This was a comment made during a consultation recently with a patient, and I think it perfectly summarised how important it is not to be judgemental or opinionated about people’s life choices, particularly when it comes to plastic surgery or aesthetic procedures.
I am only too aware of the widely varying views people might have about plastic surgery, and it frustrates me whenever I hear negative comments that are inevitably pejorative and condescending about an individual’s choice. You can only imagine the number of conversations I have on this topic when I am introduced to people who then find out what I do professionally! I sometimes have this situation arising with some medical colleagues from other specialties, and from general practice, which I find particularly disappointing. I expect these opinions are fuelled by the portrayal of stereotypical exaggerated cosmetic treatment outcomes in the media…which in no way reflect the broad spectrum that exists in reality.
I often describe myself as a psychologist, who happens to use surgical therapies rather than talking therapies to improve the self-confidence and self-esteem of my patients, and I see evidence of the benefits and effectiveness of this concept day in, day out.
People might consider undergoing elective plastic surgery for a number of reasons, but the fundamental link most have is related to self-confidence and self-esteem. At the end of the day, it is about how one feels about oneself, not about what anyone else thinks – how it feels to live in one’s own skin. If someone radiates positivity and self-confidence, it is reflected back everyday in their lives and becomes a virtuous cycle. If someone lacks confidence or feels insecure, it can lead to a progressively attritional negative cycle. In selected situations, plastic surgery is the right choice to address this.
There are innumerable occasions when I have heard incredibly rewarding comments following plastic surgery – “you’ve changed my life”; “this is the best thing I have ever done”; “I cannot thank you enough”; “it has transformed my relationship”; “finally I can go swimming/on holiday/wear a bikini”…I could go on! The positive impact plastic surgery can have is incredible – albeit in those who are fully informed, are aware of the risks, and in particular have realistic expectations.
We often talk about our quality of life, but perhaps those who are judgemental about plastic surgery do not consider this in relation to other people when they have a dogmatic resistance to differing perspectives and points of view. Life is not only about getting by or managing, it is also about quality, interpersonal relationships, and enjoyment – “life is for living”. Elective plastic surgery can have a tremendously positive impact on people’s quality of life, and one that is usually not short-lived.
The long-term positive effects can be evidenced in a number of ways. One simple example is when I consider my patients who have undergone breast implant surgery. Inevitably at some point their implants will need changing, or further breast surgery will be indicated, sometimes 10-20 years later. I always offer the opportunity to have the implants removed, but the most common response is a definite “no”. Even in cases when someone might have experienced discomfort, pain or significant issues relating to the appearance of their breasts due to their existing implants, most would rather have further surgery that involved new implants, than would want them removed. This is surely evidence of the long term net positive effects of having breast implants for these women in this example. There are countless other examples too, in the arena of facial rejuvenation or body contouring too.
Of course, nothing is permanent, and “maintenance” is a common word used in plastic surgery – whether it is ensuring core muscle exercises are performed and maintaining a healthy weight after tummy tuck surgery or having non-surgical interventions to prolong the rejuvenation effects of a facelift.
Proceeding with plastic surgery is a big decision, and if you are considering it you should be well informed, reflect on the reasons you would be having it for, the long term effects, and the inevitable changes in the effects of the surgery over the course of time, with ageing and gravity being unavoidable.
Plastic surgery is not magic – it is not going to solve all the concerns and problems an individual might have. However, it has the potential to make an incredibly positive contribution to the quality of life of many people.
So I hope that if someone who might have had a judgemental, dogmatic and negative opinion of plastic surgery, and those who undergo it has read this, they might pause to reflect on the variety of views and concerns people might have. Just because they might not consider plastic surgery themselves, I strongly feel they should not brandish anyone who would have plastic surgery in a negative way, after all, they do not know what it is like to live in someone else’s skin.