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Motivations For Cosmetic Surgery

The great news about motivation is that the vast majority of patients are not having cosmetic surgery to please someone else. They're doing it strictly for themselves, and that's a wonderful, healthy reason — the best reason.

We are motivated toward change by many things — a divorce; the need to accelerate our careers; the expectations of spouses, family, or friends; cultural messages; and the influence of the media. These can all contribute to the decision to surgically change our appearance. But the best candidates for cosmetic surgery are those who take all that into consideration, and ultimately choose it for their own personal satisfaction. This is particularly true for patients who have medical conditions which cause deformities of the face or body. They want to survive emotionally in a world where they are often shunned because of physical attributes over which they have no control.

I also see many patients who are recovering from a terrible life trauma, like the desertion or death of a spouse. In these cases, a change in physical appearance can provide a desperately needed boost in self-esteem. Some patients come from backgrounds of verbal or even physical abuse, and find that they've duplicated a childhood situation in their adult relationships by choosing partners who reaffirm their sense of unworthiness. One young woman's boyfriend constantly told her that she looked too old and wrinkled for him. Another woman's husband teased her mercilessly about her thighs. Many have had spouses who have left them for younger lovers, and others are struggling to make it up a corporate ladder where they're in direct competition with more youthful executives. Finally, many patients — and most people who may never become patients — are simply locked into the belief that younger is better. Thinner is better. Large breasts are better. More hair is better.

Our goal as physicians, when we change our patients' bodies, is to enable them to use their personal power more effectively. A larger pair of breasts does not guarantee that a woman will attract the man of her dreams. A new head of hair does not guarantee that a man will be the center of attention at a party. Nevertheless, we know that the combination of better looks and a positive response from other people produces more personal confidence and effectiveness.


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