Considering Plastic Surgery?

Examine Your Motives and Do Your Homework to Assure the Best Outcome

Do you think that enlarging your breasts will make you more desirable, resulting in more attention from your significant other or men in general? Perhaps you think that restoring a more youthful facial appearance will "wake-up" your husband and, in turn, restore your relationship to a time when his attention was focused more on you instead of sports or his job.
If you could just lose the bulges around your middle, or change your nose so that it's more proportionate to the rest of your features, you feel you would be more attractive and, as a result, gain a better job, relationship, or more friends.

If any of those scenarios have crossed your mind, it would be a good idea to spend some time in honest reflection before you commit to plastic surgery. There is no question that plastic surgery can produce amazing physical changes, but there have been an abundance of studies which document that this kind of cause-and-effect thinking ultimately leads to unhappy patients. Why? Because bigger, tighter, thinner, or younger is not necessarily "better." Positive physical changes will only be experienced by you. If you need someone else to validate the improvement by some change in their behavior, or attitude, you will be disappointed if it doesn't happen.

The best reasons for having plastic surgery should come from within, from a sincere desire to feel better about yourself (for yourself). Every culture has its own standards of "beauty" and what is considered "normal". Studies confirm that people deemed "attractive" do tend to receive better treatment both socially and in the work-place, but that doesn't mean those people are in fact happier than anyone else. Procedures done with the goal of pleasing someone else, or gaining something from someone else, can be an invitation to being disappointed with the end result.

Instead, judge a successful plastic surgery result by how it makes you feel, not by how others think or feel. Plastic surgery can reverse the signs of aging, enhance some aspect of your figure, or restore/reconstruct damages to your body that are a result of injury or disease. Your surgeon can make recommendations with regard to what you can do to achieve your goals and enhance yourself, without going to extremes that over-emphasize some aspect of your appearance and give an unnatural look (this brings to mind some images that we periodically see in celebrity tabloids). You should look like your best self. The correct psychological motivation for surgery assures that the end- results will help you feel better about yourself, resulting in an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence - regardless of what other people think.

Speaking of confidence, once you have determined that you have the right reasons to move forward with your surgery, how do you know that you have found the "right" doctor? Again, back to trusting your inner-self; do not be hesitant about asking questions. Is the doctor really listening to what you're saying, and then answering in terms that you can understand? Have you had the opportunity to speak to the actual person who performs the procedure, or are you talking with other, non-medical, office personnel? Did your doctor discuss not only the potential improvements, but the potential risks and complications as well? If the procedure involves some type of anesthesia, you should ask how and where it is done and who will be doing it. Generally, the more significant the anesthesia, the greater the need for specially-trained personnel, like an anesthesiologist, to be involved. Cost is usually an important consideration, but realize that, most of the time, you get what you pay for.

"...the end- results will help you feel better about yourself, resulting in an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence - regardless of what other people think."

Talking with more than one doctor may also help you gain a different perspective on what you're seeking, and further educate you about procedures, risks and perhaps other alternatives that may be less involved and/or less expensive. Again, don't be shy with regard to asking questions, and then trust your instincts. For instance, do you get the feeling that you are being steered toward more than you need, or is it clear that the surgeon is pursuing/modifying the operation or procedure to fit your specific needs and goals? Could BotoxT or a skin-filler like JuvadermT accomplish what you need for facial rejuvenation without surgery?

It's important to ask about the physician's training and experience with any procedure, surgical or non-surgical. It's also reasonable to ask to speak with patients who have undergone similar procedures. Is what you're being offered a relatively new procedure, and, if so, what is the science behind it? How much experience has the doctor had with it? You should not feel pressured to make up your mind after one discussion. Many times a follow-up discussion gives the patient time to reflect on the initial conversation, and gives him/her the opportunity to ask additional questions.

The bottom line is to approach plastic surgery with the right motivation and don't apologize for doing your homework on the procedure and your physician. Remember, this is all about you, and you are worth it!

Dr. Robert A. Laughlin is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has been helping people from all over the world for the past 26 years. His practice, Hilton Head Island Plastic Surgery, is located on the campus of the Hilton Head Regional Medical Center where he is a member of the Board of Directors and the active surgical staff.
Dr. Laughlin lives on Hilton Head with his wife Linda, who is also his surgical assistant. They have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. He may be reached at (843) 681-4088 or

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