Late last year, a pair of U.K. researchers published a study in the Psychological Bulletin, a publication of the American Psychological Association, on the growing trend of perfectionism in Western culture. Through thirty years of experience in practice, we believe we see the same trend in our New York plastic surgery patients. In honest discussions with men and women in consultation, we do our best to help them understand the “much better” concept and discard any notions of “perfect” results. But for some people, the perfectionist mindset can still stand in the way of post-op satisfaction.
An Overview of the Study
The study is an interesting one. The authors’ premise is that perfectionism is more prevalent among younger people than among older generations. The team examined college students’ responses over time on a test called the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale developed in the 1990’s. In short, through rigorous statistical analysis, the researchers did find that recent college students demand perfection of themselves, believe they must be perfect to earn approval of others, and evaluate others critically to a much higher extent than in the past.
The authors propose several possible reasons for this increase, some of which you can probably guess. To learn more, you can read the full text of the study here, though be advised that it’s fairly technical.

Perfectionism and Gynecomastia Patients in New York

Though each patient is an individual, of course, we have observed a rise in the tendency of our patients, particularly younger people, to demand perfection when it comes to surgical results. The trend is especially notable in our New York gynecomastia patients. Since we have specialized in man boob surgery in New York for more than three decades, we’re in a good position to see societal changes like this as they manifest in the people we work with.
Before Gynecomastia Surgery
Growing a pair of enlarged breasts can be an extremely vexing and embarrassing development for many guys. In the current environment emphasizing competitiveness and unrealistic ideals, and with a self-image influenced by social media (referencing themes in the study), some guys with man boobs examine themselves in the mirror daily, and even many times each day.
We consult weekly with guys who fall into this pattern. If we feel that male breast reduction can help, we are happy to welcome them as patients. But, as we mentioned, we have extended discussions with guys who seem to have a touch of obsession about their appearance so we can assess their expectations. If it’s clear they’re not likely to be satisfied with anything less than perfection, we’ll decline to operate.

After Male Breast Reduction

Even with our best efforts to make sure the New York gynecomastia patients we work with are ready to relax and be rational during healing, we do find some of our post-op patients scrutinizing their chest in front of the mirror often. Forgetting what we have told them about the gradual, non-linear process of healing, some even want to review changes with us on a daily basis.
Symmetry can be of special concern to these guys. They do not remember that it’s normal for swelling and bruising to come and go in unexpected ways. As healing progresses, they sometimes demand a completely symmetrical chest, forgetting that their body was not exactly the same on both sides before man boob surgery. No one’s is!
Scar tissue can be another hurdle for our patients and for us following man boob surgery. Some patients will say they understand about the unpredictable nature of scar tissue prior to their operation, then go crazy when they find they have a little more scarring under the skin on one side than on the other. This can happen even when the tissue can only be felt, not seen.
We absolutely want our patients to be satisfied with the outcome of gynecomastia surgery, and there are minor procedures we can perform to fine tune results. But when a guy is not content with his “much better” chest and demands unattainable perfection, it’s as disappointing for us as it is for him.
Perfection and Plastic Surgery: the Challenge
The characteristics of today’s society and the effects on individuals—including competitiveness, preoccupation with social standing, perfectionism and so on—present an ironic challenge for plastic surgery practices. Here in New York, as is the case in many corners of the world, the industry has benefited from increasing awareness and acceptance of cosmetic surgery.
On the other hand, it is becoming imperative for plastic surgeons to gain a good understanding of each prospective patient’s mindset to forecast whether they are likely to be truly happy with the results of a cosmetic procedure. Misplaced motivations, unrealistic expectations and body dysmorphia are challenges we confront on a near daily basis that were infrequently seen in the past.

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