I wrote an article a few months back called, “I Have Breast Implants: Are People Judging Me?” to which I received a predictably wide spectrum of responses.
It was a hard article to write—exposing myself, as it were, in such a way. But I am not one to shy away from personal or public revelation.
Nevertheless, the negative remarks were hurtful (though the positive comments far outweighed them in scope and number), particularly one posted by “Iris”:
“…what you have done and revealed is a story more about privilege to do a bunch of drugs, get implants and make more money, and as an afterthought accept yourself. I don’t think this story is unique or compelling at all, it’s the story of so many privileged white [hetro] women who have low self esteem and have surgery to fix it , then feel bad they cheated, they mutilated their bodies for men, and have to do the work of finding love for themselves again. Great, you have a husband who likes your fake boobies and you managed to reproduce. Meanwhile I am sure there are lots of girls and women and transwomen out there struggling just to survive on the boobs they got, and still others who would rather die than change a thing about their bodies for a man.”
While my first instinct was to defend myself from this searing rejoinder—to the point where I composed and re-composed endless possible retorts in my mind—at the end of the day I realized these comments simply reflected my reader’s pain. She, like me, like all women, has a complicated relationship with her breasts and body image, which is why my words pressed so many buttons for her, and why her words in return pressed so many of mine.
Another noteworthy reaction to my article came from a young woman, “Nicole,” who, after reading it, contacted me on Facebook to ask my advice about getting breast implants herself. My response to her inquiry was as visceral as it was to Iris, but for a very different reason. As much as I have accepted my own path in terms of body image and the choices I have made, it never occurred to me that writing about it might encourage someone else to get implants.
When I asked Nicole to tell me about herself so we could have a more meaningful discussion on the subject, she revealed that she was 24, weighed 110 lbs, and had a 34 B-C bra size. In other words, she had what sounded to me like a “perfect” body.
Why on earth would someone with those dimensions even consider breast surgery?
She went on to say that she has a boyfriend whose ex-girlfriend had bigger breasts than she, and that she felt insecure because he refused to throw away an old photograph of this ex in a bikini, despite his insistence that he merely kept it because it reminded him of a rare day she was happy. Evidently this old girlfriend of his suffered from crippling depression (despite her large breasts).
Nicole wanted my take on whether her boyfriend was telling the truth about about his reason for keeping the picture, and also my input on—if he was lying—whether she was justified in feeling inadequate.
Sigh. I wouldn’t want to be 24 again for all the tea in China.
It makes me so sad to think about how we women judge ourselves constantly, cruelly, meaninglessly. I’ve gotten better about it—I’m able to go an hour, maybe two on a good day, without seeing myself through the filter of my weight, or my body shape, or now, my age. Until I began practicing yoga seriously 15 years ago I could only manage five minutes at a time, or so.
I’ve often wondered how representative my experience with such things is of women in general, and I think the sad answer is, I’m fairly typical. It pains me to think of the time, resources and money I have wasted on the subject. What would I have done, and what could I still do, if I was free from this disease of body dysmorphia?
On the other hand, I often think that one of my missions in this life I’ve generously been given—a life of admitted privilege, as Iris pointed out—is to try and unravel the mystery of women’s discontent with their bodies, to fight for a final feeling of contentment with my own, and to try and lead, in that way, by example.
If I could, I would reach out and wrap my arms around every single woman on this Earth and say, “You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are beautiful,” until my vocal cords snapped.
“You are beautiful. Your mind is beautiful. Your heart is beautiful. Your body is beautiful. Your breasts are beautiful—old, new, large, small, fake, real.”
One of the most important lessons I am trying to learn, is that we are not our bodies. We are not our thoughts. We are not even our emotions. We are something much deeper. I like to imagine it as a bright little flame within each of us, a flame that is timeless and incorruptible, perfect in it’s clarity.
Our only real task is to sink down far enough to see our flame, to believe in it, and to know it is the one true thing that matters.
It is in Iris, it is in Nicole, it in is me and it is in you—and it is beautiful. We are beautiful.
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Editor: Travis May