Fair warning: This is a post about my boobs. If you are a relative or coworker or anyone who doesn’t want to hear me talk about this most wonderful body part, you have been warned.
One of the single biggest influences on my body image, whether positive or negative, is my breasts.
It might sound silly, but it is very, very true. I don’t know if all women are especially conscious of their breasts, but I always have been. For the longest time, they were too small (or so I thought). Granted, I was about 14 years old when I thought this, but still, I was hyper-aware. It is sort of awkward, conceptually, when you think about it: women have these weird mound-like protrusions from their chest. Obviously, they serve a very important purpose (i.e., breastfeeding). But for the vast majority of our lives, we aren’t breastfeeding. During these non-nursing times, breasts become something sort of different: sexual objects. But I think that a lot of the way we see our breasts isn’t determined by men or sex, but by other women.
When I started high school, I remember thinking that I must be the flattest-chested girl in the entire school. This wasn’t true at all, but my image of breasts did not fit with how I thought they should be. This says a lot about how girls are primed, even from a young age — I was thirteen years old. Over high school, my breasts grew at what was probably a painfully normal rate. I felt happy with their size when I started college at 17. I was maybe a small C cup at that point. Since then, they’ve grown about two more sizes. This is not what I wanted to happen, at all. I feel like women are constantly made to understand that their bodies can be perfectly controlled, in terms of size and shape. Breasts are a perfect example of why this is not true.
In the last four years, I have been on and off various hormones. About two years ago, I finally settled on a birth control pill that worked well (I was only using it to control my period, headaches, acne, etc.). After having pulmonary emboli, however, hormones are out of my life permanently. At first I thought this would be nice and cleansing; more authentic to how my body should be. But after a solid six months hormone-free, I have to say that I am hating it. I have terrible acne for half the month, awful cramps and headaches, and my moods are not only terrible but unpredictable. I cannot believe that women lived like this for thousands of years before the invention of the pill.
Whatever. My point is that the lack of birth control hormones in my system has had another unpleasant side effect: my boobs have been growing like rabid animals. Ugh.
It’s frustrating to feel like I reached a point where I was satisfied with my breast size and now they’re growing beyond my control. I despise not being in control. But that’s just the thing: I have been made to believe, all my life, that my body can be shaped and contorted and dominated like a bonsai tree. This is not the case, and it never will be; there are a million factors that play a role in determining the size and shape of all our various body parts.
So why do I let my boobs affect my self-esteem so much? I’m constantly aware of their size; I feel like they’re awkward and too big all the time. My younger high school self thought they were too small, making me somehow un-womanly. There are, of course, some practical reasons for my current self-consciousness about them: plain and simple, they get in the way. It would be so much easier to run with smaller boobs. There are certain yoga poses where I feel like I’m being strangled by a small human sitting on my chest, until I realize that it’s really just my own breasts.
Other times, I feel like I’m being stared at by men. I don’t think I’m imagining it. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing; men ogle. And I am so tired of it. I am much more than whatever sexuality my breasts represent. I think I have a nice face, too. Is it somehow less important?
It’s a funny conundrum: my breasts are sometimes wonderful, sexual objects and are other times obnoxious, uncomfortable objects. Depending on which side of this equation they fall on on any given day, my self-esteem is either high or low. By no means are breasts the only determinant of my (or any other woman’s) self-esteem. But they are a pretty big factor. Sometimes I wish they would just go away entirely.
I am going to try to be nicer to my breasts. After all, they do have an important purpose. Many women would probably be thrilled to have my boobs. I guess we want what we can’t have. And short of a breast reduction, which I don’t think I would really want anyway, my boobs are not going to be changing much. L (my therapist) is always trying to get me to accept things the way they are, at least in moments like this. I think that my self-consciousness about my breasts is a moment where I need to just accept myself: that means accepting the good and the bad. Sometimes it’s nice to get a little attention. Other times it’s downright obnoxious. Sometimes they make me feel very womanly. Other times they feel big and horrible. Overall, they are a wonderful, albeit confusing, body part over which I don’t really have control.
So be it.
Your feelings on your boobs? How do they affect your self-esteem?