When Will I Feel Beautiful? Your Emotions After Plastic Surgery

Preparing for cosmetic surgery is an exciting time, full of new information and possibilities. As you meet with potential surgeons and start planning logistics, it will also be important to consider your emotional health.

While an overwhelming majority of patients are thrilled with their decision long-term, cosmetic surgery recovery typically includes both ups and downs. Being prepared for and understanding the emotional impact of surgery can help you better manage your recovery.

To help you out, we have put together some common feelings patients may have as they experience the medical realities and emotional effects of plastic surgery.

So, How Will I Feel After Cosmetic Surgery?

It’s a good idea to consider this question before the day of your surgery. Recovery sometimes brings emotions that are quite normal but can feel very intense as your body heals. In fact, depending on your chosen procedures, it may take up to six months until you finally feel 100% like yourself again, which could make anyone feel a little emotional.

Here are several of the common emotional stages that follow cosmetic surgery. Read on, and you’ll be able to prepare yourself—and take comfort in knowing you’re not the only person having these feelings post-surgery.

Discomfort and Doubt

Quite a few patients think, “What have I done to myself?” in the first few days after surgery. You’ll need to be resting on the couch or in bed, leaving you time to mull over your doubts. You may be also be relying on a friend or family member for basic needs, which can quickly lead to feelings of dependency and frustration. This is also when any physical pain you might experience will be at its peak, so medication can play a part in your emotional state.

You also don’t yet have the reward of enjoying your results. Depending on your procedure, you will probably have some form of bandaging or compression garments blocking your view. When the sutures and bandages come off, bruising or swelling may also skew your perception of your results. The long term advantages of plastic surgery can feel distant when the results are not yet visible.

All that said, staying positive will help you feel better and can support healing! Here are some tips for this stage.

  • Have light entertainment ready to go before surgery:
    • Pick a favorite book series back up
    • Have your favorite movies and TV shows queued up
    • Play simple card games with whomever is with you during the initial days after surgery to keep your mind from dwelling
  • Don’t lose sight of the emotional satisfaction that is around the corner:
    • If you’ve had a breast or body procedure, peruse catalogs and eye what new fashions you might feel confident enough to wear after you’ve recovered
    • If you’ve had a facial procedure, consider what you might feel confident enough to do once your results are apparent. Perhaps that new haircut, different jewelry, or a makeup style you’ve been wanting to try will work for you after you’re past this stage. Look online for ideas and inspiration.
    • For any procedure, think about what else a newfound sense of confidence might inspire you to do. You might plan to ask out your crush, talk to the boss about a raise, or any other thing you’ve been hesitating to do!

I Don’t Recognize Myself

As your body heals, the results of your surgery will gradually become more apparent. The bruising and swelling will recede and you will begin to see changes. Some patients feel conflicted at this time. They may think, “I don’t look like me!”

It’s normal to feel a little wistful for your old facial feature or figure. You’ve had your nose all your life; your breasts have been with you since you were a teenager. For breast augmentation patients, this phase is called the “boobie blues”—and it’s more common than you may think.

It can be hard to let those emotions go, but it’s important to release your negative associations with those parts of your body. To stay positive, remember how you felt when you were planning the procedure and have faith in your decision.

Want to help your future self get through this confusing stage?  Here are some tips:

  • Write yourself a letter explaining how excited you are to make this change
  • Enlist a close friend to be your cheerleader and help you remember why you made the choice
  • Remember that, as when you try a new hairstyle, fashion, or makeup, it takes time to get used to seeing yourself in a different package.

Have I Made a Mistake?

The physical healing process takes time. Sometimes the long-term benefits that made you choose to have surgery will feel buried by your immediate discomfort. Additionally, pain medication can make thinking through situations more challenging—it can also cause additional discomfort, such as nausea.

You may see your face in the mirror and question if you made the right change. Or look at your new body and doubt if it will look right in the end. All of this leads to a common post-surgery thought: “Should I have done this?”  It’s important to know that your results in this stage are not final and that you have to be patient with your body’s healing processes. It will take several weeks or months to see your true outcome.

Here are some tips for getting past doubts at this stage:

  • Keep your original goals in mind. You might even look back at an old photo of yourself that helped inspire you to make this change.
  • Keep your mind on the future: remember your body is adjusting and will take some time to settle into the desired shape. Some educational and social websites include photos of surgical healing in stages, which can help you remember that the way your body looks right now is only temporary.
  • You’ll only know for sure if you love your choice once you are healed, so it is best to keep your mind occupied with other things for the time being. During this stage, when your normal activities are limited, you might have a chance to start writing that screenplay or novel you’ve been dreaming about, or jot down goals or vacation ideas for the year ahead.

How Do Other People Feel?

Overall, most people are satisfied with their decision to undergo plastic surgery. According to surveys of real patients on the popular plastic surgery community RealSelf:

  • More than 95% of breast augmentation patients are very happy with their decision to have the procedure done
  • 96% of tummy tuck patients are thrilled with their long-term results
  • Around 90% of facelift patients believe their improvements are worth the cost and physical discomfort during the healing process.

The emotional recovery process can feel bumpy at times, but ups and downs are completely normal. The key is to be aware of your feelings so that you are prepared for what may come your way.

Try to stay positive and remember that the emotions you may feel after surgery are likely temporary. Soon you will look in the mirror and see your new appearance smiling back at you!

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