The ancient Chinese had foot binding and we have Brazilian bikini waxes. It’s not a revolutionary concept – people will go to extreme lengths for the sake of being beautiful. Beauty is power in many senses, and so, naturally, humans suffer through a lot of pain and torture, perhaps at seemingly superficial levels, to attain it. But for a quality that can potentially put the world at your fingertips, how far is too far?

In an age of diet pills, artificial tanning and spa treatments that range from hot stone massages to anti-cellulite body wraps, the answer is pretty elusive. Modern technology has allowed us to take full advantage of contemporary resources to ensure that, as far as looks are involved, nearly anything is possible. But controversy abounds when we discuss the ultimate in body modification: cosmetic surgery. The popularity of this growing trend has sent millions of Americans to cosmetic surgery clinics all over the country in search of the perfect nose job or breast augmentation.

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, nearly 1.9 million cosmetic surgery procedures were performed in 2003 – up nearly 293 percent from 1997 – and the numbers keep increasing. With television shows like “Extreme Makeover” and MTV’s “I Want a Famous Face” glorifying the procedures with false promises of post-surgery fulfillment, cosmetic surgery is becoming a realistic outlet for the average person in his or her quest for physical perfection.

But this isn’t just your everyday hair consultation or exfoliating body treatment – this is the big league. In the name of beauty, people are willingly subjecting themselves to extreme amounts of physical pain – and for what real purpose? To have breasts that vaguely resemble Britney Spears’, who herself has admitted that her body is in no way perfect? What on earth has happened to our senses of pride in the bodies we were given?

I’m no stranger to the beauty game. I can sympathize wholeheartedly with that sliver of the population for whom makeup and hair products provide endless amounts of thrilling addiction. We’re masochists, really – I have this lip gloss that physically stings my lips to make them shiny and plump, and I can’t get enough of it – but I think that’s all in good fun. For me, though, cosmetic surgery will never be an option. I think I love and respect my body too much to put it through such a pointless state of hell.

So to those of you with bigger breasts or flatter stomachs on your mind – you’re beautiful enough without them, believe me. It’s bittersweet that we live in a place that sets such a high standard for beauty. As much as we all enjoy 24-hour eye candy, the pressure to look good here is intense. Hell, I’ve prided myself on self-confidence for years and I still can’t help feeling absolutely dwarfed sometimes by much of Santa Barbara’s unnaturally good-looking population. But surgery? By choice? To look like them? I don’t think it’s worth it.

Daily Nexus opinion editor Meghan Palma may be anti-cosmetic surgery, but she’s not afraid to blow her $700 paycheck on a weekend at the spa.