10 things to consider before getting plastic surgery

Recent Ditch the Label revealed that 1 in 2 of us want to change how we look, with people as young as 13 now considering things like plastic surgery, botox and liposuction in order to feel good about themselves.

Given the ever-rising rate of young people seeking to alter their appearance with invasive cosmetic surgery, we have compiled 10 things to seriously take into consideration before making that decision.

1. Surgeons cannot fix how you feel on the inside.
In order to manage expectations of how you will feel post-procedure, it is important to be realistic about the outcome of you undergoing cosmetic surgery; remember that surgeons deal solely with the physical aspects of your appearance – unfortunately there is no quick fix for low self-esteem or more serious issues such as body dysmorphia.

If you lack confidence, have low self-esteem or think you might be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, it is very unlikely that undergoing cosmetic surgery and changing your physical appearance will improve how you feel on the inside.

Low self-esteem can have harmful effects on your mental health, your decisions about your appearance and ultimately your future. We advise taking some time to work on the way you see yourself – maybe even see a therapist to work through any unresolved issues you might have about your appearance before turning to something as permanent as surgery. You can access a support guide on how to combat low self-esteem here.

Realise that no two people look the same. Some people have prominent birthmarks, some people have freckles, some have black hair, some are tall, broad, skinny – the list is endless! That’s okay. Try not to base your idea of beauty on other people – set your own standards. Acknowledge the things you like about yourself and focus in on them. Even if you struggle with this process at first, as you become more comfortable in your own skin, this list will grow and your self-esteem will improve.

“1 in 2 of us want to change how we look, with people as young as 13 now considering things like plastic surgery, botox and liposuction in order to feel good about themselves”

2. Seek advice from your local GP.
It is vital you seek advice from a medical professional such as your local GP before you book a consultation with a surgeon. If you have decided that you definitely want to undergo cosmetic surgery despite the risks involved, ask your GP to give you a personal recommendation. Make sure you book your consultation with a reputable and well-known clinic. Be extremely thorough, do your homework and check out the potential surgeon here. They are a reputable regulatory body for the medical industry, who perform annual checks on all clinics and every individual who practises.

3. Don’t buy into bargain surgery.
It is easy to be swayed by enticingly cheap prices, especially if you feel like you want the procedure done yesterday. But if the price sounds too good to be true, then it most probably is. The cost of falling for ‘bargain surgery’ could be much more than just financial; it will be your body that permanently pays the price.
Be aware that surgeons work to commission and so it is likely that other treatments and procedures will be suggested to you along the way. Avoid making any spontaneous decisions and don’t feel pressured to commit to anything you don’t want. If you do feel pressured at any point, we would advise looking for another clinic and surgeon, where you feel comfortable and able to express your opinions and concerns.

4. Get at least 2 consultations.
It is crucial not to rush a decision of this magnitude. Remember that by undergoing cosmetic surgery you will be irrevocably altering your appearance.

A very important part of the process is going for consultations. Try two different clinics at the very least and make sure you take a family member, guardian, or trusted friend with you to ask questions in case you forget any key ones. It can be overwhelming hearing a lot of information in a very short space of time, so make sure you take notes as well.
We advise looking on the General Medical Council website. They have a wealth of information and you can look up surgeons to make sure that all of their qualifications are up-to-date. These are checked every five years by the GMC.

5. If in doubt, don’t.
If you are having even a shred of doubt about your chosen surgeon the worst thing you can do is ignore those feelings. As a rule of thumb when in doubt, don’t. Be patient with the process and wait until you find the right surgeon to perform the procedure. Research, research, research. You only have one body and it is deserving of a trustworthy and reputable surgeon.

“Try not to base your idea of beauty on other people – set your own standards”

6. Know the risks.
As the cosmetic industry still remains largely unregulated even the most sensible individual can fall prey to unexpected issues and problems with their chosen procedure. Do you know the risks associated with the procedure you are considering? If not, we highly recommend you find them out.

