Perfectionism in the Rhinoplasty Patient: A Barrier to Satisfaction

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”  – Michael J. Fox

I can’t create a perfect nose.  This may seem obvious, but I still state this clearly to every rhinoplasty patient who comes to see me for consultation.  I do this because it is crucial for patients to know ahead of time what to expect in order for them to be happy with results.  Of course, I have to take care of my side of the bargain by executing a meticulous, well-planned operation.  But even if I deliver a phenomenal result, if it falls short of my patient’s expectations, he or she will be disappointed.  I hate to have unhappy patients.  This is why I try so hard to set appropriate expectations.

In order to do this, I spend a lot of time in the consultation to educate about the mechanics of the surgery, the techniques used, and the limitations of these techniques.  I use a computer assisted imaging tool to render proposed changes and show examples of results to provide a realistic portrayal of likely results for each patient.  I review the possible risks and complications and I’m honest with patients about the possibility of imperfections (minimal likelihood of major imperfections but some chance of tiny ones).  If I feel I can’t set these expectations in a patient, we will not go forward with surgery.

One of the hardest types of patients to work with is the perfectionist.  This patient may not literally demand perfection, but he or she tends to be intolerant of any imperfection, no matter how small (sometimes so small one may wonder if it is imagined).  The extreme perfectionist will never be happy with any surgical outcome.  Of concern to me, perfectionism seems to be on the rise, especially in an ultra high functioning place like the San Francisco Bay Area.  People are used to having more and more choices in everything they do and getting whatever they want.  I see this leading to many people having diminishing levels of satisfaction and happiness in life as expectations rise and reality can’t keep up.

I don’t raise this point as an excuse for mediocre work.  Although I (or anyone) cannot make a perfect nose, I know that I can create significant and meaningful improvements.  I know that I put maximum commitment and effort to make every nose as beautiful as I can possibly make it.  And I also know that my background, training, and experience allows for that energy to result in consistently outstanding outcomes.  But all of that is still no match for perfectionism!

As Michael J. Fox noted, excellence and perfection are sometimes confused in the modern world.  This can cause strife in any aspect of life, but in the realm of cosmetic surgery, it can get in the way of appreciating results.  I expect a lot out of myself and my life, both personally and professionally, but letting go of perfect has led me to feel much happier and at peace.  I try to encourage those patients who have entrusted me with their care to take the same approach. To book your one on one consultation with Dr. David Kim, a Board Certified San Francisco facial plastic surgeon call today 415-773-0800.