I was sad to read in The Guardian today that there's been a big rise — nearly 17 per cent – in the demand for cosmetic surgery in Britain in the last year. Breast augmentation is the number one favourite, with anti-ageing techniques such as eyelid surgery and face and neck lifts following closely behind. I was, however, not surprised to read that there's also been a rise in reports of patient dissatisfaction. 

Quite apart from any issues of competence this shows that cosmetic surgery doesn't offer lasting satisfaction. Why not? First, the procedures rarely promise an improvement in general well-being, something we all want to have, but often overlook in the pursuit of presenting an outward 'ideal'. All of the procedures are uncomfortable initially, and many of them — bigger breasts in particular — mean that our ease of movement may be compromised.

When we aim for a pre-determined 'ideal' of any aspect of the human body, we will not be satisfied for long.

Second, a big problem with cosmetic surgery is that it is aimed at standardised ideals—in other words, this is how a nose/breast/neck should look. Yet the interesting thing is, when humans judge beauty, we rarely choose that which is absolutely ideal or perfect. Instead, what we deem most interesting and beautiful is that which is just that little bit different. Pure perfection actually bores us quite quickly.

Furthermore, when we aim for a pre-determined 'ideal' of any aspect of the human body, we will not be satisfied for long. That's because human beings —all living creatures, in fact – are constantly changing and evolving. All changes to living beings will be only temporary. Therefore, anything we have 'done' to us will show the stresses and strains of time. To remain perfect, it will constantly have to be re-done.

Finally, when we aim to conform to standards that other people set for us, we rarely feel more self-confident. In fact, if anything we become more self-conscious and anxious to please, because we are relying on approval from without—that is, from other people—rather than from within ourselves. This need to please is a particular trap for women, who are often — even today, sadly — raised to please others rather than to seek and enjoy inner satisfaction.

Anyone who wants to be regarded as more attractive and sought after can achieve this aim without the discomfort of surgery. Psychological research has shown that the people we regard as most attractive are not perfect specimens, but people who show a genuine interest in us. Instead of undergoing uncomfortable and expensive procedures that only promise temporary change, wouldn't we be smarter to cultivate a lifetime habit of taking an interest in and enjoying other people?