My big, fat, spiritual transgression
I did something spiritual women are NOT supposed to do.
Cheated on my husband? no. Gorged myself on McDonalds? Also no.
I had facial plastic surgery.
Gasp. I know. I’m a very naughty girl and it’s only a matter of time before the word gets out and the spiritual people disown me.
Jokes aside, there was some life curriculum in my process that someone may find valuable.
Let me begin by saying I’ve wanted a more symmetrical nose since I was 14. I had a severely deviated septum that impaired my breathing for most of my life, and every surgeon who has examined my nose, has asked when I broke it. I don’t know, but if I fell on my face it happened very young.
Now, I could easily tell you I had rhinoplasty primarily to fix my septum so I could breathe, and you’d be far more likely to approve of me, but that would be a lie. I had surgery because I’ve never liked my nose.
I had some hurtful comments made throughout the years about my nose. The awareness that my nose will continue to grow for the rest of my life pained me. It never felt quite like me. And while I have overcome numerous deep-seated insecurities about how I look, this one persisted.
Through all the therapy, all the meditation, all the personal development work.
If you’re like me circa oooh 2021 and before, you probably find it acceptable for conventionally ugly people to get plastic surgery, but if pretty people do it we pity them a bit— oh to be so vain, so superficial, so narcissistic. Seeking perfection to be lovable. They must be in so much emotional pain.
And I was so invested in that narrative as the only truth that I kept trying to fit myself inside it. Maybe I hate myself more than I realize… maybe I am pretty fucked up. Happy, healthy humans don’t want plastic surgery.
And yet… I am in fact a healthy happy human. And I did still want surgery. And look… I did it, and I don’t regret it. I’m not fucked up about it. I’d do it again! I only wish I hadn’t put myself through so much emotional agony ahead of time.
An obsession with perfecting the meat suit is a bottomless pit, of that I am sure. But, like anything in life, we get to pick our battles. I did the deep work to love my cellulite, 30lbs of weight gain, and stretch marks. I didn’t keep putting myself on a 1500 calorie a day diet and go to HIIT classes 5 days a week for a flat stomach. I accepted the new shape.
But guess what! If I had dieted and exercised my way to barbie-bod, I would have been applauded for my discipline, and for taking such good care of myself. Regardless of the fact that it would have actually been objectively harmful to my physical and mental health.
If my reproductive organs stopped feeling like “me” and I wanted to switch them up, I’d also be applauded for my bravery. But the nose? Only vapid celebrities fall into that camp.
Achieving some desired symmetry on my face feels more loving than the mental space it takes up to feel self-conscious about lighting and angles in photos or at restaurants.
And at some point I realized that it was actually loving for me to allow myself this particular desire. Without all the shame. Without the story. Without it needing to define the type of person I am.
I am a woman in an insidious beauty culture and I surrendered this particular self-love battle for a shortcut.
But enough explaining why you shouldn’t hate me for it (cause you’re entitled to whatever opinion you want!).
Life lessons in the process:
1. More compassion.
Much deeper compassion for women who starve themselves, rather than the pity and superiority-tinged version I had before. More compassion for the men who use steroids, the women who have giant false eyelashes and enormous lips, the ones who never leave the house without a full face of makeup, and those who are 75 and look 45 and surprised. More compassion for men with face tattoos and all the people who love face-altering instagram filters. Truly.
I cannot actually know what other factors drove those choices, if they came from love or self-loathing. And it’s none of my goddamn business. People get to dress up their meat suit however the hell they want. There is no prize for who gives the fewest fucks about their appearance. That is not the Gondola ride to heaven or enlightenment.
Compassion, on the other hand, might be. Which leads me to life lesson #2.
2. Spiritual morality is a heavy construct to carry around.
I had some internalized puritanical nonsense dressed up in new age clothes I needed to let go of. Namely, that the utmost value is to become an enlightened human, and enlightened humans are completely unattached to appearances. And if you do care how you look, the universe will teach you ego death lessons in painful ways until you let go of your attachment. In service to your soul’s evolution, of course.
Superior humans (mature, wise, pure-hearted, healed ones) meditate away insecurities, embrace aging with gusto, and go 100% au naturelle with their appearance.
Maybe you’ve already sniffed out that this is basically the Christian, “God will punish you for your sins” story.
I was genuinely terrified that my surgery would go horribly wrong and I’d have to live the rest of my life with a disfigured nose as karmic retribution for my vanity. My mom instilled this one in me from a young age— any desire for beauty = shameful, and will lead to suffering.
Which was my other lesson.
3. Shame is an asshole, exposure is the antidote.
Which shame is worse— the shame of feeling like my nose detracts from the beauty of my face or the shame of caring how I look?It’s a trick question. Shame begets more shame, and as Brené Brown correctly writes, it grows with judgment, secrecy and silence.
Rather than reinforce the story that my desire for a nose upgrade is shameful, I took a different approach. I told my friends. I told the truth when people asked. I’m here writing about it. I exposed myself.
It required owning my desire, owning my humanity, owning my choice. Being ok with the fact that some people are going disapprove, make assumptions, project their own feelings about themselves, etc. It’s vulnerable, but the shame shrivels in the light.
I was most scared to tell my therapist. She’s known me for years, I respect her deeply, and I really want her to see the mature, wise, pure-hearted, and healed version of me. I distinctly remember telling her, “I just want someone to give me permission.” She didn’t miss a beat. “I give you permission.”
I sobbed in relief, “I’m allowed to want this?” And she nodded. “It doesn’t make me a bad person?” And she shook her head. “It doesn’t meant I’m broken?” She shook her head again.
That’s the kind of therapist I wish everyone had. And trust me, this woman is no pushover. She calls bullshit the second she smells it, challenges the shit out of your stories, and does not let you squirm out of a damn thing. So the permission moments, the reminder that spiritual morality is made up, is trustable.
In addition, she very astutely observed that two people can make the exact same choice, and for one it’s coming from dysfunction, and from another it’s not.
And you too. You are so lovable in all your “un-evolved”, not-fully-enlightened-yet parts. Your desires, your secret wishes.
I know it.
If you found this valuable, by all means tell me!
If you’re feeling the urge to criticize my choice, kindly keep that to yourself.
Upgraded nose, same heart and soul,