Although cosmetic surgery is becoming more and more commonplace – particularly the kind of non-invasive procedures such as Botox which can be accessed during a lunch break it still has the potential to be a highly controversial subject, particularly if someone you know has had or is planning plastic surgery and seeks your opinion or guidance.
Even if you’ve always been supportive of people being able to do whatever they like to or with their body and appearance, the fact that it is someone you know who is going to choose to have surgery may colour your perception. It could be simple squeamishness at the thought of a person you care about being anaesthetised and operated on, or perhaps it’s that you honestly don’t think they need to change anything about themselves. Whatever your feelings are, you should always remember that the other person is a friend, and therefore someone who values your opinion. Try to be honest without appearing overly critical, even if you disagree with the decision to go ahead with surgery. Explain that you might not be fully on board with the choice yourself, but that you accept that they have made up their mind and will offer whatever kind of support they need.
One of the chief factors behind calibrating precisely the right response to your friends’ decision will be a firm grasp and full understanding of exactly why they’ve made the choice they have. It may seem as simple as ‘wanting to look better’, but the truth is that the psychological process which leads people to take a step of this kind can be complex and varied. Some of the most common reasons for people opting to have cosmetic surgery include the following:
Genetic Foundation –
many people feel that they have been given a poor hand, in terms of looks, by the genes which have been passed onto them by their family. This might mean something as specific as a nose which they feel is too big, eyelids that are hooded or, in the case of a woman, breasts which they feel are too small or large. In terms of supporting a friend with this kind of decision, the best kind of friend is one who will talk about it in such a manner as to ensure that the decisions is being made in the right frame of mind. If someone is talking as if cosmetic surgery will make them an entirely new and better person, or in a way which implies that this will be the first of many procedures, then talk them through their thinking and try to make sure that they are not expecting too much from their surgery.
Anti-ageing – many people undertake cosmetic surgery in an attempt to slow down, or even reverse, the ageing process. The key to any support you offer in a case such as this will lie in helping to manage the expectations of your friend. If they’re talking as if plastic surgery will make them look like a teenager again, then firmly but kindly point out that effects are unlikely to be quite so spectacular.
In order to fit in – some people undertake cosmetic surgery as they feel that a change of appearance will help them to fit in with their peer group and even increase their popularity. The advice you can offer to a friend engaging in this kind of thought process, however, is that, if their peer group is genuinely made up of the kind of people who would judge by appearances in this way, then changing the people they spend time with may be more effective, and psychologically healthier, than changing their appearance. With the right approach, you should be able to strike the perfect balance between honesty and protecting the feelings of your friend. If the results of the procedure aren’t what you or, more importantly, your friend were expecting, then try to combine an honest evaluation of the results with an attempt to stay polite, caring and the right side of hurting their feelings. Although we’re often told that honestly is the best policy, there are occasions upon which total and complete honesty is only going to result in hurting someone’s feelings, and this is one such time.
As well as moderating your own reaction to your friends’ surgery, you may also have to help them to come to terms with other peoples reactions. It could be that some people dislike the effect of the surgery and feel no compunction about saying so, although there reactions may well be driven by feelings of jealousy or perhaps regret that they haven’t taken the same step. No matter what lies behind other people’s reactions, the key to helping your friend cope is instilling in them the sense that they can’t control the way other people react. The only response which truly matters is their own, and if they are genuinely happy with the result of their procedure, then they should remember that and learn not to take the reaction of others to heart.
Perhaps the most complex outcome of cosmetic surgery is that which transpires when something goes wrong with the surgery. Research carried out by the Patient Claim Line indicates that people disappointed with the results of their surgery are more likely to confide in friends than family and you will have a role to play in helping your friend to come to terms with their disappointment, to be honest with themselves about that disappointment and, if need be, to seek corrective treatment. After the stress and expense of cosmetic surgery, many people may try to convince themselves that they are happy with the results when they actually aren’t. As a good friend, you’ll do your best to gently stop them from lying to themselves in this manner. The more you can combine honesty with support and a positive attitude, the more your friend is going to thank you in the long term.