Summary: You might be having some existential thoughts about your plastic surgery. Can you still be yourself after plastic surgery, or will too much change? These types of thoughts and discussions are certainly not uncommon. In fact, many people think plastic surgery somehow possesses that type of identity-changing powers. The truth is, as always, a bit more complicated.

Being Yourself After Plastic Surgery

If the whole idea is to change dramatically, can you still be yourself after plastic surgery? Now, there are going to be many different interpretations of what I mean here, so I’ll try to get as specific as possible. I’m talking about the ability of plastic surgery to preserve that which makes you unique and identifiable.

Let’s say you’re getting a nose job. Rhinoplasty can produce significant impacts on your overall look because the nose plays a big role in balancing the face. So if you change the nose, do you change the face—and if you change the face, do you change your identity?

Answering these questions can be subjective. One thing we should make clear is that we aren’t talking about changing your face through plastic surgery like you might imagine from some bad 1980’s action program. Instead, we’re talking about preserving those signifiers that are attached to your identity. In other words, ensuring you can still be yourself after plastic surgery.

Plastic Surgery Can Change a Lot

Plastic surgery is a powerful and potent tool. That’s why people like it, and that’s why people use it. The interplay between plastic surgery and identity is, then, pretty complicated. If you get rid of lines and wrinkles around your belly, your identity will be pretty secure. But if you get rid of that mole on your cheek, you may feel lost without it.

That’s why plastic surgeons are always careful to discuss these aspects of your body with you. Because, when you think about it, surgery is capable of quite a lot these days:

  • Excess skin can be removed in a way that makes the results look natural
  • Lines and wrinkles can be easily mitigated (in both surgical and non surgical procedures)
  • Volume can be added to the body in any number of ways (including breast implants or through fat graft procedures)
  • Patients have plenty of surgical and non surgical options for a wide variety of modern procedures

In other words, there are few places of your body that plastic surgery can’t touch in some way. Most people only want to change one or two things; and yet big transformations (such as those one would expect from a Mommy Makeover) are also relatively common.

The concept that guides patients through these decisions is something called body image.

What is Body Image?

So, we can talk about what “body image” is for a little bit. You’d be surprised how often the term comes up in discussions of plastic surgery. Essentially, your body image is how you see yourself. It’s not what you see in the mirror so much as what you see in your mind’s eye.

And what you see in your mind’s eye, how you see yourself in your imagination sometimes creates wide discrepancies with reality. This isn’t because you refuse to face reality or any nonsense like that. It happens to everyone.

But when your body and your body image are out of alignment, it can create some discord in how you feel about yourself.

Bringing Your Body and Body Image into Alignment

The point of plastic surgery, then, is often to bring your body and body image into alignment. That particular purpose is used as a kind of guiding star—so you can still be yourself after your plastic surgery.

Or, let’s think about it like this: if that mole on your face is a distinct and important part of your body image, your surgeon will do everything possible to preserve that mole. In most cases, patients won’t be asked to make an either/or decision about something like that.

Every patient and every case is different, however. Patients will have to weigh what’s important and what isn’t. The idea, however, is to make what’s on the outside—what’s reflected in the mirror—look closer to what’s going on in your mind.

An Emphasis on Youth

This helps explain plastic surgery’s emphasis on youthfulness, I think. Speaking from my own personal experience, my “body image” is significantly more youthful, energetic, and spry than what I see in the mirror. Plastic surgery could help eliminate some lines and wrinkles or make my belly appear a little more trimmed. I might want one or two things changed.

But as long as I stick to making what’s in my mind’s eye a little closer to reality, it’s unlikely that I will suddenly find myself unrecognizable in the mirror. So, you can still be yourself after plastic surgery—just keep your eyes on the prize.

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