To all the women out there considering breast implants, read this first.
I have always been self conscious about my small breasts. At 5'1 I have a very petite frame, and along with that comes petite breasts. However, rather than see my breasts as proportional to the rest of my body, I saw them as ugly, misshapen, and the farthest thing from womanly. I compared them to other women’s breasts — women who were much curvier, taller, etc. than I was. I had this image in my mind of what “real” breasts on a woman should be, and I was not that. And because I didn’t have “that” I felt inadequate.
My perception of what was normal was skewed from an early age. For instance, when I was around 8 years old, I remember seeing a mom and her children at our community swimming pool and being surprised that she didn’t look like all the other moms. She had a pretty flat chest, which was accentuated by her strapless swimsuit. I remember thinking she was deformed looking — my image of a “mom” was that she should have round, fully developed breasts, because this was what I was used to seeing.
As I got older, this warped perspective morphed into insecurity around my own body image. This became especially true during puberty, when I realized that I would never have sizeable breasts. I remember the day distinctly. I was 14 years old and on vacation at the beach with my family. We were all in our swimsuits and my aunts and mom were commenting on how my cousin (who was my age) had really started to develop breasts — and they were surprised.
“Why are you surprised?” I asked. That was when my mom told me that big breasts don’t run in our family, and that she actually had breast implants.
What?!? I was shocked — I thought her breasts were real and that I was destined to grow a pair just like hers! I subsequently learned that two of my aunts had fake breasts as well. I couldn’t believe it. How did I not know this before, and what was I supposed to do now?? I felt disappointed, betrayed, and like a big fear had come true. Since then, I never stopped wishing that my breasts were different.
I never felt fully comfortable in my naked skin, and I did whatever I could to try and cover up my true size. I always wore double padding in my swimsuits. I never wore a sports bra without a push up bra under it. And I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a shirt unless I could wear a bra with it. I knew that this plaguing insecurity was not normal. It even felt like borderline body dysmorphic disorder — or at least a very unhealthy body image problem. And because I knew it wasn’t normal, I kept it a secret. My friends knew I didn’t like my breasts, but I don’t think anyone knew the level of my obsessive self-criticism. When I was in college, I finally opened up to my friends and mom about wanting to get implants. This was the most detail I ever disclosed about how I truly felt. I thought if I shared my insecurities, others would view me as weak and superficial — or worse, that they would agree with me and my suspicions about my appearance would be confirmed.
The Process of Change
However, somewhere along the way, my perspective started to shift. Over the past few years I’ve started to see a gradual change in myself and my attitude toward my body image. There have been a lot of contributing factors, but four experiences have made the biggest impact.
The first is that my mom recently had her breast implants removed. In fact, she told me that she had never been happy with her implants. They never made her feel more secure; ironically, they became a source of insecurity for her as she got older and felt like she had to constantly cover them. And what truly bothered her the most was that she always felt hypocritical — trying to raise me to be a strong and authentic young woman, when she didn’t feel fully authentic herself. She was also tired of worrying about the upkeep and long-term health risks of breast implants (Did you know you’re supposed to replace them every 10 years?? Read: scar tissue, ruptures, etc.). Additionally, she said that it seemed counterintuitive to put so much effort into putting healthy, natural foods into her body when she already had synthetic silicone inside her. My mom’s journey was extremely inspiring, and she looks beautiful without the implants — in fact her size now is a much better fit for her body. I’m so proud of her and her experience has definitely shed light on what getting implants really entails.
Second, I’ve also realized that none of the guys I’ve dated have disliked my size. I have recently started asking guys I’ve dated what they think of my breasts and of breast implants in general. It’s been super insightful. So what did I learn? Well, first boobs are not any different than any other feature a woman could have. Some like blondes, some like Asians, some like long legs, some like freckles, I could go on . . . boobs are not any different — it’s a matter of preference. And in my case, I think I attract guys who don’t mind, and sometimes prefer, small breasts. Guys who want a curvy girl with tan skin are not going to come after me. And that’s OK. Moreover, some guys have even been very turned off by the idea of fake breasts, as they say that they don’t feel real and represent inauthenticity.
