I Started Loving My Boobs After Years of Thinking There Was Something Wrong With Them

News flash: They're perfect.

Ever since I first flipped through the pages of The Care and Keeping of You—you know, the infamous American Girl book with surprisingly graphic imagery that pretty much every ‘90s-born babe was handed to awkwardly walk her through puberty—I’ve been hyper aware of my breast shape. And that was 16 years ago—when I was just 12 years old. In the chapter on breasts (as they’re so politically correctly called), it walks readers through the five stages of growth, grazing over how boobs look before puberty, as well as the three stages that lead up to the fifth and final stage, where breasts are supposed to have a fuller and rounder shape.

But here’s the thing: For some folks, depending on their breast shape, “rounder and fuller” might not be how they’d describe their tatas. While this might resonate with you—and I hope it does—I’m really talking about myself. Hi, I’m folks.

You see, for as long as I can remember—from the time my boobs started growing in the fourth grade and I absolutely refused to wear a bra (because I was still in the stage of questioning why boys got to go shirtless and it was deemed “inappropriate” for me to do the same) until the present day—I’ve never felt like I’ve hit that fifth and final stage: a rounder, fuller shape. Not when I was a size four with an A cup trying my best to fill out a B, and not now that I’m a size 14 with an ample 34D.

While I’ve always considered my boobs to be on the pointier side thanks to their less-than-full, wider-set shape, according to breast shape charts near and far I have what’s known as side-set boobs. In an effort not to flash the Internet, allow me to illustrate: Instead of front-facing, nipples-straight-ahead boobs, the bulk of my girls are on the outside, with the middle of my chest extending outward in a wide V.

Now, I know that makes me sound like Madonna—and that’s exactly it. Since the media—magazines, television, and movies included—spend so much time perpetuating archetypal breast shapes, for over 15 years, I felt like something wasn’t quite right about my boobs. After all, if they were something to love and be confident in, why weren’t they featured in the media? Sure, my boobs looked round and full as can be when wearing a bra—even just a sports bra—but when I’d go without, my mind went right back to the same nagging idea: They’re unattractive, unworthy; something’s inherently wrong.

As you can imagine, having that type of recurring narrative in your mind—especially during such influential years of mental and physical growth—was challenging. While I could suppress the nagging thoughts on pretty much a daily basis (thanks to bras and not walking around naked in public), it was most challenging when getting close to a new partner. Would they think something was wrong with my boobs? Despite never having a partner who made a negative comment about my chest, I couldn’t help but feel insecure about my boobs—even once they grew from Bs to Ds. There was just something about my less-than-archetypal shape that made me feel like I could fall prey to being cheated on for someone with better, fuller boobs. Ridiculous, I know.

But, notice how I switched to past tense? That’s because something changed over the past year or so. And no, I didn’t get a boob job—just a little nip/tuck on my thought process. A big part of it was that, once I went freelance, I no longer felt the need to wear a bra for 10 hours a day each and every day of my life. Where wearing one once made me feel like I could achieve my goal breast shape, going without taught me that there was nothing wrong with my girls as they were.

And just like that, one day, after many, many years of being far too hard on myself for the way I looked—and after filling my Instagram feed with inspiring, body-positive babes who regularly refute the media’s absurd beauty ideals—I woke up and something had clicked. I looked in the mirror and thought: I think I’m supposed to hate this about myself; instead, I choose love. And ever since that day, whenever I catch my girls in the mirror, find myself absentmindedly bouncing around, or falter and wonder if they’re okay, I remind myself: It only matters if I think they are. And, TBQH, they’re pretty fucking great.

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