Why many women are dissatisfied with their breasts

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Too big, too small, too saggy, or too perky: few women are completely satisfied with their breasts. In fact, a large percentage of women are simply unhappy with what their chest looks like. Why is this, and how can we learn to accept our bodies as they are?

How many women are dissatisfied with their breasts?

First, the figures. An extensive breast survey was carried out among 18,541 women in 40 different countries: the Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS). These women answered questions about their breasts. After processing the results, the researchers concluded that no less than 71% of women are dissatisfied with their breasts.

Unhappy with the size

It should come as no surprise that women who are dissatisfied with their breasts are particularly dissatisfied with the size. 48% of the women who are dissatisfied would like to have larger breasts. 23% said they would rather have smaller breasts. The remaining 29% are pretty happy with the size of their chest. It’s interesting to note that the ideal size of breasts differs from country to country. For example, women in the United Kingdom, Egypt, and India want the largest breasts. In countries like Germany, Austria, Japan, and Malaysia, women see small breasts as ideal.

Shape and nipples

Although you could change the size of your breasts with a breast augmentation or breast reduction, there are other things that women don’t like about their breasts. What about the shape (too round, too saggy, and asymmetrical), the nipples (too big, too small, too light, too dark, or located in a strange place), and other aspects, such as hair and small bumps on the areola. “I hate the weird bumps on my nipples more than any other thing on my body,” says one woman on a forum about breasts, while another says that her breasts are like ‘empty tea bags’ due to breastfeeding.

Dissatisfaction causes poorer breast health

While it’s not shocking that women are dissatisfied with the size of their breasts, it’s striking that this causes them to monitor breast health less closely. This is because women who are dissatisfied are less likely to perform breast exams themselves. They also say that they’re not confident that they can notice changes in their breasts. In extreme cases, some women don’t even show up at their biannual breast examinations.

It’s a bigger issue

The same study shows that women who are dissatisfied with their breasts also tend to have negative feelings about other parts of their bodies. “Women are more likely to have negative feelings, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence,” says social psychologist Viren Swami from the UK, who is the lead researcher of the study. “The result of the study is important because it shows us that dissatisfaction with the body can have both mental and physical consequences.”

“Are you a boob guy or a butt guy?”

Any girl that hits puberty can already feel the gaze of boys and men gliding over her body. Boys often find girls with larger breasts (fat tits, jugs, melons) more interesting, while small breasts are dismissed as mosquito bites, a plank, or “underdeveloped”. Breasts are seen as something ultra-sexual. And although they can be, it’s mainly a label that’s put on our chests by men. Men are often asked the question: are you a boob or butt guy? For many girls, this feels so uncomfortable that they simply grow up hiding their growing breasts to prevent boys and men from looking at them in a sexual way. This sexualisation of breasts is also reflected in the fact that women are often asked to cover up in situations where they are simply feeding their children.

How can we love our boobs more?

Dr Swami recommends seeing your breasts for what they are: important parts of the female body. “Based on our findings, we recommend that women focus more on the function of their breasts, rather than on their appearance.” Still, as the results of the study suggest, that’s easier said than done. How can you love your boobs anyway?

Own your body

It’s like those “instructions” on how to get a bikini body. Step 1: Put on a bikini. Step 2: Done! This is why positivity activist Chidera Eggerue (@theslumflower) started the hashtag #saggyboobsmatter. About her saggy breasts, she says: “I was tired of not being able to wear certain outfits because you could see the shape of my breasts. Now, I’m not letting myself get intimidated anymore by tops or dresses with cleavage.” Who cares if your breasts aren’t as small and perky as the ones you often see in fashion campaigns, or as big and firm as shown in Playboy? Just wear that dress: with or without a bra, as you like.

Your breasts are yours, and yours only

Journalist Mara Altman wrote a collection of essays on body positivity: Gross Anatomy Dispatches from the Front (and Back). In it, she mentions that her breasts always seem to belong to someone else. For her children, they’re a source of nutrition; for men, they’re something sexual; for doctors, they’re something that can make you sick; and for the fashion industry, they’re something that can be dolled up. The first time that she felt like she was enjoying her body on her own terms, she was taking part in a topless bike ride through New York City. “I participated to feel the wind on my bare skin.”

Don’t try to change your breasts (anymore)

From exercises to tone your chest muscles to applying expensive creams and swallowing miracle pills, your breasts generally won’t change all that much. If you want to learn to accept your body as it is, skip the well-intentioned “10 exercises to firm up your breasts” articles.

Want an instant effect? Wear a good bra

A good bra can work wonders for your breasts. We’re not saying that you have to wear a bra, and certainly not that you have to adjust your body to the current standards. Still, if you do want to make your small breasts look bigger, a push-up bra can help! Just as a minimiser can be the answer for women who want to make their large breasts look smaller. Finally, let’s not forget the sports bra: it’s actually indispensable if you move a lot during sports. It may not be a great fashion statement, but it’ll definitely prevent you from developing back and neck problems.

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