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Self-Definition: The Only Makeover You'll Ever Need

By Dr. Idara E. Bassey

Maybe it's just me, but the increasing number of reality television shows based on transforming their female participants through plastic surgery has got me concerned. As these hopeful young women stuff, slice, and dye their God-given bodies into a shell of its original packaging, one has to wonder about the "self" that is left behind. Has it been healed by this "transformation?" Are its hopes, dreams and unique quirks gone with the wave of a scalpel? Or even more alarming, what "self" is in charge now? What is its frame of reference? Is it doomed to be no more substantive than what lies on the surface?

I have wrestled with the question of whether make-up can ever be truly flattering when the wearer is living a lie. So, by extension, what of the woman trying to create a new life experience by some strategically placed veneers or silicone?

The truth of the matter (and the one that brings forth an authentic glow that surgery would be hard pressed to replicate) is to proceed in the world with one's true "self" intact- in all its apparent kookiness and supposed "faults." In letting this self and its accompanying frame of reference take the lead, in time, the optimal ways for us to "show up" in the world- both internally and externally- will be revealed.

Now I do not mean to suggest that we withhold surgical correction for those who are born with birth defects, or in a situation where it is otherwise medically necessary. I am speaking to the all-too common trend these days, where one is suddenly seized with an overwhelming urge to look like the celebrity du jour. Would Barbra Streisand be so distinctively Barbra without her nose? Perhaps even she realized on a subconscious level that she would not be going through this life as a shrinking violet (given her status as a creative force to reckon with), and that she needed a nose that was up to the task. Must we all look like J. Lo? How many more Jennifer Anistons do we need?

For the deeper and more serious concern is while we are lusting after the assorted body parts of the women that parade across center stage in the media, the task of being distinctively ourselves is left on the cutting room floor. And our true self, far from being defined by our special gifts or our ways of doing and being, would then be at the mercy of what (or who) is "in." Sadly, our newly "transformed" sisters may soon find that they are treating themselves with the same degree of superficiality and lack of regard.

I am a realist and I am fully aware of how one's appearance can have an impact on how societal rewards are meted out and how one is treated. However, is there nothing more reassuring (if not sexy) than a woman who knows herself, her truth and lives it boldly, societal dictates be damned? Can someone with the tell-tale "deer in headlights" demeanor of the perpetually Botoxed compete with someone with this type of presence and energy? Can we consider stepping out of the box and proposing a standard of beauty that doesn't change by the end of Fashion Week- perhaps revising it to include a demonstrated comfort in one's skin coupled with fierce self-love?

While we race to submit to the latest procedure, it is tempting to believe (once the bandages are off) that the "new and improved" facade that redirects the paparazzi flash bulbs in our direction holds the answer. However, the more subtle, long-term process of knowing yourself and seeing how this knowledge informs and shapes our life experience, is something no surgeon, no matter how skilled, can facilitate.

2005 © One Light Messenger All rights reserved.

About The Author
Dr. Idara E. Bassey is author of Reflections of a Mystical Sistah: On Traveling Down the Road to Self-Definition (iUniverse, 2004) and can be reached via her website at


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