7. Realise that the results won’t be immediate.
Your body will need time to heal after the procedure. This is not a process that can be rushed, so be patient with yourself and listen to the experts on how you can aid your body through the recovery before you start judging the immediate results.

8. What are you hoping to gain?
Be honest with yourself – only you know what you are hoping to gain from altering your appearance. Talk it all through with someone you trust and whose opinion you respect. Take the time to really understand what you want from the procedure and why. Analyse whether undergoing cosmetic surgery is really the answer/solution and the best possible decision you can make for yourself and your life going forward.

9. Know exactly what the procedure entails.
Medical jargon can be intimidating and is often hard to understand so don’t be embarrassed to ask what exactly is being done to you. Make sure you are also 100% aware of the risks involved – there are no stupid questions; it is your body that is being altered and your money that is being spent. Don’t be afraid to speak up and remember you are in control of the situation.

“Analyse whether undergoing cosmetic surgery is really the answer/solution and the best possible decision you can make for yourself and your life going forward”

10. Have no shame.
If you have decided that undergoing cosmetic surgery is absolutely the thing you want to do, even after you have taken into consideration all of the risks and above points, then feel no shame in going ahead with it. If you feel that people are judging you/will judge you because of this choice, remember that your happiness takes precedent over their opinion. Nobody should tell you whether or not to have surgery – what you do with your body is your choice.

However, choosing to have a cosmetic procedure is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Make sure you fully understand your options, what’s motivating you to get the surgery and what the risks are. Many people have positive experiences of plastic surgery; they say it’s helped build their confidence or given them the freedom to express themselves. Cosmetic procedures may be a reassuring solution for people who’ve experienced physical disfigurement through illness, for example, or for people who are experiencing a lot of discomfort (like women who choose to get a breast reduction to eliminate the back pain that having particularly large breasts may cause them).

Nevertheless, society and the media puts a huge amount of pressure on people to look a certain way which can leave us feeling like we are lacking. Perhaps it’s this that’s the real problem – not the way you look. Don’t let society or anyone else dictate what you look like. Everyone is different, so concentrate on embracing your individuality and loving yourself.

Ultimately this is your body and you have the right to do what is best for you – just be sure that you are fully informed and in safe hands.

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We spoke to Connie Chiu – the world’s first albinistic fashion model

DtL:  Hi Connie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your story so far? 

Connie: I was born in Hong Kong, and come from a big family; I have three sisters and one brother. We moved to Sweden and grew up in a society where solidarity and equality was encouraged and taught in school. There I studied arts and radio journalism and never planned to become a model. My big sister studied fashion design and asked me to model for her college show – I enjoyed it and got good feedback from friends and family, so I wanted to see how far I could take it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but there were people I admired in the industry and wanted to work with. I posted a black and white photo of myself with my name and phone number on the back to the French designer Jean Paul Gaultier. A few months later I was invited to Paris and did my second catwalk – for Jean Paul Gaultier! My career took off from there really; photoshoots for magazines such as Dazed and Confused, advertising, TV commercials…

DtL: What would you say has been your recipe for success?

Connie: Being myself. Don’t get me wrong, it takes time and work to get to know yourself and grow into the person you are happy and comfortable with. I think you work best with people if you are quite secure as a person, you can be open to new ideas and experiences on your own terms.

And good timing. When I first started modelling, there was no other model with my look, or albinism. I was quite surprised when a makeup artist called me a ‘pioneer’, on reflection, I suppose it was true. My priority and focus was to do good work, creating beautiful images.

DtL: How do you feel the media represents people with Albinism? What needs to change?

