So, you want to get plastic surgery. You’ve probably done your homework and researched the procedure you’re interested in, found reputable surgeons in your area and read about what to expect. But unfortunately people who are considering surgery are seldom encouraged to also explore their psychological motivations for seeking it out. It can be a sobering and upsetting time to have to come to terms with feelings and thoughts after your surgery that you simply were not prepared for.

Although it can be hard to admit uncomfortable truths about ourselves, it pays to have a long hard look at our true motivations for wanting to get plastic surgery.

If you’ve had the following thoughts or feelings about plastic surgery, speak to a counsellor or psychologist to see if another course of action would give you more satisfaction than changing your physical appearance would.

You feel pressured to change because of someone else

While it’s understandable to want to please your partner or family, the sad truth is that love that comes with conditions attached is never really satisfying to us, at least not on a deep level. Even if you change to suit someone else, and even if it actually works, what will that say about you? About them? More importantly, what happened to the old you – have you really earned any love and approval if this real you is never actually accepted in the first place?

You feel like surgery will make you “normal”

If you have the sincere belief that you are deformed in some way and that the only way to be normal is to get the surgery you want, then this is a red flag. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take care of our appearance or to enhance our looks. A little vanity is only human. But if you feel as though you need surgery, not to augment who you are but to correct some deep flaw in yourself, then consider that you have more serious issues with shame and self esteem. Ask yourself why you believe you are not lovable as you are.

You see plastic surgery as problem-solving

In a sense, plastic surgery is problem solving. But if you’ve somewhere along the line confused the actual effects of the surgery with all the imagined benefits you’ll get from it, stop to think clearly about your expectations. For instance, a breast augmentation will do just that – augment your breasts. But that’s all it can do. If you are unconsciously hoping for the surgery to fix everything from relationship issues to self esteem to overcoming depression, you’re setting yourself up for bitter disappointment when you wake up from surgery and realize that you now indeed have augmented breasts, but are still the same person you were the day before.

You are afraid of getting older

The plastic surgery industry thrives on our fear of becoming older and, in a very real way, our fear of dying. Panicking about the loss of youth and attractiveness often hides a deeper fear: the fear that we have wasted time, that we haven’t done enough, that we have not lived exactly as we would have liked. But the solution is not to patch our physical bodies up to try to pretend that we are younger than we are – the solution is to learn the lesson hidden in the fear that we all experience as old age approaches: that life is brief and should be appreciated, now, while we are here to enjoy it.

Could the money you would have spent on surgery not be better spent doing all the things you ever wanted? What could you do now for yourself that would bring you closer to being an old, wise person, on your deathbed, saying, I have no regrets, I lived a full life?

Of course, nobody would suggest that wanting plastic surgery is a sign of something more sinister. Like most things in life, there are ways to act consciously and compassionately, and if you’ve carefully considered the effect surgery would have in your life and choose to do it, that’s great.

This article suggests only that often the desire to “fix” something about our physical appearance is only a symptom of another deeper issue. Sometimes, it can be easier to change our flesh and blood than it is to confront painful memories, address self-defeating beliefs or take responsibility for our lives, self esteem and sense of control and purpose in the world.

Picture yourself as you imagine you will be after the surgery. Happy? Confident? Loved? Noticed? Accepted? Now, ask yourself why you cannot feel that way right now, as you are. If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we see that what is holding us back from feeling that way about ourselves is very rarely our physical appearance, and very often our thoughts, feelings and beliefs about our appearance.

If you’re concerned about issues related to plastic surgery, speak to a counsellor or psychotherapist before you go under the knife. Search for a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist in the Australia Counselling Directory and choose the counsellor that’s right for you.