If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard that beauty is only skin deep, that vanity is a superficial characteristic and that people who opt to improve their appearance through cosmetic surgery are depressed or shallow, by now I’d have enough money to be able to pay for a brow lift. Scoff if you must, but I think that cosmetic surgery does as much for a person’s psyche as it does for their physical appearance. (And I’m talking about people who already have healthy psyches here, not those who undergo 200 surgeries in a misguided effort to look like a lion. Or Barbie. I think that’s just crazy.)
Now, a long-term study by Dr. Jurgen Margraf in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Basel, investigated the psychological effects of cosmetic surgery. You may be surprised to learn that, according to their findings, people who went under the cosmetic surgery knife demonstrated more enjoyment of life, satisfaction and self-esteem after their physical appearance had been surgically altered. (Results of this study, the world’s largest on this issue, are reported in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.)
One of the purposes of the study was to learn whether people who undergo cosmetic surgery are different from those who opt not to go under the knife.
The researchers compared 544 first-time cosmetic surgery patients with a group of about 260 people who thought they wanted cosmetic surgery but changed their minds and a group of about 1000 people who said they never wanted cosmetic surgery. In terms of psychological health, mental health, life satisfaction and depressiveness, there were no significant differences between the groups. In other words, people who opt for cosmetic surgery are no more insecure, depressed or unsatisfied with their lives than people who’ve never considered cosmetic surgery.
The researchers also wanted to learn whether patient expectations were realistic and realized. Using a questionnaire that asked open questions and posed ten standard goals including two clearly unrealistic ones, researchers found that while 12 percent of respondents chose unrealistic goals (“All my problems will be solved,” and “I’ll be a whole new person”), more realistic goals were expressed in the open questions. Patients expressed wishes to “feel better,” or, more specifically to “remove blemishes,” for example.
Researchers tested patients before surgery as well as six and twelve months following surgery. On average, patients claimed to be satisfied with their surgical results and, compared to those people who chose not to have surgery, reported feeling healthier, having more self-esteem and less anxiety. They also reported feeling more attractive.
Well, I could have told you this without the benefits of a scientific study. While I’m not a slave to my cosmetic enhancement procedures, I unselfconsciously admit that after an appointment with Dr. Jack Berdy, my Botox doctor at SmoothMed in NYC, I feel prettier, more refreshed and more self-confident. This is not to say that I hide under my bed between Botox appointments. Of course I don’t. I can’t fit under my bed; I hide in my closet. Kidding! I don’t hide at all, but, after getting Botox, I feel better about preparing my face to meet the faces that I meet. (Thank you T.S. Eliot for that fabulous image.)
And what is wrong with that?
Let me know what you think about cosmetic surgery by leaving a comment in the Comments Section below. Thanks!