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Summary: Although people tend to think of plastic surgery as maintaining a focus on cosmetic results, plastic surgery patients overwhelmingly report their primary reason for undergoing surgery to be psychological. Studies have examined the long-term psychological benefits of plastic surgery and found that patients can experience long-lasting improvements in self-image, confidence and general happiness in life. The implications of the study may influence the common assumption that plastic surgery is superficial in nature rather than emotional or psychological.

Cosmetic Surgery and Quality of Life

It may seem like an easy conclusion to jump to that more objectively attractive people lead happier lives. However, not all psychologists agree. In fact, one study found little to no relationship between a subject’s perceived attractiveness by others and the subject’s happiness. Interestingly enough, however, the research did find that subjects who perceived themselves to be more attractive—even if this perception was influenced by enhancers such as jewelry, makeup (or plastic surgery)—did on average exhibit higher levels of happiness.

In other words, the way you look may not have as much of an impact on quality of life as you might believe, but feeling great about the way you look can. A heightened sense of value and self-worth inspired by self-perceived attractiveness can reflect in our social lives, our professional lives, family relationships and overall mental and physical health. The ripple effect of improved self-confidence can be significant and long lasting.

Greater Sense of Confidence after Plastic Surgery

Patients who undergo plastic surgery generally think of themselves as a whole, and the body part that was addressed in particular, to be more attractive. Patients often feel less anxious, healthier and exhibited signs of greater self esteem after plastic surgery. What’s more is that these effects are not short-lived. Psychologists who tested patients 12 months after surgery exhibited the same signs of improved self-confidence.

A positive perception of how you look may be more important than ever in the digital age, when ‘selfies’ and social media demand that you look your best around the clock. The recent rise in cosmetic surgery may very well be attributable to these technological pressures.

The Importance of Realistic Expectations

One of the primary goals of a pre-operative consultation with a plastic surgeon before undergoing cosmetic surgery is to ensure that patients have realistic expectations about their results. While the outcome of some procedures may be dramatic, the majority of plastic surgery results are better described as a natural-looking enhancement of the patient’s features. When considering plastic surgery, it’s critical that patients understand that improvements are more often subtle rather than expecting their results to completely alter their appearance.

Realistic expectations are key to achieving the boost in self-confidence as a result of your cosmetic improvements after surgery. In the same study that tracked the long-term psychological benefits of plastic surgery patients, patients were asked about their expectations for plastic surgery. A small minority of patients answered that they expected plastic surgery to solve all of their problems or change them into a completely new person. With these expectations, patients will inevitably be disappointed with their results and will not experience improved quality of life after surgery.

The majority of the patients, however, reported a desire for increased confidence, an enhanced appearance and to simply feel better about themselves. Patients with expectations such as these may very well find a greater sense of self-esteem, improved self image and increased overall happiness through the enhancing benefits of plastic surgery.

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