How My Decision to Go Under the Knife Helped Me Love My Body

Hallie Gould

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so... welcome to The Flipside (as in the flipside of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society's definition of "beauty." Here, you'll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh gaps to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we'd love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation, too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here, on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.

I closed my eyes and nervously shifted in my paper hospital gown as my doctor began taking “before” pictures of my chest. I was in the office because I had decided to get a breast reduction. I turned away from the screen where my body was projected across the room with each snap and flash. It was undoubtedly an uncomfortable situation, but I didn’t care.

I was 20 years old and a month and change away from embarking on the most exciting trip of my life—six months living in Paris. I had felt uncomfortable in my skin for a long time; it was years of minimising bras, oversize clothing, and wishing my curves away. My breasts felt like foreign objects—like a weight I had to carry around that wasn’t my own. One day I decided I had had enough: I was unhappy with the way I looked, and I was going to do something about it. I began researching my options, and a breast-reduction surgery sounded like freedom.

Leandra Medine of Man Repeller recently wrote, “Writers or storytellers often do the brave thing by sharing their stories to touch the people around them. Not always deliberately, but that’s what happens. Rarely, however, do storytellers and writers share this stuff until they’ve stowed it away, compartmentalised it using the brackets of time.”

It’s an interesting point—that it’s too difficult for us to share our stories while we’re living them—before we’ve learned, survived, and grown from whatever pain our situation may have caused. I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to sort through my feelings enough to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be). In order to outline this piece, I had to have a beginning, middle, and an end. And now, my ending is somewhere along the lines of happily ever after.

Essentially, this experience was an important life lesson about taking measures into my own hands. In order to make an educated, smart decision, I had to explore my feelings about my body in the past, the present, and the future. And now, it’s all about self-love and sharing those struggles and subsequent positive vibes with you.

Have you had experiences with positive (or negative) body image? Let us know your story in the comments below.

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