We all know what body shaming is and I am sure we have all had our own experiences with it. I will be sharing some of my embarrassing experiences further down in this article. If it isn’t others shaming us, it is quite often ourselves. Yes, we spend more time shaming OURSELVES for our own bodies than the shame we feel from others. That is the root of it isn’t it? If we didn’t already feel shame for our bodies, then things said by others probably wouldn’t have that much of an impact on us. For example.. I have large hands. Like REALLY large hands. They are big and thick and strong. My hands are bigger than the hands of half of the men I know. I am a petite woman. I am roughly 5’7 and weigh 108 lbs. as of my Dr. visit 3 days ago. This makes my hands quite obviously large in contrast to the rest of my body. I often have people comment on my large hands, sometimes in a bit of a negative context. This doesn’t bother me because I love my big hands! I don’t know why, but something about them makes me feel very strong, empowered and capable. The negative views of outsiders for my not-perfectly-proportioned hands does NOTHING to diminish my love for my hands. If only I could feel that way towards the rest of my body! In an ideal world I would. I wish that I did. Truth is, I don’t and probably never will. There will always be parts of my body that I feel ashamed of or disgusted with. And sometimes, no matter what you do, there is no winning.
When we think of body shaming, we normally think of people being shamed for being over weight. Yes, that is a common form of shaming, but it is not the only form. There is a whole other side to body shaming that goes under the radar. If we speak up, we are told that our issue and our shame is of less value and importance. We are made to feel guilty for allowing criticism of our body to make us feel bad, as though we somehow deserve it. The tall girls, the skinny girls and any other body type that might be viewed as “desirable” to others. Your personal feelings towards your body are irrelevant to the masses. Your personal torment and anguish are to be held inside quietly, slowly killing you. How dare you feel any shame! How dare you feel insecure! Lets think about what message we are sending here…
1.) We are saying that skinny girls should not be allowed to feel body shamed, but “fat” girls should. Umm… isn’t this in DIRECT contrast to “all women are beautiful” and the message that NO woman should feel shame for her body? If you allow only the “fat” girls to feel body shamed… you are essentially saying that they are the only ones that have a REASON to feel shamed. If they should be proud of and love their body regardless of size, then you should be saying that all women have the right to be body shamed equally, regardless of their size. And yes, it is happening to the skinny girls too.
2.) You are isolating and ignoring the feelings of an entire sect of the female population and taking away our voice. You deem our voices as irrelevant because you don’t believe our pain has merit or that our feelings are justified.
As women, we should be the FIRST to stand beside any other woman who is hurting and needs her voice to be heard. Silencing women or deeming their struggles as “irrelevant”…. um, isn’t that exactly what we as women have been fighting to stop for years? How hypocritical of us to scream “hear our voices!” and then turn around and silence each other when we feel like it. Most body shaming of skinny girls comes from OTHER WOMEN!
Enough on that though, I think.. I hope, I have made my point. Moving on…
This isn’t just about fat/skinny, tall/short. Feeling shame for your body comes in soo many levels. I am going to share a personal story that I don’t talk about much. Outside of family, and very close friends, no one knows much about this part of my life.
My whole life, I have been small. This made for endless teasing from my peers. It also made me an easy pick for the “mean girls” who wanted a small, weak target. As I got older, it didn’t get better. Flash forward to high school and all my friends are becoming women, filling out nicely with curves and breasts. At 16 years of age, I was still built like a 12 year old boy. “Your such a toothpick!” and “OMG, look how small you are! You could share clothes with my little brother!” were among some of the more common phrases I had grown accustomed to hearing. I had grown so use to hearing comments about my body size growing up, that at this point I just stopped responding to them. The pain came in the later teen years when the insults were no longer just directed at my body size in general, but my lack of physical stature as a woman. I believe the top 3 comments involved comparing my chest to sidewalks, surfboards and a plank of wood. I was even told I was so flat I could be used as a level to hang photos.
For most of my adult life, I felt incredible shame for my body. So much so, that I could not bring myself to have sex without a T-shirt on with my own husband. It didn’t matter how much he tried to tell me how beautiful and perfect I was. There was no longer anything that anyone else could say to relieve my own shame, no matter how sincere they were. Over the course of a few years of marriage, my husband and I had two children. During both pregnancies, my non-existent chest swelled up to a 34DD. After breast feeding, those glorious babies would slowly retreat until I was left with an ALMOST flat chest again. I say almost, because now I had a sickening layer of stretched out saggy skin hanging flat on my chest. I still lacked any breast tissue to fill out this left over skin, but there was enough skin for me to stuff in a small bra and almost look normal while fully clothed. This didn’t stop me from wanting to break into tears every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror when stepping out of the shower. My sex life with my husband also suffered for it, as I could never just be comfortable and “in the moment” with him. This was of no fault of his own I should add. Through all of this, he still continued to try and tell me how beautiful and sexy I was. I could never believe him because I could never look in the mirror and see those things about myself. Finally I made a decision. I wanted a boob job. My husband lost his mind.
For a good year, we fought about the subject. He couldn’t understand why I would want to do such a thing, and insisted that my body needed no changing of any kind and that I was perfect just as I was. Looking back now, I wish I could have believed him. I wish I could have agreed with him. I wish I hadn’t spent an entire life allowing other people to make me feel ashamed of my body and develop such self loathing. I wish I could have spoken out against the shaming without being told I was being ridiculous and had no right to feel ashamed because I was “lucky” that being skinny and flat chested was my only problem. I wish I could have grown up loving my body the way it was. But I didn’t.
