Debra F.’s daughter Rebecca, 18, hated her nose.
“She had a little bump, and she wanted to get the tip shortened,” says Debra, who lives in Oak Park, Calif. “Every time she looked in the mirror and at photos of herself, all she could see was her nose.”
In June, with her mother’s full support, Rebecca had a rhinoplasty performed. “It had to do with how she was projecting herself and her confidence,” says Debra, “so I was all for it.” She adds that four months later, Rebecca, now a freshman in college, loves the way she looks and is studying musical theater to become a singer.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 87,000 cosmetic surgical procedures were performed on teens between the ages of 13 and 19 in 2007, about an 8% increase from 2002. The top 3 procedures were rhinoplasty (a “nose job”--about 39,000), breast reduction in boys (about 16,000), and ear surgery or otoplasty (about 8,000).
Media and Peer Pressure
Many teens struggle with their self-esteem when they begin puberty, as their bodies go through changes. These feelings of insecurity and inadequacy are coupled with a natural desire to feel accepted and to compare themselves with the glamorized images they see everywhere—in ads, on TV, in movies, online--of how they are “supposed” to look.
“Gee, Ugly Betty isn't about someone with an ugly personality, is it?” asks Robin F. Goodman, a New York-based clinical psychologist and art therapist. “We know that deep down she's a good person, but the whole title of the show is a take-off on her ugly looks. Sure, many teens understand there are poor role models, but there are others in their world who are attractive, thin, rich, and seemingly happy.”
But the media aren’t the only culprits. Peers “can be ruthless or supportive,” says Goodman, and parents, too, can fall prey to the media hype and are a powerful influence on teens’ self-image. “Unfortunately, we do very little as a society to cultivate differences and uniqueness,” says Wendy Darling, founder of Thumbprints International, an organization that works with families to give children confidence and self-esteem