Narcissism and Plastic Surgery

January 24, 2020

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The Oxford dictionary defines Narcissism as follows:


  • Excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.

  • Psychology:  extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

  • Psychoanalysis:  self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.

The word narcissist is derived from Greek mythology.  Narcissus was a hunter (and son of the river god Cephissus) who was renowned for his physical beauty.  So the story goes, Nemesis lured Narcissus to a pool, wherein he saw his reflection and fell in love.  He failed to realize it was merely an image, and being unable to pull himself away, he died.  Sound vaguely familiar?

Narcissism is on the loose in our society.  Walk through any supermarket line, and it screams at you from the tabloid covers.  Technology has facilitated its exponential growth.  Look at Justin Bieber and the ocean of Twitter followers hanging on his every tweet.  Just as Rome and Greece collapsed under the weight of their self-indulgence, we too seem headed in that same direction.  The bible refers to this in 2 Timothy 3:2 where, in the last days, “people will be lovers of themselves.”  While it is easy to spot and pass judgment on the narcissist, it is a much deeper and more pervasive problem.  It is a distinctly human weakness and a part of our “flesh” or nature.  Damage occurs when narcissism starts to exert control over personal decisions.  What does this have to do with Plastic Surgery?  Everything.

Unhealthy self-absorption or narcissism can put patients in harms way.  It can cause someone to fixate on a bodily flaw that is either minor or not there at all just like Narcissus’ image in the water.  This leads to unnecessary trips to the plastic surgery office and unnecessary  plastic surgery.  During medical school and later in  plastic surgery residency, I learned about different psychiatric disorders that are more common among plastic surgery patients, including “narcissistic personality disorder.”  I was warned to be on the lookout for these patients.  It is obviously a moral imperative for a surgeon to recognize these patients and protect them from themselves.  It is equally important to smoke out these same tendencies in more “normal” people and challenge their thinking and steer them towards better decisions.  If the surgeon fails to discern this, the probability of dissatisfaction with the results and a poor relationship is very high.

Now, there is a flip side to this story.  A narcissist can also be a  plastic surgeon!  An argument can be made that a disproportionate number of plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic surgery possess narcissistic tendencies.  Just look at the logo for the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery:  it’s the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, who symbolizes ageless beauty.

Obsessive, endless focus on beauty smells of narcissism.  I spent 6 months in Los Angeles for a prestigious cosmetic surgery fellowship, and it was clearly an issue there.  A casual glance at plastic surgery websites in LA is revelatory:  everyone trained with the masters and is now a self-proclaimed master who travels the world lecturing their poor, hapless peers.  There is an inherent messianic self-importance and self-absorption that is both amusing and disturbing.  One key warning to patients:  if the surgeon talks more about themselves during the consult or suggests multiple procedures you were not interested in or does not truly listen to you or spend real, quality time with you during the consult, run away.  You are in the presence of a narcissist.

[googleplusauthor] is a Plastic Surgeon in Charlotte, NC specializing in breast augmentation, breast reduction, brazilian butt lift, tummy tuck, face enhancements, and liposuction. His practice Providence Plastic Surgery is a boutique Charlotte cosmetic surgery clinic with leading Charlotte plastic surgeon, Dr. Andrew Gear. 

Our Charlotte plastics office is a Charlotte area plastic surgery facility specializing in breast augmentation, breast reduction, brazilian butt lift, tummy tuck, face enhancements, and liposuction in the South Charlotte area. Delivering premium natural plastic surgery and natural cosmetic surgery services to clients in Charlotte, Ballantyne, Matthews, Pineville, Waxhaw, and all of North Carolina and South Carolina.