Third, I’ve recently started showering at the gym and it has really shed light on what real bodies of other women look like. I’ve seen all shapes and sizes of breasts, and the vast majority of them do not look like the breasts you see in Victoria’s Secret catalogues or on fashion billboards. When you see breasts exposed and out in the open, you get a vastly different impression than you do when seeing them under a shirt. It makes you realize how much bras really do camouflage and cover-up what we have. No wonder it’s so hard to have a non-warped view of what real boobs look like!
Fourth, outside of learning from others’ perspectives, my change in mindset has been most largely influenced by what I’ve learned through my own interpersonal journey. Over the past few years I’ve started doing yoga and incorporating meditation into my life, both of which have given me insight into the benefits of self-acceptance, positive thinking, and mindfulness. I had the realization that a lot of my unhappiness and stress stemmed from my desire to resist “what is” and to try and change things that were out of my control. Gradually, I’ve started to become more in tune to how I process thoughts and began making an active effort to practice gratitude and mindfulness in my daily life. I started to feel myself becoming more patient, clear minded, and naturally more optimistic, and miraculously . . . I also noticed that I was able to let go of some of my body image insecurities. How was this related?
As my mindset changed, I also started to reconsider some of my previously held beliefs around body image. I started to feel hypocritical, particularly with my desire to get implants. This prompted me to re-think why I really wanted plastic surgery in the first place. I used to tell people that I wanted implants so that I could look more proportional, more “normal”. But normal as defined by what — external beauty standards? And why did this really matter? It became clear that what I was really seeking was approval, a way to fit in. In other words, I saw a perfect outward appearance as a means to an end — a way to attain a sense of belonging that would, in turn, give me happiness. However, what I had come to learn was that belonging isn’t something you can acquire; rather, it’s an outcome that occurs as a result of cultivating self-appreciation and acceptance. Once I realized this, I was able to reconcile why my motives for plastic surgery started to feel at odds with my beliefs.
A Turning Point
Then it was like a switch turned. I started to feel that getting implants was the easy way out, a way to sidestep the tough task of accepting what I have, and being 100% OK with it. I used to be of the mindset that if you can change something why wouldn’t you? If I work hard enough, I can do anything . . . and if I could be more beautiful, why wouldn’t I?? But now I realize that working to change something is not always admirable; oftentimes it takes more strength to simply accept something and be completely at peace with it. I realized that getting implants was not a means to becoming a better version of myself; rather, a better me would be someone who has the inner strength and confidence to accept how I am right now, in this moment. To have the strength to see past who I think I am, as defined by external standards, and to recognize the beauty that comes from authenticity and loving one’s self. While plastic surgery may be the right choice for some — and I would never judge anyone for that — it was not right for me, because I knew it wouldn’t give me the sense of belonging that I desired.
While I am still working through my insecurities — and there are definitely still days when I don’t 100% love my breasts — I’ve decided that I no longer want breast implants. And I can happily say that I’ve never looked back. This has been huge for me — as I mentioned, I’ve wanted implants since I was 14 years old. Letting go of this desire has brought an immense sense of relief and has created space in my mind for a new perspective on beauty to enter.
Helping Women Be Their Best Selves
I’d love to help other women experience the same relief and insight that I’ve gained from adopting a philosophy of self-acceptance and appreciation. At the least, I hope to inspire women suffering from body image insecurities to really reflect on why they want plastic surgery before going under the knife. Is it truly driven by a desire to be your best self, or is it driven by shame and insecurity? This introspective process is just as — if not more — important than the process of researching the health risks and long-term upkeep of breast implants. I know that I won’t convince everyone to forego surgery. And I don’t wish to condemn plastic surgery. That is not my goal. In fact, I do think breast augmentation surgery is a great option for many women, especially those with breast deformities or those who have survived cancer. However, for the thousands of other women out there like me, my goal is to inspire them to see themselves in a new light — one that isn’t distorted by the media, plastic surgery, or aspirational brand campaigns. It’s time to redefine the approach to beauty and teach women that beauty is a mindset that we each have the power to define.