“You look perfect the way you are!”
“She doesn’t need to change a thing!”
These are, hands down, the most common statements I hear when discussing a possible cosmetic procedure with a patient and her significant other is present. Approximately 80 percent of new patients come to the office to discuss procedures alone; however, a large majority will bring their spouse with them either to a second office visit to finalize the surgical plan or to complete preoperative paperwork. It is at this point that I so often hear, “I don’t know why she is doing this, I think she is beautiful or perfect the way she is, she doesn’t need this procedure.”
Perhaps part of the reason a clear majority of patients come to the initial visit alone is they don’t want to be judge by anyone for their interest in a cosmetic procedure, as it may be viewed as vain. However, a deeper reason maybe they are there to truly do something for themselves. This can be a difficult concept for the partner of the prospective patient.
It is particularly men who will say, “She doesn’t need this procedure to look better.” I discussed this concept with a psychologist friend of mine, and his response was simple yet informative. People, especially men, tend to think everything is about them. As a man, I had to chuckle a little on the inside. Whether it is conscious or not, I believe there is truth to that statement. So, when a partner or spouse wants to improve her appearance, the man’s first thought is that she is doing it for him; if he tells her she doesn’t need it, somehow that will make her feel better.
The reality is the patient just wants to improve her appearance for herself so that she is more confident and happy. Often, the surgery is an attempt to address an insecurity she has due to aging or even a problem she has been concerned about for years but has never been able to do something about previously. Patients’ choices to have surgery rarely are made for their boyfriends or long-term husbands.
While men are likely to tell their significant others they don’t need any cosmetic surgery, women tend to be much more encouraging and supportive toward their husbands or boyfriends about pursuing a cosmetic procedure. What I have seen, especially recently, is men are just as interested in looking better and feeling better about their appearance, although they may not always be as open about it. Having their partners support them makes it easier, I believe, for them to discuss and pursue the option.
As a plastic surgeon, I realize that one of the most crucial points regarding cosmetic procedures is understanding the patient’s motivation behind pursuing plastic surgery, as it is often critical to predicting a patient’s ultimate satisfaction. When a patient comes into the office, often after having had children, asking to try to get back the body she once had, I am extremely happy for her. These patients understand what plastic surgery can do and what it cannot do: improving yourself or turning back time a bit is achievable, while transforming yourself to a Vogue cover model or suddenly having the body habitus of a Kardashian is most likely not achievable. Patients with realistic expectations from the outset tend to be far happier in the end. Those who hope that plastic surgery will change who they are and how happy they are in their life are always disappointed, no matter how well the procedure may go and the quality of the end result. I often tell patients that my most important part of the initial consult is to make sure I understand what it is the patient is trying to achieve and determine whether I can deliver the result they are expecting.
I am excited for patients and the future of plastic surgery. Technology continues to advance, improving outcomes and results while decreasing recovery time and complications. However, cosmetic surgery remains an art, not an exact science, and there are no absolute guarantees. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the procedure you are choosing to have, as well as possible complications, is very important. In addition, knowing how a setback in healing or a complication may be managed before having the surgery will only help minimize anxiety after the surgery and help patients achieve their desired outcome.
Plastic surgery can have profound positive effect on your life when done for the right reasons.
Dennis K. Schimpf, MD, MBA, FACS, is double board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery, in addition to being an active member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. To learn more about Dr. Schimpf’s private practice, Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery, visit www.sweetgrassplasticsurgery.com.