I’ve never had plastic surgery, but I’ve thought about it. And every time I’ve voiced any such thoughts to friends or family, they’ve rolled their eyes at me.
“You’re crazy,” they say. “What is wrong with you?”
These are hardly helpful responses. I don’t push the conversation but still, I can’t help but wonder – and what if I were serious about plastic surgery? I’d like to know that I could confide in loved ones without being heckled and dismissed.
How do plastic surgery patients share their decisions with loved ones without having to defend them? Who do you elect to confide in and how? I spoke to a handful of plastic surgeons about what they recommend for patients when it comes to talking about their choice for a cosmetic procedure.
Drs. Lyle M. Back, Manish A. Shah, Joseph A. Evitar, Mathew A. Plant, and Andrew Miller
“Patients are often concerned that they will be judged or even criticized for having a cosmetic procedure,” said Dr. Lyle M. Back, MD. “Ironically, they usually fear this most from the very same people — their loved ones — that one would expect would be the most supportive of them [choosing something] that would improve their quality of life.”
Finding yourself hesitant to open up to loved ones about your decision is completely normal. Dr. Back adds that in his years of experience, he has found that patients often don’t even discuss their choice to undergo plastic surgery with others until they’ve talked with their doctor extensively. “Sometimes these issues are so deeply personal, the plastic surgeon is the first one to actually hear them openly expressed,” he says.
Talking to your doctor first is often the best choice. It will get you informed and properly assessed by a pro.
Let Your Doctor Be Your Confidante and Your Guide
Plastic surgeons are qualified to give you an unbiased assessment. They have the experience and training to discuss your goals and the types of procedures that will be right for you. The doctor’s environment and his/her manner should also enable and foster comfortable communication. Each doctor has her or his own approach to educating, conversing, and listening.
“The first thing we do is greet all patients with a smile, addressing them by their first names in a warm and friendly manner,” said Dr. Manish A. Shah, MD. “We offer them a beverage and a tasty treat. It is important to strike up a conversation focused around the patient to help set them at ease. I make it a point to sit at their level when discussing their concerns. Anecdotes and stories about other similar patients help patients realize they are not alone in their concerns (though we do maintain strict HIPAA compliance).”
Your plastic surgeon should also spend time listening to your concerns during your initial consultation. This isn’t just so that he or she can thoroughly understand your wants, though that’s part of it, but also so they can get a feeling for your personality and your facial expressions. The latter aspect is especially important if you’re undergoing a cosmetic procedure on your face.
“I think taking a few minutes to listen to the patient is the most important part of the [initial] consultation,” said Dr. Joseph A. Eviatar, MD. “While [patients] talk, I largely am able to evaluate them by seeing how they smile, frown, and express themselves. Finding out what they do for work, play, and in family life [enables me] to fully understand what they think will help them versus what is important to them.”
Patients are most afraid of unnatural appearing results, which we see all around us, even in celebrities who have all the resources and knowledge to look great but turn into what I often refer to as “funny looking people.”
Dr. Eviatar notes that in his experience, patients often show certain limitations about what they know of plastic surgery and their desired procedure, comparing anticipated results to what they see in the media. This is where ill-founded fears can set in.
“[Patients] are most afraid of unnatural appearing results, which we see all around us, even in celebrities who have all the resources and knowledge to look great but turn into what I often refer to as ‘funny looking people,’” said Dr. Eviatar. “In teaching doctors all over the country over many years as new products have come out, I’ve realized that this is the result of the commoditization of products and what they can do for a ‘problem’ area of the face, for example, such as furrows or cheeks, and the doctors following the patients lead and treat the complaint as best they can without looking at the whole face and taking into account the patient’s skin type, ethnicity, gender, background, [and so on.]”
Your doctor should be able to tell from a single examination exactly what can be done and how it can suit you — and you alone. For this reason in itself it’s worth talking to a doctor as soon as you begin thinking seriously about plastic surgery.
Once You Know the Facts, Talk About It As You Wish
Once you commit to having a procedure, and have the go-ahead from your doctor, you may want to set aside some time to have a conversation with the people close to you to talk things over.
“Get together, perhaps over a quiet meal and some wine, and genuinely express your feelings, anxieties, thought process over what’s been bothering you,” suggested Dr. Back. “It’s very possible that even a close loved one will not have realized how deep and affecting the problem was, if they knew about it all. How could you care about someone and not be enthusiastically supportive of a reasonable solution?”
But setting the mood, as it were, for a big talk with mom and dad about say, getting breast implants, may not be for you. Dr. Mathew A. Plant, MD, recommends a more casual attitude when discussing your choice with others.
“Be straightforward and matter of fact about it,” Dr. Plant said. “If you’ve made a decision that [you and your doctor] are comfortable with, then it should be the same as telling a loved one you’ve bought a car, or a house or any other major purchase. Just be honest and let them know how your issue makes you feel, and how you will feel when it is corrected. Have good reasons to do surgery for yourself, not just because it’s something you saw online.”
Being honest can also mean not saying a thing to anyone but perhaps the person taking you to the hospital and back, or the person helping you recover. There’s no rule that says you have to spill your guts and get everyone you love on board. After all, in the end, they may not even know you’ve had anything done!
“First of all, well-performed plastic surgery looks totally natural, so another person may not even recognize that the patient had anything done,” said Dr. Andrew Miller, MD. “Sometimes, this bums out the patient, but I remind them that people don’t necessarily have a photographic imprint of what they used to look like, so most outsiders won’t have a good basis for comparison.”
Ideally, your friends and family will accept your decision and do whatever they can to support you. They may even be anxious to help. If they are, doctors recommend having them research the surgeon you’ve chosen to make sure they’re the best, and to learn, (preferably during your second consultation), what they can to do to be of help during this transformative time.