Should I get my breasts enlarged?

I've always been flat-chested and I'm considering implants.

Published February 21, 2008 11:20AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

OK, deep breath, out with it. I'm considering getting breast implants. Not huge implants, just big enough so that I'd have normal, average-size breasts.

First, let me explain why. I'm just pretty flat-chested. This has caused me various painful experiences throughout my life. These experiences have consisted of everything from hurtful gibes during junior high to feeling maniacally jealous during Victoria's Secret television commercials. It has also led me to be extremely resentful of the media (and to some extent, I have to admit, men in general) for spreading the big-boob propaganda. As most women do, I want to feel sexy. By and large, full breasts equal sexy in our society. I wish it weren't so. And I know it isn't the case for everyone out there, but unfortunately that doesn't really make a dent in my feelings of inadequacy.

And, as a side note -- I'm sure a lot of people will rip me to shreds for blaming the media -- I absolutely believe the images we see affect how we feel about ourselves. Not only the images themselves, but the way people react to them. I've seen enough men drooling over a pair of large breasts on a billboard (or in a magazine, or a commercial, or a movie, or a TV show), and eventually I've come to realize that they prefer those large breasts to my own A-cups, if you see what I mean.

Now, Cary, I don't mean to generalize here, but I think a lot of people (including myself) make judgments about women with breast implants. Primarily that they are vapid, vain exotic dancers, gold diggers, trophy wives or any combination of those. I don't plan on getting them so huge that passersby will be able to tell, but I will know. I will know that I have them, and I have reservations about putting myself in the category of "women with breast implants" and all that it implies. Even though I know that there are plenty of normal, intelligent women out there with them.

Secondly -- as I said above -- I harbor a vehement resentment against the media, and men, for causing me to feel the need to mutilate myself just to be considered attractive. That said, how can I justify giving in to that? Won't I feel like a traitor every time I look at my lovely fake breasts? Aren't I succumbing to everything I hate about the way our society tells women how to look?

But then the other voice pipes up. I'll finally have a chest! I'll be able to buy sexy lingerie and look good in it! My sex life will improve! Only because I'll feel sexier, mind you -- my boyfriend has in fact tried to discourage me as much as possible. Yet the insecure side of me knows that deep down, he'll be glad once I have them.

I'm 24 years old. I'm smart; I have a great career, a great boyfriend. I love music, I love to read. I can cook a mean egg sandwich. I don't want my breasts to define me. I'm afraid of how I might change if I get them. I'm afraid of how I'll see myself. But I still want them, damn it!

I guess I need someone to say that it's OK, that it won't change me, that I can get breast implants and still be the same intelligent, driven, sensitive person that I am today. I don't want anyone to think less of me. I don't want to think less of me.

Not a Bimbo

Dear Not a Bimbo,

If you have breasts that you think are not the right size, it is within your power to change that. It is your choice.

But whatever you do, before you have the surgery, whether you have it or not, why not start today letting your breasts live in the moment, as perfectly adequate, beautiful breasts just the way they are? Why not just let them be as they are and love them? That will be good practice for when you get your new, bigger breasts. Also, consider things from your breasts' point of view. Don't hate them for being small. They may prefer being small; perhaps they like their compactness. What of their feelings? They have the same feelings whether they are small or big, do they not? When you touch them, when you squeeze a nipple or run your fingers over them, or lift them together or squeeze them, you feel the same sensation you would feel if they were bigger, do you not?

So love your breasts the way they are. If they get augmented, they are still your breasts. They still feel the same. They are just a different size.

Changing the size of your breasts will not change your habits of mind. Resentment is a habit of mind. It is the inner life.

If you are in the habit of harshly judging your own breasts and the breasts of others, then you are in a pickle regardless of what size your breasts are. It is the judging that brings pain and isolation. It is the comparing that gives rise to difference and anxiety. This is true for everyone.

Your breasts are going to have to be OK in your own mind, not better than other people's breasts or worse than other people's breasts but OK the way they are. If surgery will accomplish that, then great. But after surgery if your habit of harsh judgment persists, then you have not really solved the problem.

And the painful insults you endured in junior high will not ever be undone. That is in the past. You must allow your breasts to live in the present. If you look at your breasts and think of the painful insults of junior high, then your breasts are living in the past. Your breasts have to live in the present, just like you do. Let your breasts live in the present, where they are loved. Let your boyfriend love your breasts. When you make love with your boyfriend, your breasts are living in the present. In the present, your breasts are loved. In the present, everything is fine.

In a sense, then, this is about your relationship to your own past and your own present. It may seem that by getting new breasts you can stop living in the past. But the habit of living in the past is brutally persistent.

Every person, no matter how wealthy or powerful or beautiful, faces the same problem of regulating the inner life, of finding peace, of seeing his or her fate as it is and accepting things as they are. Until we accept things as they are we are in turmoil. We are wishing for things to be better or different; we are gnashing our teeth about what we should have done; we are lamenting and punishing ourselves for our failures and shortcomings; we are bristling about the myriad slights we accumulate in a day as we are brushed aside by people who just like us are tortured by thoughts of how the world should be and what they should have done, about their failures and shortcomings and what they have endured at the hands of people yet more powerful and fortunate than they.

You are young and beautiful! What a fantastic thing! You can make this small change and be a little happier! How fantastic! Just keep in mind that it will not change everything.

A surgeon can change the size of your breasts.

Only you can change how you think and feel.

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