Beauty is in the mind of the beholder

I first posted this on facebook on 6/18/18:

I’ve been on a kick of reading and watching videos about extreme plastic surgery. The psychology behind it really fascinates me. How can these patients see their before-bodies so differently than everyone else does? How can they think these extreme surgeries, like H-sized breasts and 60-inch booties, look good? Am I wrong to think people with healthy body image would always prefer a natural look? Etc.

But this jag has had consequences! I never looked at a single one of the women after surgery and thought “I want to look like that!” I usually felt horrified and thought “Thank goodness I can appreciate what I have naturally.” But then the next time I saw myself in the mirror, I thought “I look so boyish!” Despite the fact that I think the ginormous boobs and asses look ridiculous, somewhere in my mind I’m comparing myself to that. It’s the strongest evidence I’ve ever personally experienced that seeing unrealistic body types screws up your internal standards. I repeat, I never even liked the way these women looked. I was nothing but sad for them (wrong and puritanical though that may be of me) that they had ruined their bodies because they thought they needed to be more extreme-looking. And yet seeing them made me view myself as more flat and deflated. The effect faded the longer it had been since I watched one of the videos.

This effect blew me away and has made me take the idea of a “healthy media diet” more seriously.


Sure enough, since I gave up on this habit, I have seen myself pretty much like I used to. But I’m glad I experienced this powerful example of the need to protect yourself from fake or extreme “data” that contaminates your unconscious mental models. It’s not enough to know consciously that something is false or exaggerated– the operative portion of your brain may not.

Seeing how easy it is to break my perceptions of curviness has also made me more confident that other people’s perceptions of your body don’t matter. For that matter, my perceptions of other people’s bodies don’t matter. Beauty really is in the mind of the beholder, and who knows what sort of junk went in there?


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