I remember when my breasts made their first appearance.
I was about 11-years-old when I felt what I thought was a growth on my chest. Looking back, I realize it was a breast bud, but at the time I was terrified it could be cancer. (I was a precocious kid who read a lot of magazines at doctor’s offices. I knew what breast cancer was.)
In any case, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with “my girls” throughout most of my adolescent and adult life. Despite the normal appearance of breast buds, my breasts did not achieve their maximum size until I was nearly 19.
For awhile, I was blessed with what can only be called “great breasts“—indeed, at the risk of sounding totally conceited and up my own ass, I had not one, but three boyfriends tell me independently that mine where the best they had ever seen.
However, those amazing boobs went away and never returned once I became pregnant and had a child. While I eventually came to terms to this—because let’s face it-what other choice did I have?—the fact is, my on-going relationship with my breasts has continued and probably will for the rest of my life.
Whether we love our breasts, hate them, wish they looked different, etc., our breasts are an important part of our bodies and often play a major role when it comes to our self-worth. For instance, I have known many breast cancer survivors who say that losing one or both breasts was one of the most devastating things that ever happened to them.
Getting to know and be familiar with our breasts isn’t just important from a health point-of-view even though the vast majority of breast cancers and tumors are detected by women themselves—but it can also help us achieve a better sense of self-worth.
With that in mind, here are some tips for both physical and emotional breast care:
1. Spend some time getting to know your breasts.
By getting to know your breasts, I mean spend some time looking at your bare breasts. Stand in front of a mirror and take a few minutes assessing your breasts as uncritically as possibly. (When I first started doing this, I pretended I was a doctor examining someone else’s in order to keep my inner critic at bay.) Notice if one breast is large than the other, if there are any moles, scars, etc. Next, touch them and get an idea of how they feel. (It may be a good idea to record these observations in a journal.)
The best time to do this self-examination is every month right after the end of menstrual period, because breasts have a tendency to feel lumpy right before. If there are any changes like dimpling, new lumps, etc. then see a health care provider as soon as possible, as it may be a sign that something is not right.
2. Look at some pictures of “real” breasts.
In our society, it’s easy to see bare or semi-bare breasts, but few are actually representative of the majority of breasts out there. Most already know this, but the breasts we see in most men and women’s magazines have either been enhanced via surgery and/or Photoshop.
One of the best places I ever found to see images of real, non-sexualized breasts is this website. In addition to the pictures, many women have chosen to share their stories about their relationship and perceptions of their breasts which is also rare and refreshing to find.
3. Get professionally measured for a bra at least once a year.
Most of us (at least 85 percent according to some sources) are wearing the wrong sized bra. Wearing the wrong sized bra can affect our self-image—let’s face it, an ill-fitting bra seldom flatters anyone—but it can do a number on the back and shoulders as well, especially if you happen to be large-breasted.
I’ve found that the best place to get measure is small, upscale lingerie shops but if there is not one where you live, than even Victoria’s Secret will do.
One thing to keep in mind is that unlike shoes, bra sizes are not always uniform across brands. Therefore a 34B in one brand may be the equivalent of a 32B in another. Therefore, always try a bra on before you purchase.
4. Focus on the positives rather than dwell on the negatives.
It never ceases to amaze me how some otherwise body-confident women can go on full-blown rants about their breasts. In my case, I once told a friend shortly after I stopped breastfeeding that I would “rather die” than ever show my “deflated, pancake” breasts again. On another occasion, a friend confided to me that she “hated” her “cow-like” breasts and wished she could have them reduced.
It seems that few women are ever satisfied with what they have.
However, keep in mind that most of women, even the ones with the “perfect” breasts either don’t acquire them through nature or even if they do, they don’t keep them forever. (Afterall, aging comes to us all and eventually affects every part of the body.)
No matter their size or shape, breasts both give and receive pleasure. Based on my own experience and that of friends, most men (and women who prefer women) are going to be happy just to be seeing and enjoying breasts that belong to someone else. Much like the trend of women getting plastic surgery on their vulvas because they think they need to look a certain way, I think many cosmetic breast procedures could be avoided if more women were aware of this fact. (Frankly, I think anytime an intimate partner makes a disparaging comment about any part of your body-private or otherwise-it’s clear sign that one needs to change partners rather than their bodies.)
In any case, taking good physical and emotional care of the breasts has a number of benefits. In order to do so, one does not need to have the perfect pair of breasts and/or ones that rival a pin-up girl’s.
Instead, take pride in whatever you have. Flaunt ’em or keep them covered-it doesn’t matter so long as you feel comfortable.
The fact is, whether you ever nursed a child or not, survived breast cancer, etc. your breasts deserve some respect for just being part of you.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Teodoor Thomas