“To thyne own self be true,” Shakespeare once wrote. Truer words could not have been said, especially when it comes to body image. Self-esteem, it seems, is victory in the battle to become a better you – not in the image of somebody else.

A recent study at Dartmouth College has found that rhinoplasty to appear more Caucasian did little to raise the self-esteem of black and mixed-race patients in Venezuela. It was, the study reported, a temporary boost at best.

The study looked at 63 women classified as white, black, or mixed race, 39 of whom opted for the cosmetic procedure to create a “well-formed”, more Caucasian-looking nose. The study summed up the emotional results as “stop-gap.” In other words, having European features do not guarantee or translate into long-term happiness.

In Venezuela, a country rooted in colonialism, racial discrimination is prohibited by law and racial categories are based on skin color. Ironically, Venezuelan culture prizes lighter skin, which determines status and social mobility in an otherwise “egalitarian” society. It’s no wonder that ethnic rhinoplasty is on the rise in Venezuela as a result of cultural pressures and standards of beauty as set by the cosmetic surgery industry.

Truth be told, there is beauty to be found in every race and ethnic group. That the European nose is viewed as “ideal” speaks more of a non-existent perfection. Many Europeans, to be sure, have less than perfect noses. Some are pug. Some are hooked or saddle-bag shaped. And some are huge or tiny.

Perhaps the greatest benefit bestowed by cosmetic rhinoplasty, then, is the ability to empower people to make the most of their natural features as individuals – not as imitators in the pursuit of an unattainable “ideal.” Ideally, ethnic rhinoplasty should enhance a person’s individual nose, working with their ethnicity rather than detracting from it.

Dr. Kyle S. Choe is a board certified facial plastic surgeon and hair restoration specialist in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Contact The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery at 757.389.5850 for a personal consultation.