We talk about loving our bodies the way they are - but what if you know that - and want to make a change anyway? Tamara McCleary shines a line on another side of the debate...
'It’s an average school afternoon and it's time for PE. Hesitantly squished into a corner of the girls changing rooms I'm desperate to stay hidden, distressed by wandering eyes and uncomfortable in public. I'm awkward - uncomfortable - in my own skin.
Fast-forward a decade, and little has changed. My twenty-something self still shudders at the thought of exposing my body - showing off my insecurities. I’m a firm believer that how you feel about yourself is much more important than what other people think of you. But recently I found myself on a downwards spiral of self-criticism.
Whenever I spoke out about my body image, I’d be told that I looked good - that I have an enviable figure. I’m not denying that it’s sweet to hear, but I’ve never taken any solace in other people’s opinions about my body. After all, I’ve grown up feeling disappointed by it for as long as I can remember. Advice only comes in the form of ‘embrace your imperfections’ and ‘love yourself as you are’. I desperately wish that as a society this concept worked every time. Embracing what I hate about my figure would solve all my problems.
But as I see it, loving yourself so freely is easier said than done. I’m striving to be the happiest version of myself but sometimes the pressure of feeling forced to accept something you don’t like is overwhelming.
For years, I tried everything in my power to change my attitude. I indulged in life’s little pleasures - I ate more chocolate, and drank good wine, but pick-me-ups can last only so long and a padded bra can only take you so far. From an outsider's perspective, I probably already seemed confident. But honestly I was tired because my façade would immediately dissolve once I was expected to take my top off in the bedroom or get into a bikini on holiday.
Self-perception is riddled with all kinds of complexities. It’s baffling how I can look at someone with an identical physique to me and not see a single thing wrong with them. I know beauty is subjective so it will never be a one size fits all kinda situation, and I’m not anti-love-yourself-as-you-are. But some people approach things differently. We need to remember that.
That's why, exhausted by people telling me how I should feel - how I should be body positive and confident in my own skin - I started thinking more practically. I guess I wanted to feel in control.
When I told my friends that I had taken the intensely personal decision to book a breast enlargement, responses were exactly as I had expected. “Don’t do it!” “They are going to look fake” *shocked face emoji* and “You don’t need one” were typical replies. I felt guilty - like I’d copped out on my journey towards self-love. But with time, I’ve come to realise that doing something for me - doing something to make me happy - is still breaking free. I’m aiming for happiness - not perfection.
I've never been blasé about getting new boobs. If anything I’m envious of those who can be so self-assured. Some people won’t agree with this and I can understand why. It’s a risky last resort. I’m not watering it down and my research hasn’t come without nervy days and sleepless nights. I’m not suggesting that banishing the boobie blues will solve all my problems. A breast enlargement is barely half the story.
But since booking my breast augmentation I’ve never felt so happy.
I no longer feel like I’m wallowing. I’m excited and I’m feeling positive.
Feeling comfortable in your own skin is important. If you can learn to accept things you don’t like, then by all means do. But you can't be afraid to make decisions for fear of being judged.