A few years ago, I went to a new doctor because I had a sore throat. As I sat in the office waiting for a prescription for antibiotics, I was shocked by the number of advertisements suggesting I get Botox or another cosmetic procedure. I was annoyed and confused, but I let it go. A few years later, as I waited to have some bloodwork done in my gynecologist’s office, staring my in the face was an advertisement for cosmetic procedures. In my gynecologist’s office. This time I was shaken. If we can’t get a rest from the constant messages telling us to look younger and prettier in our OBGYN’s office, where can we?
Call me naïve, but I used to think that Botox and cosmetic procedures were something only celebrities and the ultra-rich did. Joke’s on me, I guess. Because everywhere I turn, someone I know is on the Botox train. It isn’t just 40-something-year-old women either. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, since 2010, Botox injections have increased 28% among 20 to 29-year-olds.
I am not going to debate the validity of getting Botox, fillers or other cosmetic procedures. Those debates miss the point entirely and become just one more way to create strife among women. None of us needs or wants that. What I do want, however, is for us to take a closer look at the reasons why so many of us feel the need to “fix” our faces and bodies in the first place.
I am not advocating for or against Botox and cosmetic procedures. We’re adults who are capable of deciding what is best for us. What I am advocating for, however, is a break from the constant pressure to change the way we look. So before you get Botox or fillers or what-have-you, I would ask you to consider this question: Why? Why do you feel compelled to have injections in your face? Why do you feel the need to look younger? Get crystal clear on the answers to those questions and keep asking them.
To be clear, I totally understand the appeal of Botox and fillers. I really do. Somewhere in the past decade or so, I aged… well, a decade or so. I am no longer one of the younger people on work teams or at school events. A couple years ago, I saw my dermatologist about a suspicious looking spot on my face and was told, “Don’t worry, it’s just an age spot.” Social media and countless Zoom calls haven’t done any favors for my self-esteem either. I spend more time than I’d like to admit checking my own face in that tiny window on the screen to make sure my RBF isn’t too aggressive. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve considered a quick fix.
I understand the reasons women are flocking to their local clinics to get Botox, lip injections and fillers. I really do. The pressure for women to fit some conventional beauty “ideal” (i.e. look young and fit) is relentless and so pervasive that we don’t even notice it. It’s a never-ending, toxic and sexist treadmill of messages telling us that we aren’t good enough—and I want off.
Why are women’s looks constantly open for judgment and in need of improvement? Where does it all end? Why can’t we just let women be?
If I sound a little angry, it’s because I am. I’m sick of the hypocrisy of toxic beauty culture masquerading as acceptable advice. I’m frustrated with a hundred-billion-dollar industry preying on our vulnerabilities about postpartum changes and aging to make more money. I’m downright livid that crafty marketers and influencers are still turning massive profits essentially by making women feel bad about themselves.
We worry about the ways that social media is hurting our children, especially teen girls, with its unrealistic expectations, but what about what we’re doing to ourselves? Why are women’s looks constantly open for judgment and in need of improvement? Where does it all end? Why can’t we just let women be?
I don’t know about you, but all the time and energy I’ve spent feeling bad about myself over the years has been exhausting and demoralizing. Which, when you really get down to it, is probably the goal in a capitalist and patriarchal society. Because how can women truly thrive if we are exhausted and demoralized?
I’ve stopped trying to look younger, and instead I’m teaching myself to love the face I see in the mirror.
So while I won’t tell you what the right decision is for you, here’s what I’ve decided for myself. I will resist the onslaught of messages from social media, society and even ourselves that tells us we must look younger, thinner, prettier. I will rage against toxic beauty standards and diet culture. I will be intentional about what I do for my body and to my body. I exercise regularly, have tattoos, wear makeup and color my hair. And I have made the intentional choice to forgo Botox, magic serums and the general parade of cosmetic pressures. It isn’t just because I don’t have the time or money to spend on anything more than drug store makeup and the occasional hair dye job either. It’s because I want off of the never-ending treadmill of beauty regimens, diet culture and “anti-aging” snake oil schemes. (PSA: Anti-aging is a myth; we’re all aging.)
Believe me when I say that this is no small feat. I recovered from an eating disorder 20 years ago and dealt with disordered eating for another decade after that. It is hard work, and I am a work in progress. I still have days where I feel self-conscious about my wrinkles and cellulite. I still have days where I barely recognize the face looking back at me in the mirror. But most days, I try to look at the face I see with love and appreciation.
I’ve stopped trying to look younger, and instead I’m teaching myself to love the face I see in the mirror. Because I don’t just want to look like me, I want to feel like me too.