Given the chance, most everyone would change at least something about their appearance. But that seldom means we spend our days obsessing over our perceived defects and our nights dreaming about having a different, more agreeable face. The same cannot be said for those with body dysmorphia, a common affliction that imposes unrelenting thoughts about even minor or imagined bodily flaws.
“I want to pull my nose off my face,” one redditor writes. “Not one second goes by that I don’t think about shaving it down myself in the kitchen with a knife and chisel.” They continue, “It has killed my self-confidence, my life, and my existence.”
Another redditor explains how their disproportionate nose has interfered with their dating life:
“It’s enormous for my face and it has a big bump in the middle. I’ve been made fun of mercilessly for it ever since middle school. No guy has ever wanted to be more than friends with me because of my nose. In 10th grade I heard a guy I had a huge crush on talking to his friends about how big and ugly it is and it honestly scarred me for life.”
For others, their eyes cause them grief. “My eyes ruin my whole face,” another redditor writes [sic]. “My face looks at least average without them. See, I have bug eyes. My eyes are too big. My eyelids are way too exposed, and my lower lids look like they’re protruding, along with my eyeballs. It’s so ugly, and I get called all kinds of names because of my eyes. It sucks.”
Others still despise their ears. “I’m very self-conscious with short hair and when I smile, since it makes my lobes pop up, and I look like a rabbit,” writes [sic] yet another redditor, who mentions they want to get otoplasty, a corrective form of plastic surgery for misshapen ears.
Speaking of which, plastic surgery — something most of these redditors mentioned in their posts — is an option for anyone who dislikes something about their face, and there are some fairly mild treatments that can make a huge difference. But for those with body dysmorphia, this rarely solves the underlying issue — a 2010 study found that only two percent of cosmetic surgeries reduced the severity of the disorder. Considering body dysmorphia results from inner turmoil much more so than actual physical problems, the researchers conclude, “Physicians need to be aware that psychiatric treatments for BDD, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive behavioral therapy, appear to be effective for what can be a debilitating disorder.”
Whether you have body dysmorphia or any other form of nagging revulsion toward a body part, psychologist Jeanette Raymond suggests looking deeper into where those feelings come from. “What’s on our outside often reflects how bad we feel inside,” she explains. “It’s a way of us putting our negative feelings about our sense of worth or desirability onto something we can see, and attempt to control that. So one way of coming to terms with a facial feature you dislike is to think about what you really don’t like about yourself and shift it away from the face. When you look in the mirror and see this unpleasant feature, what does it really represent about you that you feel is making you feel so ugly?”
“Second,” Raymond continues, “bear in mind that attending to that facial feature — like Michael Jackson, among others — will not make you feel better about yourself after the initial sense of control. You’ll then find something else about your body that’s not acceptable and so on.” The study linked above is pretty compelling evidence of that.
Finally, Raymond recommends checking in with those around you, something that can affirm that what you think is an outward problem is actually an inward one. “Do other people not like this facial feature? Are you still welcomed among family and friends? Then it’s not the facial feature that’s the problem — it’s about you wanting to disown parts of yourself that, for whatever reason, you’re not accepting into your personality,” she explains. “That means it will always dog you until you surrender to the fact that you aren’t perfect and that your humanness includes the fact that you have certain aspects of yourself that, like everyone else, isn’t goody-goody.”
This is a notion that several commenters in the Reddit posts linked above mentioned. “You might be surprised once you’re around people with a little more maturity with how little people are repulsed by your nose,” one writes. Which is to say, oftentimes the problems we have with ourselves are much bigger in our eyes than the eyes of those around us, and if anyone is bullying you about your looks, that always says more about them than it does about you.
So if you have issues with your appearance, check in with yourself and consider consulting a psychologist. If, after all that, you decide that plastic surgery is a good option, go for it, but remember — nobody’s perfect, and that’s just fine.