I’m finally at a point in my life where I have learnt acceptance of myself.
It is a really incredible feeling to look in the mirror and not hate what you see. It’s such a moment when a photo of yourself that is taken comes out looking so much better than you expected. It’s such an elation to put your foot down, stand your ground, not accept what someone is saying to you and not feel bad about being assertive.
Have I learnt self-love and self-acceptance or have I settled?
As a plastic surgeon who runs a Medispa with every tool available to enhance, contour, slim etc. it would not be conceivable that even I have issues and insecurities with myself. The world sees you as beautiful but you yourself don’t see it or feel it.
I grew up feeling insecure about my appearance. I have always lacked confidence. I used to hide behind this fat suit and tell myself I might not be pretty enough or skinny enough but I was good enough because I was smart and I studied hard.
I used to hate my chiselled jawline and disliked my side profile, particularly in photos. Ironically that contoured jawline and neckline is something deemed attractive and desirable in today’s age.
Like lots of other young women, I seriously idolised the Dolly Magazine cover models. I wanted to be as beautiful, as skinny and as popular as they were. I would trade my academic marks for it.
My journey as a plastic surgeon
It wasn’t until I did a prestigious aesthetic fellowship that my preconceived ideas were challenged. It was such a privilege being a part of patients’ lives as they overcame insecurities that had bothered them for so long and transformed into more confident and happier beings. I could see how plastic surgeons could make a positive change in someone’s life. I could appreciate that what we did was not lifesaving but it enhanced someone’s quality of life. It gave them confidence and pride; the biggest tool they could have to live their lives with purpose and meaning.
When I started in a private practice, a dermal therapist did some work with my skin and brows, taught me about makeup, introduced me to a hairstylist and to the world of nonsurgical cosmetic enhancements. Gradually I began to like what I saw in the mirror. I began to feel more confident. I began to like having my photo taken. And from that confidence, I became a happier person as I was not afraid to socialise and I stopped feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I began to love getting dressed up and enjoyed shopping for the first time. Previously I dreaded having to try on clothes in a store dressing room for fear everything would look awful.
It is strange and I cannot explain it but the transformation from slight physical tweaks gradually and progressively translated to greater confidence and happiness. The most important thing it gave me was freedom. I was free from being self-critical. I was free to wear what I liked. I was free of worrying I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough because it did not matter. I felt comfortable in my own skin.
That feeling of being the best version of myself enabled me to take my daughter to the pool and the beach and have fun with her. Before this, I was on the sidelines in my black baggy outfits.
Fighting for my pre-pregnancy body
After my first child, my body just bounced back with little effort. I was in my twenties. After my second child, my body didn’t bounce back and it was a lot of hard work and discipline to get my body back. I did and I loved getting back into size 6 dresses. I loved being slim. After my third child more recently, it has been a struggle. Carrying an extra 20kg long after the birth has taken a toll on my confidence.
It has been difficult having photo shoots for media commitments as I was unable to find anything nice to wear without upsizing as well as looking and feeling frumpy. I saw a photo of myself and jokingly asked the photographer if it could be photoshopped to look better and was told it was already photoshopped. Fortunately, I hated the photo so much it has not gone any further. Instead, I have resorted to using photos of myself taken before I was pregnant with the last child.
The truth sunk in. I might not get my pre-pregnancy body back.
I was almost brought to tears when a patient told me I looked so much bigger in real life than in my video clips on my website (which I might add were not photoshopped as I was actually that thin once upon a time).
I don’t think I could take anymore. I was always resilient but this time I felt shattered inside. Meanwhile, on the outside, I am working 6 days a week, being a mum and breastfeeding, and feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
My wonderful husband told me how much he loved me and I should be proud of my body as it carried 3 beautiful children. Then I remembered to snap out of feeling sorry for myself and start embracing how blessed I am for my life and family. This positive self-talk would last momentarily until I saw my reflection in a shop window or a photo of myself.
But I was determined to keep working towards my pre-pregnancy body. I’m back to exercising and eating more sensibly and I’m slowly noticing my old clothes fitting better. Admittedly, the scales aren’t dropping as fast as I’d like which is disheartening but at least I am beginning to like more of what I see in the mirror.
My confidence and motherhood
As I have started to regain my body confidence, I feel I have also learnt to kowtow less, speak my truth and be assertive without apology. And it feels like I’m beginning to get my mojo back and take control of so many facets of my life and business.
I came to the realisation not long ago that I think I am finally at a stage in my life where I am not as physically perfect as I was before the 3 children, but I’m comfortable, I’m happy, I’m more confident than I have ever been.
Of course, I am not settling with how I look as I believe it is important to be the best version of myself, to nourish and maintain beautiful skin and stay lean, strong and fit. This helps me in surgery and helps me run around with my kids. What I am working on this year and in the next phase are my inner peace and mental toughness.
So when patients ask me do I understand, my response is “yes, I get it.” I totally understand how important it is for men and women to not feel self-conscious about something that bothers them. I totally appreciate how these insecurities can affect so many facets of their lives. I feel privileged to be able to help address those concerns and hold their hand along the journey to find their mojo – and live their life with confidence.
There is no greater gift than being able to help a mum reclaim her pre-pregnancy body, help a young woman with large breasts be able to wear normal clothes and be able to run freely, to be able to help improve someone’s skin, to open up tired eyes, to reshape and enhance a face etc. because the endpoint is happiness and freedom.
I believe we should do what makes us feel happy. We should invest in ourselves. We shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to do something for ourselves because, when we are our best version, we have more to give to our partners, our kids, our job, our friends and our life.
Plastic surgery is not about vanity. It’s more powerful and transformative than that.
*Disclaimer: Australian Medical Guidelines rightly say that we cannot guarantee that patients will experience psychological benefits as a result of an elective treatment, and I need to clarify that the results I discuss in this blog are not promised results of treatment but, instead, side benefits that some patients have been known to experience. However, I cannot ignore the positive effects that I have personally observed in past patients or the fact that these effects have been my biggest motivation in pursuing this career. The psychological effects of each person’s treatment will vary depending on their own mental state, their goals and their expectations.