“Just make me beautiful.”

This seems to be a daily comment I hear from new patients. Sometimes they have specific requests – like a smaller nose, or thinner neck. However, it is not uncommon for a patient to just throw up her hands and say “doctor, you know best what I need.” Talk about pressure.

Luckily, over the last 20 years I have started to get some idea of what is “beautiful”. During training, I was taught about perfect proportions and symmetry. I memorized the ideal angles for noses and eyebrows. I answered the questions correctly on my board exams and became certified as a surgeon in Facial Plastic Surgery. But experience has taught me that beauty is rarely that easy to define. There are lots of beautiful models that have less than ideal eyes, noses and chins – yet they make a living off their beauty.

It was the birth of my children that finally taught me the truth about beauty. Beauty is a confident smile. It radiates from people who feel they look great, and is irrespective of the details. Children are not self-conscious about any “defects” and mug delightfully for the camera. Even a baby with big ears and a fat neck is beautiful when he smiles.

So when a patient asks me to “make him/her beautiful”, I try to find out what makes them think they are not beautiful already. What keeps you from smiling with confidence? Once I discover that, I can start to look for solutions. This approach has proven to be successful. While friends may not actually notice that you had a facelift and your jowls are gone, they will notice that you are smiling and posing gleefully for the camera. You are beautiful, and it shows.