Tuesday, May 28, 2024

How a Boob Job Helped My Body Image

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I can barely remember life before I had D-cup breasts.

Whenever I tell someone I had my boobs done shortly after my 20th birthday, they are shocked — no matter if they’ve seen me naked or not. I even often forget. They look and feel real, and are proportional to my body. I consider them mine, no matter how I acquired them. And almost a decade later, I wouldn’t change my decision in the slightest.

This is not a promotion of plastic surgery — but an appeal to love yourself with all means at your disposal. By the time I was a teenager, I’d developed extreme insecurity about my breasts. Most of the women in my family have large chests, but I’d plateaued at an A cup. In the changing room after PE, I couldn’t help but give my bust-blessed classmates envious looks. I’d stare down at my own chest and wonder if I was a “real woman” when I didn’t have, in my mind, one of the defining characteristics of womanhood. Unhappiness about one body part spread through my mind like wildfire. I kept comparing myself to girls my age and overanalyzed my body constantly. Although I’m normally quite communicative, I kept my compulsive thoughts mostly to myself. I felt an irrational shame about my breasts and didn’t confide in my friends and family — but there was also nothing anybody could have said to make me feel better.

“My mental health, so closely intertwined with my body image, improved overnight.”

My entire life, my feminist parents had taught me I had the power to change my life path, and that I should pursue my wildest dreams. So when I was 19 and going to college in Vienna, I was done. Done feeling so insecure that I would rarely take my bra off during sex. Done never daring to wear a sports bra that would compress my small chest even more. Done envying everyone who had at least a B cup.

My parents were so shocked by my decision that they tried to talk me out of it; they suggested I wait 10 years. But I knew it then: my mind wasn’t going to change, and I would have wasted 10 more years being unhappy. My parents had raised a strong-minded daughter, so they, too, knew there was no stopping me. My argument was that in 10 years, I might feel guilty dropping thousands of dollars on how I looked. But at 19, I felt free as a bird. I didn’t have any huge expenses looming, as I lived in a country that provided free education, and had made a good amount of money during my year abroad in Australia. At that point, I had about $6,000 extra saved from various jobs.

So I took action. I did extensive research, looked at hundreds of surgically enhanced breasts online, and read thousands of reviews. I eventually landed on a fat specialist’s website — he was known for taking fat from one part of the body and putting it somewhere else. The surgeon, considered one of the best in Austria, suggested I gain weight and that we supplement that with additional implants. Two months later, I had put on some weight, and within a two-hour surgery, the newly acquired fat was placed in my chest — plus about 300 milliliters of implants on each side. When I woke up, I immediately felt like a new life had started. I had extinguished the wildfire.

“I proudly talk about my breast augmentation because it’s a crucial step in truly not caring about how others perceive me.”

Today, almost a decade later, my breasts are still my favorite part of my body. Funny enough, I rarely allow my cleavage to show. It’s sufficient that I know they’re there — I walk down the street with my head held high while a light-support sports bra comfortably protects my D cups. That’s how I feel about my master’s degree, too. I’ve got it; nobody can take it from me. My breasts now serve as a tangible and intangible source of confidence. They have altered my body image forever. This goes beyond how they look: a source of pride stems from the fact that I made this decision and went through with it, especially during a time when plastic surgery was uncommon in my circle and unheard of at my age.

Women receive contradictory messages about beauty. We get fed bare-faced makeup trends that make it look like you’re not wearing any. Floor-length pants that can hide the four-inch heels you’re wearing. Hair products to achieve that perfect, “effortless” beach wave. What’s more, beauty standards can change within a matter of years, and our bodies are supposed to change with them. Critics claim that my boobs don’t “count” because I bought them. I argue they count double (pun intended) — I had to invest time, money, and pain into them. To these people, I have a simple message: I don’t care what you say.

I do think it’s important for us to have more open conversations around plastic surgery, or at the very least our varying desires to change how we look. It especially matters for people who are entirely consumed with unhappiness about a certain body part. Since I’ve had my breasts done, I think significantly less about my chest size than before. My mental health, so closely intertwined with my body image, improved overnight. As a teen, I would obsess about a little weight gain because it would make my breasts look smaller in comparison to the rest of my body, but now I accept weight fluctuations as nature’s course. And I take care of my body in different ways. I never used to do chest or arm exercises, believing those would contribute to a “manly” chest. Now I love working out my upper body. In many ways, I circumvented another 10 years of extreme body dysmorphia.

Breast augmentation is one of the most common plastic surgeries in the US: it’s relatively simple to do, less costly than some other procedures, and the recovery can take as little as a week. Of course, any type of plastic surgery comes with risks — beyond botched results, any major surgery carries risks around anesthesia and potential infection. However, I want to try to destigmatize plastic surgery. Some say it’s reserved for the rich and famous, or argue that we should all accept the body we were born with. But body positivity doesn’t have to mean complacency. For me, this single surgery kicked off my journey to fierce self-love. I had done so much research, prep work, and internal reflection that the actual surgery felt like the easiest part. Since then, I have embraced the rest of my body vigorously. I proudly talk about my breast augmentation because it’s a crucial step in truly not caring about how others perceive me — a way to fully embody “my body, my choice.”

Cornelia Holzbauer is a bilingual NYC-based health and lifestyle journalist from Germany. She’s written and produced pieces about casual sex, sexual violence, abortion rights, trans medicine, and the best way to sext. In addition to POPSUGAR, her work has appeared in The Guardian, Business Insider, Salon, Women’s Health and Men’s Health Germany, Die Presse, and more.

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