When a woman makes the decision to get breast augmentation, everyone loves to categorize her into a little box of “I know why you’re doing it.” as though we are all the same, and our motives are all the same. We instantly become a “type” of woman, and the butt of many jokes. It is for this reason, many of us try to hide our choice from those around us. It is assumed that we are vain and slutty. We are attention whores who just want “guys to notice us” or to “look like barbies” or “enter some other assumption here”.
I just wanted to feel normal. I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror without wanting to cry. I wanted to be able to engage in a fun healthy sex life with my husband without constantly feeling self conscious and insecure. I was not looking to be noticed or to gain attention or the approval of others. At this point in my life, this was something I needed for ME. I didn’t care what anyone else thought about my choice or had to say about it. Other peoples opinions were are large part of what led me to the horrible body shame I now felt, and I was done hearing them. The only thing holding me back now was my husband. I needed him to be on board, but like many others, he made assumptions about my reasons. He feared all the worst about what I was doing, why I was doing it and what life after would be like. All the yelling and fighting in the world wasn’t changing the stand either of us had made on the issue. I decided it was time to sit him down and really open up to him.
I went online and printed out several photos of girls of my body type who had breasts like I would like to have. I obtained these photos from before/after photos of many breast augmentation sites, so that I could have a realistic expectation of what mine would look like. I wasn’t looking to have anything large or eye catching. I just wanted to feel “normal” and like my body was physically balanced. I sat my husband down, told him about how I felt, and all the years of torment that had led to those feelings. I showed him photos of what I wanted done and how it would look after. I took him with me to my consultation so he could speak with my Dr. and so he could see the “tester” size bras on me and get a feel for what that “after” look would be like. It wasn’t easy for him, and he was still never 100% in support, but he began to understand why I needed this for ME and that it wasn’t going to be some insane crazy changed. I wasn’t going to have some giant porn-star boobs drawing the attention of everyone in sight.
After finally getting my husband to support my choice, I had the surgery. For the first time in my life, I felt “whole” and like a woman. I was able to look at myself in the mirror without disgust and tears. I was more open and confident with my husband during sex. For the first time ever, I dragged my husband lingerie shopping and felt I could wear anything no longer having to skip over 90% of the selections because they didn’t come in -32AAAAAAAAAAA, or as I like to call it, concave. 😛
I felt HAPPY! Then I made the mistake of telling some of my family and closest friends. They would not have otherwise known, because by this point that had been accustomed to seeing me in highly padded bras and my husband was the only person who ever had access to the “live showing” of my breasts, as rare as that was. The size of breast I had chosen for my augmentation were fairly comparable to the way I had looked in my padded bras. The people closest to me, who had known my life struggles and pain were the people I trusted and expected to understand my decision and be happy for me. Things did not go as planned.
Some were happy for me and understood. Some were just outright mean and made their opinion of my choice very clear. The worst were those who acted supportive to my face but then talked about me behind my back. And the top of the pain pile were those whose “true” sentiment was only revealed to me during drunken episodes of pure spite.
I will give two examples of this.
The first is a family member. During a cruel drunken rampage in front of many family members at a family camping trip, she decided that in her attacking tirade against all, her targeting of me was going to be what I guess was the easiest thing about me to target. My fake breasts. It was relentless as she included in her tirade all the reasons SHE thought I did it for. She topped it off with adding how I was now probably cheating on my husband because of it. As my husband sat next to me. Yes ladies, that’s right. Apparently fake breasts make you a cheater too in the eyes of others.
The second example was one of my best friends, who had up to this point said she completely understood and supported my decision. She supported it so much, that during a BBQ at her house, she got drunk, announced to everyone that I wanted more attention from men so I got a boob job and everyone should see them! She then proceeded to lift my shirt and flash everyone. I was mortified, my husband was enraged. My best friend had “no memory” of doing such a thing the next day. I can not even begin to understand why she would have done this to me. To this day, I don’t understand, other than maybe she harbored some feelings of jealousy about it that manifested in such a cruel and humiliating way.
Even after changing the very thing I was ashamed of, so that I could finally be happy with my body, I was still being shamed. By other women. Since that time, I have tried very hard to hide the fact that I have had any “work” done on my body. My breasts now look what I would consider “normal” for my body type. Unless I specifically tell someone that I had them done, no one seems to notice. Often when I tell someone I had them done, they don’t believe me. The first question I get is often “Why didn’t you go bigger?” as though I wasted the money but not getting “my moneys worth” out of them. Not all women WANT giant boobs. Not all women who get breast augmentation are trying to look like Barbie, or get more attention and be noticed by others. It is often a personal choice made for our own personal reasons and honestly done for US and no one else.
The bottom line here is that we need to stop shaming women of ALL body types. Not just the ones we deem “worthy” of defending. If you haven’t walked in her shoes, then you don’t know her pain. It is not your place to decide when the pain of another woman is valid or not. We need to encourage, support and love each other, regardless of physical appearances. We can not keep hypocritically claiming “all women are beautiful and should love their bodies!” and then turn around and shame, degrade and silence women of certain body types. Maybe then we will finally ALL be able to love our bodies.
It has now been 8 years since I had my surgery.
Here is a pic of me from before (after having children):
And here is an after: