Determining Whether You're Right for Cosmetic Surgery

Only when you are realistic about the real risks of having cosmetic surgery, the costs, and the recovery can you make the best possible decision for yourself. Remember, you're in the driver's seat here, and the choice is yours. You can say "aye" or "nay" to cosmetic surgery. One thing is certain: You'll be the one who has to live with the consequences, whatever you do.

Different people have different triggers that turn dissatisfaction into action. At some point, something happens that tilts you over the edge — one way or another. Your decision-making process may lead to one of three conclusions: go forward, stop, or postpone your decision. Understanding your motivations is an important step toward making your final decision.

Getting to the heart of your motivations

When considering having cosmetic surgery, you want to be sure that your motivations are personal and positive. When you're in control of your life and are a positive and happy person, cosmetic surgery can be a wonderful way to improve some imperfection that is bothering you. You're not looking at cosmetic surgery as a panacea for your problems but as an enhancement of your nice life.

If you're thinking about having cosmetic surgery to solve some life crises or heal a sick emotional relationship, think again. The very fact that you are dealing with significant emotional or psychological issues should be a warning flag to you to wait. If you don't have any emotional or relationships issues but are facing significant financial or health issues, then you also want to wait until those issues are resolved. This is a significant personal decision, and you want all your ducks in a row. This decision isn't one in which you simply hope for the best or plunge ahead.

Assessing your health

Surprisingly, most people who function normally are able to have surgery, but it requires complete honesty, many precautions, and careful planning. A careful medical workup reveals whether cosmetic surgery is safe for you.

Some conditions definitely make it too risky to have certain procedures. Understand that you must be candid with your surgeon — you may have health conditions (obesity, for example) or personal habits (such as smoking or drug use) that make surgery impossible.

If you want to ignore sound advice and withhold pertinent medical information, you may be able to keep shopping until you find a surgeon who will operate on you, but at what risk? What will be the impact for you and your family should you follow this course and something really unfortunate happens? If your medical and surgical specialists tell you that you're not a safe candidate for surgery, then you need to listen.

Checking your finances

One very practical reason for deciding to go ahead with the cosmetic surgery that you've been wanting is that you can finally afford it. Cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by insurance, so you have to be prepared to pay for it yourself.

If you're like some patients, you prepare in advance and have the total amount of money you need for the procedure in your checking account. Fewer than 50 percent of patients fall into that category. An increasing number of patients are using creative ways to realize their cosmetic surgery dreams. You don't want to be financially irresponsible, but if you find that you can afford it, then you may decide to "go for it."

Your desire to have cosmetic surgery can't supersede rational financial planning. Out-of-control finances can do permanent damage to your financial future. Get your financial life in order before you go forward with the surgery. Never forget that healing is optimized when you're calm and stress free. Being in severe financial trouble can cause emotional distress, which can impair healing and recovery.

Accepting cosmetic surgery's limits

The mirror may reflect something you want to change, but you must be realistic about what's achievable. Ultimately, you need a consultation with a surgeon to determine whether your desires are fully compatible with your body type. The best surgeon can't change your genetic makeup. The happiest patients are those who accept the changes that are achievable and don't expect those that aren't possible. They aren't trying to look like someone else or become someone else — they just want to be the best they can be.

Cosmetic surgery doesn't absolve you of the responsibility to eat and exercise responsibly. Liposuction is a good method of changing contours, but it's not a substitute for weight loss. Liposuction is a wonderful procedure for the person who is within normal weight ranges but who can't diet or exercise away certain genetic contours that can be truly troublesome. The single exception is surgery after massive weight loss.

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