Elective Cosmetic Surgery & Happiness

by Geraldine P

This paper responds to a growing trend in North America of having elective cosmetic surgery performed in the hope of achieving happiness. This paper examines happiness as defined by Sara Ahmed as a wish that motivate cosmetic surgery. It examines works such as that of Henderson-King and Brookes that finds that women specifically, are having cosmetic surgery in order to improve self-esteem, social life and career prospects. This paper concludes that women report higher levels of confidence as well as of personal satisfaction, which can be all seen as signs of a “happy” person. In this pursuit of happiness, this paper recommends that agents undergoing cosmetic surgery should pursue a Golden ratio ideal instead of trying to recreate the Anglo American beauty ideal. The route of the Golden Ratio will be more likely than not achieve satisfying results as it will be in harmony, and proportion of beauty found in nature.


When the conversation of cosmetic surgery arises, should we view women as agents that are conforming to externally imposed beauty norms? Or should they be seen as making the autonomous decision to better them selves in the pursuit of happiness (Henderson-King and Brooks 133). Ahmed defines happiness as “a kind of wish that motivates where we look for it.” Should we approach cosmetic surgery with a relational model of autonomy, as defined by Kunda describes cosmetic surgery as “another motive for improving appearance” (Henderson-King and Brooks 134). Cosmetic surgery can be seen as a choice for not only solely performed in order to improve self -esteem but also for the purpose “of enhancing one’s attractiveness in the eyes of others to improving one’s social and career prospects” (Henderson-King and Brooks 134). My goal in this paper is to bring light to the relational model of autonomy, which is composed of both extrinsic and intrinsic forces that may bring a person to making the decision to not only subject themselves but also invest in plastic surgery.

Works Cited

Bartky, S. L. (1982). Narcissism, femininity, alienation. Social Theory and Practice. 8. 127–144.

Dingman, S et al. (2014). Cosmetic Surgery: Feminist Perspectives. Women and Therapy, 35, 181-192.

Gilman, S. (1999). Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery. Princeton, US: Princeton University Press.


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