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I have had plastic surgery and my family is rejecting me - please help.


heart to heart
Question
I recently turned 50. I am not very different from many people in that I feel many years younger. I dress younger, I take care of myself, whether by exercise, good health habits or minor plastic surgery (oops, did I say a bad word?). This takes me to one of my problems. The media is making plastic surgery such an accepted practice and I have bought into it since it has helped me out as well in various ways. I have had various surgeries done over the past 10 years and have no regrets. I appear more youthful, it has helped me with my occupation (appearances count) and self confidence, yet I am faced with feelings of guilt, as various family members do not feel the same as I do about plastic surgery. They cannot afford it, or they think it is vain. I feel misunderstood, like I have committed a sin against myself, God and them.

I have chosen to turn away from them. After attempting to communicate with them, that it has helped me to feel more confident and boosted my self image, they "snubbed" me. One cousin, who was like a sister to me (same age as myself), has refused to speak to me for over 5 years now. She has allowed herself to become quite overweight, neglected her health and even developed cancer. I let her know I was there for her at any time for any reason, but she still rejected me. I know I should just let it go and let her go too since she is refusing to understand. I have done what I could to help her and get her to understand how plastic surgery has helped my self esteem and promoted me to farther heights than I had imagined.

I sense she feels I have betrayed her somehow and am angry with her, yet I wish I could get her to understand. I chose to do this and I will face whatever befalls me or promotes me. I am let down by her shallow friendship and believe she may feel the same, since I did not mimic her neglect of her health and appearance. My question: How do I let go of this betrayal and move on? I am hurt.

Wallace's reply
Wallace
Do not let your family (or God!) decide what is right for you - this is what is giving rise to your feelings of guilt. Be an adult. Decide for yourself, stand up for your decisions, accept the consequences and learn from the choices you make. Plastic surgery is not the issue here. The issues that need addressed are having expectations of others, attempting to control others through signals of approval or disapproval, poor communication, lack of forgiveness and lack of closure.

You are feeling hurt because you expect your cousin to understand your reasons for having plastic surgery. She may never do this. You can, as you have done, seek to explain your reasons to her, but that is not a guarantee that she will understand or accept them. The problem is that you are communicating at a superficial level, with an excessive emphasis on image and insufficient emphasis on heart to heart communication. Heart to heart communication is different from superficial communication because we share our deeper feelings, thoughts and values without judgment. Because you were communicating at the superficial level only, you no longer saw eye to eye on issues to do with image and appearance and your relationship fell apart. So I would question how close a friendship you really had in the first place.

As I see it there are two possibilities. You can see if your friendship can be resurrected on a deeper heart to heart basis. This can sometimes be possible. A crisis in a relationship can often take it to a new deeper level. Or you can end this relationship with your cousin and let it go.

Do not decide which path to take, let that evolve. You concentrate on doing the right thing from your side of the relationship and leave the rest to your cousin. To be able to do the right thing you first of all need to find it in your heart to forgive your cousin for not understanding you and for not speaking to you.

You are finding it difficult to forgive your cousin because you harbored expectations of your cousin - expectations that she would understand your motives for having plastic surgery, perhaps even expectations that she would approve your decision. It is the presence of these expectations and the hurt they create that is making it difficult for you to bring closure.

I want you to look inside yourself now for 10 minutes and think of your relationship with your cousin... Sense the hurt you are feeling... Do you see how this hurt is caused by your expectations of her?... Be aware that you are having these expectations every time they arise and let these expectations go.

I also want you to develop more compassion for your cousin. Feel the pain she is suffering around her appearance and her lack of health. Put yourself in her place. Do this for 10 minutes now. Picture her in your mind as she is... Imagine her with the kind of beliefs she has and the values she has (including those on plastic surgery)... Imagine her going about her daily tasks thinking, looking and feeling the way she does... Now imagine her meeting you, fit, healthy, youthful, glamorous, confident and successful - and a person with different (and often opposing) beliefs and values...

Having completed this exercise do you see why she may be finding it so hard to accept you? Have compassion for her.

To move on from this impasse and bring closure for yourself I suggest you write a letter to your cousin. Before you write the letter, take care to have forgiven your cousin by using the two 10 minute exercises I have given you above. In the letter say what you really feel about your relationship - from the heart - and then let it go. Do not be attached to the letter having any particular result. This will bring closure for you in relation you have to the topic of plastic surgery with your cousin.

Now take what you have learned from your relationship with your cousin and apply it to all the other members of your family.

Further Help and Resources
You wrote, "I feel misunderstood, like I have committed a sin against myself, God and them." I sense from this that you have an inaccurate sense of, and an unhealthy relationship with, God and the Divine. You would find it most helpful, (and enlightening), to correct that relationship. A correct relationship with God would bring the following benefits, freedom from feelings of guilt, courage to stand up for the path you have chosen in life and empathy to communicate your choices with others. To achieve this I recommend reading my book, Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off.

Guy Finley offers helpful advice when you are in the situation of seeking approval - even needing approval - from others... Seeking Approval... "The approval we seek makes us debtors of our own fearful feelings - and of whomever makes us temporarily forget these fears."

Peter Shepherd describes how being a victim of another person's feelings and behavior is a choice we make based on fear: Empower Yourself! "How can I accept a fear and transcend it? I think a good way is to realize that fear is a two-sided coin. The other side of the coin is love, the positive dynamic in our life for truth and freedom. Love is about acceptance, fear is about resistance. Our fears can help us to become aware of the expression of love that may be missing in our life - because our choices are being hidden alongside our fears under the floorboards of our consciousness."

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