In today’s era of clickable reality and social media blitzes, it’s no secret that plastic surgery culture is thriving like it never has before. Celebrities and influencers who casually share their surgical or injectable journeys with their fans contribute greatly to the normalization of cosmetic procedures, as does our ability to airbrush our selfies before posting.

If everyone looks so perfect and polished, why shouldn’t anyone? And if everyone is doing something, it can’t be dangerous or outrageous, right?

While these questions are in no way intended to judge anyone who has chosen to undergo a cosmetic procedure, they are intended to promote critical thinking.

Though it’s true many cosmetic procedures aren’t invasive enough to pose serious physical risks, preexisting psychological conditions, and/or hidden psychological dangers are often glossed over or omitted from discussion.

Given that cosmetic procedures work to “solve” aesthetic issues (which are largely subjective), it’s unsurprising that many patients remain unsatisfied post-op, even when their procedures were deemed successful. This is because dissatisfaction with one’s appearance tends to originate from insecurities—which are inherently inoperable!

Tal Shaish’s story

Today, Tal Shaish is a happily married couples counsellor and the mother of 10-year-old twins. She survived bomb attacks in her home country and preeclampsia during her pregnancy. But last year she experienced a similar crisis to so many of us — she became so insecure about her body that she saved up her money to get plastic surgery that would bring her back to her “pre-baby” self.

She consulted fashion magazines and selected her perfect “new self.” When the plastic surgeon took a black Sharpie to every part of her body, noting what “needed” to be “fixed” to make her “good as new.”

“As he was leaving the room, I felt weird,” Shaish recalled. “I felt dizzy. I looked in the mirror at the lines of battle drawn all over my face with Sharpie, and I didn’t want to be as good as new.”

Shaish had a powerful realization. All the perceived flaws in her body were actually markers of the powerful, meaningful life of a survivor and mother. She empowered herself to walk out of that plastic surgery clinic, never to return.

I got my wish. My body is beautiful. My body is as good as it has always been.

Tal Shaish

Good as new?

Although some statistics insist that people are happier post cosmetic surgery, one has to wonder how happiness is defined (and experienced) in these studies. Happiness, after all, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

A recent report demonstrated that from 2000-2016, cosmetic surgery procedures rose by 132%. From 2000-2014, the amount of money spent on Botox by Americans increased by 748% to $2,475,908,568. Half of those patients are repeat customers, with many developing plastic surgery addictions. Overall, 85% of patients are women.

Although it’s not easy to break away from societal programming that tells us we’d be better off looking smoother, brighter, tighter, or younger, if you actually want to cultivate true self-love— which includes a love of your body.

Here are 5 ways to love yourself, no surgery required:

1. Celebrate your strengths and unique abilities

Learn to love your body by focusing on everything it enables you to do: walk, run, climb, dance, teach, and/or anything else. The key is to focus on what your body can do versus what it can’t.

When you do something active, appreciate the fact that you can. A healthy, active body is beautiful, and for some, exercise can be a great way of celebrating this — provided it’s approached from a place of self-love rather than self-hatred, of course.

2. Stop looking to others for approval or disapproval

That person over there probably wasn’t judging you. They may even have been checking you out. And if they were judging you, they’re probably just insecure themselves.

Bottom line: stop judging yourself and get on with your life.

3. Recognize that numbers are deeply limiting

Don’t let yourself be defined by your size or weight. We’re so much more than a set of numbers, every last one of us. How you feel, for example, is more important than how you appear—and the latter is deeply subjective, of course.

Fact: health has never been determined by size, symmetry, or flawless skin. Focus on feeling good and the rest will follow.

4. Don’t body-shame yourself— or others

Group friendships can sometimes bring out the worst in us: if your friends are constantly  trashing their own looks, yours, or that of others—even subtly, chances are you’re participating in this behavior too. Might be time to reassess who you share time with. And stop buying into comparisons—they breed self-loathing, and are deeply reductive, since we’re all uniquely complex.

5. Nourish yourself

Loving yourself as you are means your time is better spent cultivating healthy body and mind habits than trying to fit into a deeply mainstream (and often very uninteresting) notion of what attractive looks like. Stop approaching caring for your body as a chore.

As a general rule: get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious food. Diet should be about what’s right for you, not someone else. Stay away from anything that leaves you feeling gross, unsatisfied, or sick, and you should be good to go.