Okay, I’ll admit it. From time to time (like seeing this picture of myself) I’ve been tempted to try Botox. I haven’t, mostly because I could never get past the fear that someday, some study is going to prove that injecting a form of botulism is just not a good idea. Well, that day is here. Although the findings aren’t what I expected.
My discovery started with reading Siri Carpenter’s article “The Confidence Game” in O, The Oprah Magazine (September 2011). The piece is about improving self confidence by changing your body posture. More on that in a minute. But within that context, there was this intriguing bit about Botox:
“One study found that subjects who received Botox treatments that blocked their ability to mimic emotional expressions were subsequently poorer at recognizing others’ emotions.” [Read about the study here.]
Weird, right? Botox makes you less able to discern when someone around you is confused, happy, concerned or surprised. So you’d be less wrinkly, but less empathetic. Basically, with Botox you become pretty and shallow. Just what the world needs more of.
Maybe you’re okay with that. Maybe, you rationalize, lack of empathy is a small price to pay for beauty. But our own facial expressions provide crucial feedback to the brain not just about others, but about ourselves, as well. We usually let our minds tell our bodies how to behave, but our body movements can also tell our brains how to think. You’ve probably heard of the notion that the simple act of smiling can make you feel happy. Now, according to Carpenter’s article, research is proving that a pose or a posture actually creates a biochemical reaction in the body.
Psychologists Dana Carney, PhD, and Amy Cuddy, PhD, had their subjects spend two minutes in one of two types of seated postures: open and expansive (leaning back and spreading their arms), or tight and constricted (shoulders hunched, hands clasped). The people sitting in the “power pose” increased their levels of testosterone, the hormone linked to assertiveness and energy, while their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, fell. The outward appearance caused an internal change. Or, as Carney put it, “It seems to be about how you present yourself to others. But it’s really about what’s going on inside you.”
Which brings me back to Botox. Using Botox, we may present a face that’s flawless, unlined. But, I started wondering, if we lose our facial expressions — smiling, grimacing, questioning — might we eventually lose the corresponding emotion (happy, sad, inquisitive), too? What if, in addition to hampering our ability to read others’ emotions, Botox also lessens our ability to feel our own? Turns out, this has already been proven.
Yikes. The irony is hard to miss. What good is having no wrinkles if you can’t feel good about it?