The Pressure of Procedures

Harri Bentley Photography

June 28, 2024

In life, let alone when planning a wedding, the temptation to alter our natural appearance can be overwhelming. How do we walk that wafer-thin line between doing things out of self-love rather than because of self-hate?

As technology advances and enticing new treatments promising pain-free improvements become available, it can be difficult not succumbing to the pressure of wanting to change our natural appearance. Intensified by social media and the culture of endless selfies, we now do more to our bodies and faces than we ever have before. It feels like life is made up of different milestones, and at each one there’s a new beauty standard to strive toward. But what is this seemingly endless pursuit of beauty really doing to our self-esteem?

While procedures and treatments can help us feel better about the parts of ourselves that we are self-conscious about, are the mental health benefits really working long term? Or are they just concealing something more sinister lurking beneath?

I am by no means a natural beauty. I get my eyebrows laminated and gel nails done. I’ve straightened and whitened my teeth; I’ve had laser hair removal and I occasionally get Botox. I’m covered in tattoos, and I’ve been fucking with my hair (yes, that’s the technical term) since I was a teenager. All these things make a difference to how I see myself, and definitely give me a little more confidence in my appearance. But I do think there’s a difference between doing things for self-expression and doing things because of a lack of self-esteem.

While Rock n Roll Bride has always advocated for self-love and acceptance, applying these principles to myself can, at times, still be challenging. I’m not immune to wondering if I’d look and feel better with just a little bit of filler, or if I was slimmer. Deep down, I think we all know that external alterations won’t resolve big, underlying issues, but the allure of these ‘quick fixes’ can be hard to resist.

We’ve also all seen the people who start with minor enhancements only to become unrecognisable over time. Have they truly come to love themselves more? I would hazard a guess that in most instances, the answer is no, and that actually they’ve just transferred the insecurity they had towards the first thing they got ‘fixed’ to something else. It’s a double-edged sword; while procedures can lead to improved self-image, they may also become addictive, unsustainable or ineffective over time. The initial satisfaction you had from your first treatment isn’t so easy to come by, so you do more, more, more!

The wedding industry is certainly not exempt from this phenomenon either, in fact at times it actively encourages it. You will still find horrifying articles in (other!) wedding magazines and online about “shedding for the wedding,” and if you’ve ever visited a mainstream wedding fair you may have even seen clinics offering cosmetic procedure packages for brides.

Yes, these things exist. Yes, we can do them to ourselves if we want to, but I do not think they should be marketed to us at a time when we are already pretty vulnerable. There’s nothing like the notion of “the biggest day of your life” where “all eyes will be on you” to make your self-esteem waver. And you know this already but I’m going to remind you anyway – your partner isn’t going to love you more because you had pre-wedding Botox or jawline filler.

Looking beautiful is an opinion, but feeling beautiful is a choice

You do not need to look like everyone you see on Instagram in order to feel like the most beautiful version of yourself. Also, let’s not forget, most of them don’t look like that in real life thanks to filters and apps like Facetune and FaceApp!

Which leads me to perhaps my most important point: it’s not about whether dieting, cosmetic procedures or things like laser hair removal are inherently good or bad. It’s about why they feel so essential in order to fit into what we think is beautiful.

Although I would never judge or discourage anyone from making changes to how they look, I would like to encourage all of us to ask ourselves why we want to do these things. Is it because we think the physical change will make us feel better emotionally? Because for most of us, I honestly doubt it will. If you have real self-esteem issues, it’s important to address these before attempting to offset them at a cosmetics clinic.

It’s a nuanced and complicated topic, that’s for sure. I wish I had a nice concise bow to tie this article up in; an overarching message about how we should reject all forms of aesthetic change on the outside in order to fully embrace loving who we are on the inside, but it’s just not as simple as that. I’m just one person with my own insecurities and visual preferences. I like having tattoos and long pink hair and I think I look better after I’ve had a little bit of Botox. These things help me feel more ‘me’… which is ironic really.

I do think there’s a different between doing things for self-expression and doing things for self-esteem though, and it’s up to us as individuals to decide what that looks like.

This article originally appeared in issue 53 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?