Connie: I don’t mind fairytale and science fiction inspired images, as long as there is variety and balance overall in the images and movie characters representing or represented by people with albinism. I can tell you from my own experience that these things matter and do influence people’s view on those with albinism. Many years ago there was a Chinese horror film featuring a character called ‘White Hair Devil Woman’; some Chinese people who thought I didn’t understand the language called me by this name. Last year, in a Chinese restaurant in Central London, a young Chinese waiter said to me that my hair was beautiful. ‘Like Frozen’, he added. ‘Thank you,’ I replied with a smile, ‘But no magic’.

 

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DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying or negativity based on attitudes towards your appearance? If so can you tell us what happened and how you overcame the experience.

Connie: I think some people make assumptions about me based on my condition and my appearance. I was not bullied in school, but every now and then, people try to provoke or upset me. Once I was in Hong Kong, travelling on the underground by myself and after a while I felt that someone was staring at me. The population in Hong Kong is mainly Chinese and not mixed, like for example, London is. So I do understand that some people in Hong Kong are curious and can’t help but look. But this was different. I turned around and glanced at a couple of women who were staring at me; their faces were twisted with anger and hate. The tension was tangible; they were standing a few feet from me. There were plenty of people in the carriage, and that probably stopped them from verbally or physically attacking me. How did I deal with that situation? Well, it became quite clear to me that their intent was to make me feel hated; it wasn’t enough that they hated me. So, I decided not to be bothered by them. I was calm and relaxed as if I hadn’t noticed them. They were strangers and I had not done anything to upset them. Their feelings and attitudes had nothing to do with me, but with their own issues. A few stops later, the two women were getting ready to get off the train. It was fascinating to see the change in their demeanour; they turned very timid, apologetic and almost scared of the other passengers as they carefully stepped off the train.

DtL: What challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?

Connie: My condition comes with some physical challenges, such as light-sensitive eyesight, and skin that is sensitive to sunlight. I have learnt to live with it. The same could be said about dealing with people’s attitudes, for example, there is a difference between staring and staring. Most people are just curious and are in general nice and positive. Others want to insult and make you feel inferior. Those people are in general, unhappy, frustrated, scared, and probably in great need of support and understanding.

DtL: Do you find modelling empowering?

Connie: It can be. I always ask and discuss ideas before accepting a modelling job.

In many ways it is more empowering to be an independent jazz vocalist. As a model, you portray and become part of someone else’s idea. But as a jazz vocalist, I choose the songs, the style and the image I want the audience to see.

DtL: Our research not only revealed that 47% of young people want to change the way they look, but appearance was also cited as the number one aggressor of bullying. What advice would you give to readers who may be struggling to embrace their appearance?

Connie: Would people who are happy and secure in their own skin bully other people? No. People that bully are always scared and often jealous. I would like to say to everyone, including those that bully others, don’t always believe what people say about you. Be strong, be kind and find your own way in life.

DtL: If you could go back in time what would you tell your younger self?

Connie: Keep going. You’re on the right track. Remember to be kind and treasure people who help you and love you for who and all that you are.

 

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DtL: At Ditch, we believe it is our differences that make us unique, and find they are often our strengths! What is the best thing about having albinism?

Connie: Not letting albinism define me. Not letting any one label define me. This may be surprising, but I think having albinism enables me to understand how complex identity can be. I appreciate all the things I am; not in any particular order, being Chinese, being a woman, growing up in Sweden and having a Swedish nationality, having albinism, loving jazz, being a chocoholic… I don’t want just one aspect of me to define and limit what I am, and what I want to do. I like my white hair, pale skin and violet eyes. But I also like my Chinese features. You see…complex.

DtL: What does the future hold for you?

Connie: I am in discussions with a photographer; we are planning to collaborate on a project – lots of close ups of face and body in beautiful landscapes. It will be on location, probably a beautiful beach somewhere. I love doing photoshoots on location.

I have just done an interview with a French magazine that will be published in a couple of months and I am also preparing for a gig next month singing songs from my debut EP, My Huckleberry Songs. I already have two music videos on YouTube and will release a new video soon.

