Today we discovered Superdrug are jumping on the cosmetic surgery bandwagon. They're going to become the first store to offer Botox and fillers on the high street (not that I think it deserves a congratulations!)
It's a sad indicator of a wider trend where young women are pressured into achieving 'body perfection'. According to recent press reports, the demand for lip fillers in 18-25 year olds has dramatically risen since Love Island was broadcast this summer.
Caris Newson, head of health and wellbeing services at Superdrug told The Telegraph, “We know from our research among 10,000 customers that feeling confident about how you look is linked to a person’s wellbeing, and that’s different for all of us. For some it might mean having their eyebrows threaded or getting their nails done, for others taking new vitamins or getting fitter, or it might be about smoothing out fine lines.”
This is extremely dangerous territory. Something like “smoothing out fine lines” and getting lip fillers inserted are concerned with permanently changing someone’s appearance. The fact that Superdrug see this as building confidence and wellbeing is devastating for girlhood and womanhood.
Cosmetic surgery has everything to do with seeking image perfection and abiding by 21st century beauty standards. It has everything to do with permanently changing our appearance to increase our self-satisfaction and attractiveness, yet is often hidden behind the false truth of "boosting our confidence and wellbeing".
Seeking image perfection and image-justification suggests to women that our bodies are a project to be worked upon to achieve perfection. Society deliberately creates the expectation that being perfected visually is what justifies us as human beings and makes us validated, loved and beautiful.
Our body and our image are then where our identity and value lie, rather than what God says about who we are. When we worship our bodies and our image and make them our idols, we take our eyes away from God.
As The Body Project - a collection of diary entries by teenage girls over time - proves, before World War I, girls rarely mentioned their bodies in terms of strategies for self-improvement or struggles for personal identity. Becoming a better person meant paying less attention to the self, giving more assistance to others.
This stands in stark contrast to a 21st century reflection which states, "I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can…I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got a new haircut, good make-up, new clothes and accessories".
Girls’ mindsets have shifted from internal, selfless character to outward, self-obsessed behaviour.
The rise of the ‘Instafamous’ on social media are promoting and normalising this culture. Their efforts are focused on creating a digitally perfected image (and life) but also, more dangerously, advertising cosmetic surgery (such as lip fillers).
Personally, I am fearful that the normalisation of such a permanent "treatment" qualifies its value and heightens its desirability among girls and women.
A better story
When I ponder the intricate work of the hands of God when he created us, I think of two verses in particular:
Proverbs 31:30 says “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Beauty fades due to its temporary nature. Instead of constantly assessing our bodies, we should assess the state of our hearts. As Christians we need to think seriously about how to authentically model this in our culture.
We need to be people concerned with the attitude of our hearts more than the attractiveness of our bodies.
We need to mentor and champion girls on their journey of life; discussing the pressures and realities of society.
We need to expose false truths and tell girls about their true value, beauty and purpose: that they are more than just what they look like.
I am gutted by Superdrug's decision to bring cosmetic surgery to the high street; making it more accessible, more normalised and more achievable. I am gutted that it sustains the view that who we are is what we look we like. I am gutted that it pressures girls into bodily perfection.
But, I will not remain gutted. I will become another loud voice advocating a different story and a different reality to girls about who they are; where their value lies, what makes them beautiful and what God says about who he’s made them to be.
Jessie Smart is youth work coordinator at St Michael's Church, Southfields and the author of new book More Than Just Pretty: Discovering your true value, beauty and purpose (SPCK)