According to Abraham Maslow’ Hierarchy of needs, an individual has five levels of needs; Physiological (basic, food, water, shelter), Safety (security of body, employment, resources, material possessions), Social Needs/Belongingness (friendship, family, intimacy, etc), Esteem (self-respect, recognition, confidence, etc), Self Actualization (when the individual does something for himself based on his beliefs and morals, achieved after all other needs are met).
According to Maslow, on all levels below the self-actualization level (except for the physiological needs), when a person, fails to satisfy, these needs, he will feel uncomfortable and tense. Therefore the individual must satisfy the lower levels of needs first (referred to as the Deficiency needs) before going up the next level. Under these levels or hierarchy of needs, we could say that Vanity and Security would fall under the third and fourth need respectively although Vanity could fall under the esteem level as well.
If we look at advertisements, web sites and tv shows involving cosmetic surgery, patients or individuals have that desire to be beautiful. Most of theses people’s reason for undergoing surgical operation is to satisfy their vanity. But what is vanity exactly? and why is it important to humans?
Vanity is one’s excessive belief to one’s own abilities and attractiveness which, according to the concept developed by Dr. Isiah Greene (who bases his concept on Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of capital), creates erotic capital for a person. Erotic capital is the power of one person created by his or her sexual attractiveness to other people. Meaning, the more attractive one person is, the more influence he or she has over the people he or she attracts.
Of course, by having higher erotic capital, it would be easier for a person to be accepted and to satisfy that need for belongingness with his or her peers. In this regard, plastic surgery offers or satisfies a person’s psychological need by providing for that person an investment of erotic capital.
Security on the other hand, is the measure of an individual’s emotional stability. The more stable the person’s emotions are, the higher his or her ability to be happy is. If a person is emotionally secure, his happiness cannot be shaken as easy as that of someone who is emotionally insecure. To have a stable emotional security, one must have high self esteem.
Self esteem is a reflection of one’s concept of self-worth. If the person values himself highly, one can possess high self esteem or confidence without necessarily being arrogant.
Plastic Surgery provides this psychological need to individuals especially if that individual has suffered insecurities due to physical abnormalities. People who have suffered emotional trauma due to mockery and ridicule, would usually have low self confidence and thus will become aloof and distant with everybody else. These individuals sometimes will compensate their insecurities with arrogance, aggression or bullying which is worse than just being shy and distant with the people around hin or her.
That is why in this respect, Plastic Surgery is very useful and helpful to people with insecurities. By correcting their physical abnormalities, their lack of self worth is compensated with confidence and belief in one’s self.
In essence, Cosmetic surgery has become popular in many parts of the world due to its ability to assist individuals in attaining and satisfying his or her psychological needs as described by Maslow.