So all in all, more modelling and more music. You can find my music on my YouTube channel.

http://conniechiu.com/

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Plus size style & lifestyle blogger Stephanie Yeboah on how she turned self-hate into self-love

The 25th of July 2012 is a day I’ll never forget.

I was alone, doubled-over in a hospital in Barcelona, violently trying to throw up the remnants of some diet pills that I’d bought online in the hopes that I’d lose a substantial amount of weight. I was 23-years-old and obsessed with staying thin; what was important to me at the time, was that my tummy was flat and I could buy clothes from the main ranges of high street stores. Yet, even though I was the smallest I had ever been, I was suffering from severe depression, low self-esteem and had virtually no self-confidence.

Growing up I’d always been chubby, and up until the age of 10 I was pretty okay with that; I was confident and happy in myself and never gave my size a second thought. It wasn’t until I started secondary school aged 11, that my perception of myself started to change, and the bullying began.

Over the years I would have to endure both verbal and physical abuse from a group of boys at my school. I was beaten up, spat on, chemically burned, sexually harassed and assaulted – all of which resulted in many broken bones, bruises and more significantly, a complete loss of confidence and self-belief. I was told every day at school that I was ‘worthless’ and that no one would ever want to be in a relationship with me, because I was fat and dark skinned. They told me I deserved to be raped, because ‘no one else would take me’ and that I should end my own life because I was a waste of space.

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Stephanie now

It was at this point that I first tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful.

School left me resentful of who I was; in my eyes I was fat and grotesque and I honestly thought that no one would ever want, or love me. I thought my size was punishment for something bad I had done in a previous life. I envied girls my age who were smaller than me and having those first-time teenage experiences that I thought I would never have because of my weight. The self-hatred was unbearable. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I saw an ugly, dark-skinned girl who was going nowhere in life. I saw the person that the people that bullied me, had me believe I was.

This not only had impact on my mental wellbeing, but it also affected my ability to communicate with people; I became quiet, withdrawn and socially awkward in the company of others.

I decided enough was enough; I was sick of being held prisoner in such a body, so I tried to lose weight any way I could by dieting, starving myself, throwing up food I had eaten, taking diet pills and binging on laxatives. I lost four stone, and while I physically looked ‘socially acceptable’, inside I felt disgusting.

The experience in Barcelona was the final straw. I realised that being slim wasn’t everything and that I was damaging my body just like the people that bullied me had done once upon a time. In a sense, I was letting them win. I vowed, that from that day forward I would try my best to be strong, to mend my self-esteem and rebuild my confidence. Of course, it wasn’t easy, and I had help along the way; I saw a therapist and talked about how I was feeling and I was also prescribed anti-depressants to help me through, but eventually, I reached a place where I could finally say I was in love with my body.

I still have days – just like everyone else on this planet – where I am not 100% confident in myself but if you had told me four years ago that I would be comfortable posing in nothing more than a bikini I would have laughed at you. I never, ever thought it possible that I could come to terms with my body, let alone love it and have someone else love it. But I have, and I do and someone else does too!

Yes, I’m fat. Yes, I may not have what society regards as the ‘ideal’ physique but in my eyes, I am good enough.

I am me.

Written by Stephanie Yeboah 

www.nerdabouttown.com

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Meet the GRL PWR Gang, a collective of girls set for world domination.

We interviewed Artist/Designer Elizabeth Ilsley, Photographer/Director Millicent Hailes and Marketing Consultant Jessica Riches; just three members of GRL PWR Gang, a collective of influential women who have joined forces to promote female empowerment and support other women working in creative industries. 

Founded by Kirsti Hadley and Kylie Griffiths, the GRL PWR Gang works together to provide opportunities for like-minded women to come together for girl-chat, media networking, creative support, team projects and sharing of ideas.

Their objective is to encourage and inspire other young women to access the creative industries as a potential career path, and plan to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation of young girls via digital engagement and live events. They will soon host talks and mentor young girls on body image, beauty, feminism, social media and how to access that dream job!

