Humor me, for I was a psychology minor in college.

For most of us, large parts of our lives are led under a cloud of fear. The fear is not palpable all the time, nor is it visible most of the time, but it’s there in our subconscious and effects the way we deal with the myriad of decisions we make every day.

Fear takes a number of forms but can be broadly classified into:

  • Fear of failure in personal relationships; fear of failure at play
  • Fear of failure in professional relationships; fear of failure at work

Personal relationship failure

A divorce is obviously the epitome of a failed relationship, but other levels of failure also exist that wound our psyche with much more frequency.

Failure to listen to friends or loved ones, failure to give or receive love or attention and failure to give or receive criticism are just a few examples of how failure can ruin our personal lives. Of course, failure in the realm of sexual performance is another big one!

Failure in the personal realm also extends to us when we’re at play. No one plays tennis or golf with the intention of losing, though in most sports someone must fail by necessity. Even if there is no human opponent, we fail against computers or a ball. Even when external situations appear stress-free, we are not out of the clutches of our fear. Did you order the right meal at the restaurant? What about the wine? Will that be good or will you have failed in your choice, and will your guest or the waiter feel that you are an idiot?

When watching television, there is an element of failure in the works. Are you watching the right program or did you fail to see the blockbuster show everyone will be talking about tomorrow? You are mad if you think like this all the time, but normal if you have these moments of “introspection.”

Failure in professional relationships

Our professional failures can be divided into failures in individual relationships with other professionals and failures in our relationships with other entities, such as corporations or the government.

When you have an errant charge on your credit card statement, somewhere there is a tiny fear of failing to get the matter resolved (or at least there should be if you want to keep your credit score virginal). When the tax man sends you a notice, there is also a fear of failing to facilitate an amicable resolution of the matter.

In relationships that have less of an emotional component (as compared to relationships with family and friends), such as those with co-workers, failure also plays an ugly role. With our direct colleagues, we may fear their judgments about the competency of our work; with those in higher work-related positions, we may fear their neglect, lack of interest or outright hostility, which translate to failure at work. With those who may be subordinate, we may fear their lack of respect or loss of confidence in our abilities.

Failure in plastic surgery

So what does all this psycho-babble have to do with plastic surgery?

Well, in an hour I will be operating on a patient who has had multiple surgeries for breast augmentation. She has had multiple complications and is only now nearing a resolution of her symptoms and concerns because I finally realized that I had been the object of fear of failure and did something about it! Yes, your cosmetic plastic surgeon can also have a fear of failure.

In plastic surgery, the fear of failure takes on a particularly vicious twist because it weaves together the natural ego of the plastic surgeon, the implorations of the patient and the reticence to admit failure that all of us naturally have.

Surgeons are trained over a number of arduous years in the procedures they perform. When in practice, they carry out the tried and true techniques they have learned and are notoriously loath to switch techniques because of a fear of failure. After all, the techniques their board-certified plastic surgery professor taught them in residency work almost every time, so why make a change and risk failure?

Sometimes it is necessary to meet failure head on, to admit that you were wrong and try a “new” way. With the patient who is about to come in, I have tried multiple variations of the same technique and failed because I was not ready to give up the old technique and try a new one. Last month I took the plunge and tried something new on one side of the breast, and it worked out great. Today I will try the “new” method on the other breast. Sometimes all that is required is confronting our own obstinacy that feeds off our fear of failure. Take the plunge and feel the fear! You will not fail to see improvement in all aspects of your life.

P.S. My patient did fine and is happy… so far.