Teen’s plastic surgery represents reaching effects of bullying

By Isabelle Cavazos, COLUMNIST
On January 9, 2014

 

Despite the efforts public schools may take to prevent bullying and intervene, the far-reaching effects of bullying among young adults should not be surprising.

In some cases, youth take it upon themselves to find solace in options that are unfortunately not entirely unexpected.

Renata, a 15-year-old girl who was ostracized for the size of her nose to an extent that drove her to isolate herself and be home-schooled for several years, recently made headlines when she received a free plastic surgery to reduce the size of her nose.

While the nonprofit Little Baby Face Foundation, which provided the teen with the $7,000 procedure, only treats facial deformities, founder Dr. Thomas Romo determined Renata’s procedure is non-cosmetic because of “hemi-facial microsomia,” a condition that Renata was previously unaware of that causes her nose to lean more to one side of her face and the decision has sparked much controversy as to whether the teen should have received the surgery.

Her choice to undergo surgery has shown that bullying can ultimately lead to long-lasting changes and has raised questions concerning whether it is an appropriate solution.

Though the surgery did provide Renata with the confidence to return to public school, giving her the chance to reconcile an enduring insecurity she felt she could not otherwise resolve, situations such as these highlight how the outcomes of bullying reach beyond the emotional and can manifest with physical, permanent alterations.

Renata’s mother may defend her daughter’s choice by stating it is akin to parents seeking orthodontic care for their children; however, it is crucial to keep in mind that this decision was instigated by the imposed ramifications of bullying.

The impact that bullying has demonstrates that victims feel they ought to adjust themselves in accordance to what is normative, as psychologist Vivian Diller notes.

It also reveals the internalizing mentality that leads to a surgical remedy is problematic beyond satisfying a bully, beyond even accepting one’s perceived flaws and beyond self-alteration.

The issue lies in how bullying has led some youth to believe they can accept themselves once they have modified what an external source has not deemed normative, post-op.

Though Renata sought counseling prior to her surgery, her making the decision to change her physical appearance is rooted with the bullying she experienced during her developmental years.

As assistant professor Chad Rose of the University of Missouri said in an interview with the Today show, physical changes may not necessarily indicate that bullying will stop, as other factors such as communication skills can put children at risk.

The permanency of Renata’s decision and that of other teens receiving or desiring plastic surgery for this reason signals the measures young adults are willing to take to solve bullying issues themselves.

In the event of bullying, surgical procedures may seem increasingly appealing depending on the severity of bullying. While these procedures may allow for youth to feel as though the attention is removed from their physical appearance in social situations, it is representative of the far-reaching suffering bullying entails.

Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.

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