I'm no stranger to cosmetic surgery, over the years I've had 6 procedures in total.
I have the same insecurities as everyone else, I see flaws in my face and body, even though they may not be obvious to others. Recently I decided to remedy what I thought was a jowly appearance by undergoing a 'Silhouette Soft' procedure.
The procedure lifts and repositions sagging mid and lower face tissue, resulting in a more youthful, fresh appearance. It's performed under local anaesthetic using suspension sutures similar to threads, hence the nickname puppet face lift. The results last several years and patients can resume normal activities almost immediately. It is the treatment du jour and it has featured prominently in the news of late, and was featured last week on ITV's This Morning programme.
Being the meticulous individual that I am, and of course, being a strong advocate of thoroughly researching surgeons, procedures, and credentials (safety is always of paramount importance) I was armed with all the information I needed when I visited a well reputed cosmetic surgeon in Harley Street with the intention of having the procedure carried out.
However, my enthusiasm turned to dismay when I was told that I didn't need the procedure because I didn't have enough facial laxity. I was flatly turned down. It turns out that my jowls are, in actual fact, a figment of my imagination.
Perhaps I've benefitted from the many amazing products I get to use on my skin as a writer, blogger, or maybe it's my genes or a combination of both, but in any case, there would be no puppet facelift for me anytime soon.
Rather than being disappointed though, I felt calm and happy. I certainly didn't feel a burning desire to find someone else who would pander to my wishes and carry it out, regardless of my suitability for it. I respected the surgeons opinion and decision to turn me down - it's fantastic that there are professionals in the industry who are willing to do what is right and ethically appropriate for the patient, rather than obsessively pursuing profits.
As I walked away though, I wondered how many people do just accept a doctor's advice when they are turned down for a procedure? I'm sure there are numerous individuals who carry out surgeries and procedures inappropriately at a patient's behest; there are definitely several practitioners whose actions are ethically questionable. But at the same time, it's easy to see why, sometimes, patients' desires are indulged. Some people are very persistent and insistent, and if a certain procedure is what a patient desperately wants, it any wonder that the patient's wishes are sometimes indulged?
What about when patients want surgery to alter their appearance to look like a certain celebrity, for example? What about plastic surgery addicts, those who have procedure after procedure until they are barely recognisable? Some surgeries have monstrous results, and surgeons who carry out disastrous procedures are culpable and criticism of them is wholly justified, of course, - but what of the patient's role in the pursuit of the procedure?
Thanks to the knowledge I have acquired now that I'm studying counselling, I have some insight into this issue. I know that many people have body image issues that they may be able to address through counselling, and perhaps enable them to differentiate between what they want and what they need in relation to their appearance. However there are often numerous difficulties in accessing counselling and the cost of private counselling is often prohibitive.
I feel that government funded counselling and emotional support to address a whole spectrum of body image issues would be appropriate and would, perhaps, stop some people aggressively pursuing inappropriate and unnecessary procedures. Body image pressures are deeply concerning but are normal in today's society, and unpalatable though it is, body image bullying is a grim reality. It is surely worth trying to help those who feel immense pressure to be altering their faces and bodies all the time by offering support in the form of counselling? It would perhaps be massively beneficial to those who are unable to distinguish between what they think they want and what they need.
Perhaps the private cosmetic surgery industry is guilty of saying yes too quickly and the NHS is sometimes guilty of saying no too easily. I have women contacting me who are in excruciating physical and psychological pain due to an overwhelming need for breast reduction, for example. These women are frequently denied surgery on the NHS. It is often the same for those who would clearly benefit immensely from a rhinoplasty or otoplasty.
And yet, there are individuals such as Josie Cunningham who have been given unnecessary surgeries seemingly without quibble (Josie is notorious for receiving a boob job in a bid to become a glamour model). It is baffling that those who are in dire need of surgical intervention for justifiable physical and psychological reasons are penalised and flatly denied procedures, but Josie Cunningham seems to have been rewarded for her vanity and has even managed to carve out a celebrity persona on the back of her NHS freeloading cosmetic surgery antics.
Whether or not surgery should be carried out is often far from straightforward. For me, I was in the end glad to be told that I didn't need a procedure. I was happy to walk away, and comforted by the fact that one scrupulous surgeon was willing to deny me something that was unnecessary. I can definitely live with that, but how many other people can say the same?..