In my experience I can broadly divide my patients into two groups based on their expectations for any form of plastic surgery – from a facelift through to breast surgery or body contouring surgery.
The first group (Group 1) have an understanding and appreciation of their starting point and how their face, breasts or body are. Their expectations are very much related to their body image mind map of their starting point. Therefore they perhaps better and more realistically appreciate the changes made through their plastic surgery. In my experience this group of patients has a far higher rate of satisfaction, as after they have had their surgery, they are comparing where they have got to with what they had before rather than any other ideal or target (please see my illustration).
The second group (Group 2) of patients are those that have a target or goal in their mind of where they would like to be, that perhaps is not related to their actual starting point. It might be that in this group of people they have less of an understanding of their actual starting point but in addition they might also have perhaps unrealistic goals of what they are hoping to achieve. The expectations in this group of patients can be far more challenging to meet. In this group of patients their final result, rather than being compared with their original starting point (and the patient having an appreciation of the positive difference and change that has been made), they compare their result with how close it has got to their previously future ideal image of what they hoped to achieve.
So in Group 1, who tend to be far more satisfied and happier with the outcome of their surgery they tend to look back and compare their new self with their old self. By contrast Group 2 tend to compare their new self with their idealised future self that they had in their mind, and are more at risk of being disappointed.
Whilst it is a subtle and nuance point, it is something that seems to become very apparent to me the more patients I talk to and the more I discuss expectations. I thought it was worth highlighting, because by openly talking about this it might enable some people, who are at risk of being in Group 2, to move into Group 1 and therefore achieve a much high satisfaction of outcome of their procedure.
As in any walk of life and arena of life, our satisfaction is very much related to our expectations. If our expectations are not met we are disappointed, but if they are exceeded we are delighted. I would always hope to exceed my patients’ expectations but that can only be achieved if their expectations are realistic, which means in this case, comparing themselves with their old self rather than an idealised version of themselves.
Therefore when preparing and researching a consultation I would not advise scouring the internet looking for ideal pictures of faces, breasts and torsos but rather look for pictures that very much relate to your current self to see how those post surgical photographs appear as these are going to be far more likely to be realistic than simply looking at idealised “after” photographs.
If you found this interesting, please also refer to my related blog about how to look at before and after photographs.