Makeup, face and body paint, you name it, these and many other appearance-altering processes have always been relevant themes in all cultures across the globe. You’ll find indigenous tribes in Australia as well as Africa practicing body paint and cultures that preserve this tradition and hold it in high regard. So, who has set an arbitrary boundary as to what constitutes acceptable and pleasing modification, and when? Living in the 21st century, one would assume, should guarantee the freedom to look a certain way without attracting gazes, stares, let alone profanities.
And yet, here we are, eye-deep into advanced, modern ways, and people still feel the need to point and stare. Despite the fact that some level of modifications is considered fine, even beautiful (such as the aforementioned makeup), there’s still some stigma around other types of body modifications, and for no clear reason. As a result, so many people feel miserable in their own skin, being ostracized and judged all the time. That is why it’s time to eliminate the stigma.
It’s not all about insecurity
“She’s compensating with all those piercings” or “He must have size issues” are two among a slew of favorite, judgment-packed sentences spoken by those who come across someone with modifications. It’s easy enough to be equally brutal and say that these are the typical sentences spoken by people with no character to speak of. But then we wouldn’t be leading by example, we’d be stooping to that level of bias.
People with modifications don’t necessarily expect to boost their confidence with these changes. They’re not always insecure, nor do they think that a pierced nipple will change their self-esteem if that is the issue. They might love tattoos as an artform, much like piercing. You’ve seen drag queens modifying their bodies to reflect the stars they admire, much like celebs adapting their bodies to express their beliefs. The motivation driving modifications can vary, and it’s far from simple.
There can be a health reason behind it
For example, a common reason so many people choose cosmetic procedures or any body modifications for that matter can be health-related. For example, many people in well-developed countries such as the US and Australia will invest in aesthetic procedures that also improve their quality of life and have a functional purpose.
With access to innovative techniques, clinics such as Orthoworx in Australia offer teeth alignment solutions that are both aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. If someone can improve their smile by modifying their teeth, why judge? The same logic applies to any type of modification, especially if you’re not certain whether or not it improves that person’s quality of life.
How do you take your coffee?
The most puzzling aspect of judging and shaming people for being true to themselves can be summed up into a single question: how is this about you? Are you affected by someone else getting a tattoo, cosmetic surgery, or dental implants? How does someone’s decision to get their nose pierced affect your wellbeing?
It doesn’t. It’s none of your business. Just like it’s none of the world’s business what you wear under your pair of jeans, whether you enjoy experimenting with makeup, or how you take your coffee.
We should be striving to create a more tolerant, loving society in which individuality can thrive. If someone else’s choice doesn’t affect your quality of life, it’s not your place to judge or shame.
Setting an example
Finally, your actions, our actions are creating the world as we know it. Maybe you’re on one end of the spectrum and you love your goth look and your dozens of piercings, or you’re at the far end of that spectrum and you cannot understand why in the world someone wants to poke holes in their body.
Whoever you are, can you imagine living in a universe where your kind of “self” is deemed wrong even if you don’t cause any harm just by being you? Can you imagine a universe where your kids are shamed for being who they are, where their mental health will inevitably suffer for being rejected and bullied? You are the one creating the world in which your kids will grow up by setting an example and by not being a bully.
Isn’t it time to embrace authenticity and enable people to lead happy, healthy lives without jumping to conclusions, and immediately looking for excuses to judge?
Societies are changing, and so are the cultures that shape them. We have started embracing more individualism than ever before, and if someone expresses their values, cherishes their memories, or experiments with their body with modifications without harming you in the process – there’s no room for judgment. It’s our job to teach and model respect, acceptance, and kindness, which starts with the ability to embrace differences, not stifle them.