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DTL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences?

  • Jessica: It’s true. But if you’re prepared for that, you can be aware of it. Call it out when you see it, know your rights, educate yourself and join any organisations or unions available to you for extra support.
  • Millicent: It’s really sad. There have been shoots in the past where I have been mistaken for the assistant, and my male assistant is assumed to be the photographer, just because he’s an older guy. This has happened before we’ve even set up or spoken to anyone, so it really is based purely on gender, and who is perceived to be the most ‘capable’ or ‘powerful’. It frustrates me, but ignorance isn’t going to keep me from furthering my career.

DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?

  • Elizabeth: Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I experienced bullying throughout primary and secondary school. I had ginger hair and have a prominent mole next to my mouth, so kids used to tease me constantly about my appearance. I was in such turmoil during that time; I tried to cut my mole off with a razor when I was in Year 8, after a group of boys wouldn’t stop calling me ‘moley’! But my god, I am so glad I never had it removed – having a noticeable mole on my face makes me unique, and it has become one of my favourite features now!
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Elizabeth Ilsley
  • Millicent: One of the many times I was suspended at school, was for not intervening in a situation when I was aware that a girl was being bullied. Maybe the teachers thought that, because I was outspoken and confident, I should have stepped in and helped the girl. My mum always tells that story to my little brother and sister who are just starting secondary school – the tale of when their older sister was a coward. I still feel really awful about it now.
  • Jessica: All you have to do is go online to see the disgusting abuse directed at people – particularly women, LGBT+ people and ethnic minorities. I work with a number of bloggers, journalists and celebrities on their personal profiles online, and it makes them want to give up their platform. All you can do is tell them to focus on the people who are positively impacted by their words; they far outweigh the cowardly, unhappy few.

DTL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying right now?

  • Millicent: Tell somebody right away – a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t isolate yourself, situations seem worse when you feel alone, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. More than you think.
  • Jessica: You are not alone. If you can’t get a support network in real life it will definitely exist online – Ditch the Label is a great example of this. You can visit their website and access support at the click of a button if you need to.

DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

  • Elizabeth: You are not ugly. You are as funny and important as everyone else at school. There is no one else like you and life will get really, really fun as soon as you turn 18. Also, stop worrying about the colour of your hair and the socks that you wear.
  • Millicent: Embrace who you are. Wear weird clothes, watch weird movies. You’re great and don’t give a s*&% if someone says otherwise.
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Millicent Hailes

DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?

  • Jessica: Being taken seriously as a young woman in business is hard. So many people have said to me ‘you’ve done so much for a girl so young’. They’d never say anything like that if I was a man.

DTL: What is it like to be a woman in 2016 and what needs to change?

  • Jessica: I have a very specific experience of being a woman in 2016, as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman with a degree and a middle-class background. I deal with sexist comments disguised as compliments, and have probably lost out on some income as a result of this – but I’m one of the lucky ones. There are lots of mainstream movements to make life better for women in 2016, but the majority of movements still need to broaden, listen to, and represent the needs of all women, not just those like me.
  • Millicent: Even in 2016 it’s important to remember how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have to go for gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Elizabeth: I want to keep this positive so, to be a woman in 2016 is…fun! Not in every aspect, of course, but in the main, it is incredibly fun! We are free to express ourselves, and there are opportunities out there for us – you just gotta find them.
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Jessica Riches

DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?

  • Millicent: I’m always available to speak to anybody that needs my help or advice. I might not be as good as Ditch The Label, but I’m still here!
  • Elizabeth: Enjoy being a woman – it’s a blessing, but don’t hate on men. Men are a blessing too!

Learn more about GRL PWR Gang here: Girls Girls Girls

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Read our full Gender Report here: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/gender-report-2016/

Whether you are being bullied, or you are aware of someone who is, Ditch the Label is here to help: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/

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