair surgery after delivering two babies. My husband wasn’t happy with a wider vagina. Is he happy today? Not at all… What have I done to myself? I honestly am lost, and I feel objectified as a woman.

I live in Lebanon, called recently the ‘Mekka’ of Plastic Surgery. My country has the highest number of plastic surgeons per head. It seems that the background to this lies with the Civil War and the need at that time for plastic surgeons capable of dealing with physical disfigurements. However, it has more to do nowadays with unrealistic standards of beauty. Plastic surgeons deny the gravity of the situation. According to most of them, plastic surgery is to correct deformity in the face and body; it’s like wearing makeup or clothing. Still, extremes are becoming the ‘norms’ here… In the US, which has the highest overall number of cosmetic procedures in the world, every patient seeking treatment must first undergo a psychiatric screening, which is unfeasible in Lebanon and the Middle East. People run away from psychiatrists, relating them only to treating ‘crazy’ individuals.

I struggled for a long time to look like skinny Western super models, going back for multiple surgeries over the years. I was diagnosed lately with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and lack of self-esteem. Three diagnostic criteria are listed for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision: (1) a preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance (if a slight physical defect is present, the person’s degree of concern is extreme); (2) marked distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning resulting from the appearance preoccupation; and (3) the preoccupation is not attributable to the presence of another psychiatric disorder (e.g., anorexia nervosa).

In other words, people with this disorder become preoccupied with a real or perceived minor physical defect and go to extensive lengths to hide or change it. They often seek out plastic surgery and are typically unhappy with the results. Worrying about their perceived defect significantly interferes with daily functioning. Believe me, this is the case of so many women in Lebanon, with deconstructed identities, dependent of others’ perceptions, especially men’s.

“BDD is often misunderstood as a vanity-driven obsession, whereas it is quite the opposite; people with BDD do not believe themselves to be better looking than others, but instead feel that their perceived “defect” is irrevocably ugly or not good enough. People with BDD may compulsively look at themselves in the mirror or, conversely, cover up and avoid mirrors. They typically think about their appearance for at least one hour a day and usually more”.

I am still working on myself, learning to be confident, developing and exploring new spaces in my identity, how am I being ‘human’ with my qualities and defaults  woman, mother, spouse, citizen… Beauty for me used to be a standard to apply, but today, it’s more subjective, relative, and it’s not only anymore a physical feature.

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  1. loved this comment from Hiba Chanel on Dr. Chrabieh Facebook Page: “il faut ouvrir des salons de beauté pour apprendre aux filles comment s’embellir AVANT de passer à la chirurgie esthétique, pour le visage il y a des techniques de maquillage pour par exemple améliorer l’apparence du nez ou réduire la largeur d’un front. Pour les problèmes après l’accouchement, il y a les exercices de kegel, ye3ni soit on reste comme on est soit on se fait charcuter??? je ne suis pas pour que les femmes négligent leur apparence, mais je ne suis pas pour que ça devienne une obsession. Et pourquoi ne pas apprendre aux femmes et aux hommes de philosopher la beauté: être capable de voir la beauté dans une imperfection, et être capable de tirer du plaisir dans l’abstinence…mmm moins convainquante hein?”

  2. Thank you Alia for this courageous testimony,
    As a man, far from the oriental disordered culture, i think every woman has her own beauty in her natural self and none and nothing should make her change herlself. What is too bad in our lebanese situation is that the society has defined new standards for beauty in the plastic surgery, and personnaly i find most of the lebanese women now look alike as if they were put in the same mold !!! My advice for any of you is be yourself be beautiful like you are and dont give any importance to what your society tries to dictate to you

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