The image you see on your screen, monitor, or on the covers of magazines is a lie. Photoshop is real, and now AI software is also taking over. I should know as a graphic designer and illustrator. This is my story.
The Importance of Body Image
This is my story of breast shaming. It’s not a shaming we hear about often, but it’s one that people should be aware of.
Today I weighed myself and realised I lost 1.5 kg (3.5 lbs) in a week. I am very excited that, finally, I’m on the right track. Saying “no” to certain things I know are hurting my body is hard. It’s not about the taste, maybe a little, but because I wish to hurt myself.
Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I appeared as a teenager. My body was already changing, and I wore a training bra. At the tender age of eight, I was already 1.5 metres (5’2″) and started my periods that same summer.
It didn’t take long before they threw insults my way. I was the target of many children my age and younger. The school wasn’t a safe place for me anymore. I wanted to be home surrounded by my books and Disney princesses. I didn’t belong anywhere.
Your Girls Are Too Big For The Job
They taught me various things in preschool when I was three years old. My mother and grandparents also enrolled me in performing art school, where I learned to act, sing, modelling, and classical ballet. It was a magical time until my body started changing.
Modelling was fine until my breasts burst out of my chest, and my teachers said I’d grow up to be good for Victoria’s Secret but forget about real designers. What I wanted was modelling for Roxy Quiksilver. They tore that dream apart. My boobs were too big, and sports brands didn’t encourage that.
In my other passion, classical ballet, the same story happened. Forget about becoming a famous ballerina. “Your breasts are too big. No conservatoire school would ever take you. You have the talent, but not the flat chest required. You might have some chance at a teacher’s position.”
That dream fell apart as well. Living with big breasts isn’t a choice, nor should it be shamed. But it was, and it still is.
Big Breasts Shaming Does Exist
Most people believe that the population with petite chests gets bullied. However, it happens on both sides of the spectrum. I lived with a voluptuous chest my whole life. Skinny or not, men or women, you get inappropriate attention.
I wear Disney shirts and camisoles. I don’t expose myself that much. Even saying that is wrong. What you wear doesn’t matter if you feel good about yourself, right? Well, it matters when your mind is entirely broken and you’re scarred five ways to Sunday.
Let me tell you a secret: You never get out of high school. I was hurt back then and still am today, and insults don’t stop because you’re grown up and surrounded by adults. Being an adult is just being in high school, except the entire world is the playground.
Even my grandmother wanted me to get an operation to get breast reduction at fourteen. I was lucky enough to have an excellent family doctor who said no and that it was not ethical to do so. It is a life-changing operation. There is no going back once it’s done.
When The Mental Abuse Comes From Home
It was in my home that the abuse on my body started. The shaming of my breasts, this obsession with hiding my chest. I wore oversized sweaters and t-shirts, no camisoles. My bathing suits looked more like a surfer’s rash guard and sometimes with an oversized shirt on top.
The programming of breast shaming started at a young age for me. I wanted to hide and have my breasts cut off. I asked my doctor about it, and he said that once my body stopped growing, everything would adjust itself. He helped with my self-image and asked me if my back hurt, but it didn’t. For that reason, he said, I was fine.
I would look at myself in the mirror and see a monster. I tried strapping my chest in with the help of a heavy-duty sports bra. My grandma reinforced that idea because she wanted my breasts gone.
She would often say that if I didn’t hide my breasts, I would end up with a pig who beat his wife. That’s the image of myself I have to this day.
Nursing The Body-Shaming
Creating shame about my breasts at a young age triggered a lifetime fight. What was occasional anxiety turned into a clinical condition, GAD or Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
It went along with me developing another medical condition, OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The two together had me stuck in a spiral of torment and darkness. But it didn’t stop there as bulimia settled in with cibophobia and paranoia. It all ended up with me hating humans and becoming a misanthrope.
I went through a few horrible years where I secluded myself, and for each insult I would get, I’d cut my skin. Instead of understanding my pain, my grandmother blamed it on me for being ‘crazy.’ I attempted to take my life half a dozen times.
I grew up with her words, saying I would become a pole dancer and a sex worker. I didn’t have the body she wanted me to have, like Britney Spears (#britneyforever,) one of my favourite performers, or Christina Aguilera. Those two women were the embodiment of perfection, and so every time I look in a mirror since, I see a monster.
Fifteen Years After Her Shaming
My heart broke many years ago when I turned eight years old. I’m thirty-eight now, and nothing changed. Mirrors are something I avoid, and in my house, they are covered. Taking showers without looking at my body is something I do. I often cry myself to sleep, hoping my eyes might adjust one day.
Even on my wedding day, I barely looked in the mirror because I was terrified of what would look back at me. I had the dress of my dreams. I wanted Queen Marie Antoinette’s wedding dress and Belle’s gold dress from the animated movie into one. Yet, I wouldn’t look at myself in the dress, only the dress. I was too afraid of my reflection.
I understand my grandmother was born in the thirties, and it was a softer generation. She often said she preferred biting her lip to save a little face.
She raised me with, “It doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is how you look.” She would also say, “Line your lips and keep them closed. Cross your legs, back straight, dot your i’s, and don’t you ever cry.”
I still remember those words. They can’t disappear just because I want them to. It’s hard on me because even though my grandma’s gone, I still want her to be proud of me, but it would not happen.
The Scars That Shame Leaves Behind
Am I still trying to hide my breasts? Yes. Do I want them gone? No. I was lucky enough to often get the insult “You’re Pamela Anderson!” when I was a tween. Baywatch was the most popular television show. I thought she was pretty when I saw her, which messed up my head in a good way.
I am not proud of my chest, but not broken enough to go under surgery. It’s impossible to look at myself in the mirror anymore. Body shaming grew roots too deep.
Sharing personal information is not something I often do, but 34C is my chest, and I wear sports bras to help keep them as invisible as possible.
I’m damaged and hope I wasn’t. But I know I am not alone. Shame comes in all facets of life and body image. It can improve with a lifetime of positive training and a strong circle.
Don’t be afraid to seek help because body dysmorphia is real, and it can sometimes feel like you fight with every fibre of your body to keep your head above water. Don’t let it get that far. Reach for help and do not forget that you matter.
2 thoughts on “A Lifetime Of Breast Shaming”
What a great article, too few people realize that breast shaming is something so many people deal with.
Charlotte has modeled with and is friends with Maxi Matuschka who famously took a self portrait after she had a breast removed, controversially the photo ended up on the cover of New York Times Magazine. She shone a light on the ugliness of what she was going through to inspire other woman to not be afraid and not look away. It eventually turned out that the doctor had misdiagnosed her and her breast did not need to be removed.
Check out her story. But my point is she was brave enough to face her very personal demons and put it on the cover of a magazine for all to witness.
From every photo I have seen of you, I see a beautiful strong woman, and when you look in the mirror you should hold your head high and realize she is looking right back at you. Besides, not only are you beautiful, you are a great inspiration for other women.
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Thank you so much for sharing this story that all of us should learn from and be thankful for, she is a hero.
Also, thank you so much for your kind words. I wish my eyes could see what others see. My only wish is that nobody feels the way I do. Trauma goes so deep. Thank you so much.