I hate shopping. I only go when I want something extremely specific. Last week, this “something specific” was an unpadded bra. The process made me realize how my changing relationship with myself is not at all reflected by the consumer nation.
I’m a small-breasted woman. I could probably arguably fit into a girl’s trainers bra. And I might have to because it seems the majority of A-cup bras have a ridiculous amount of padding in them. And if they don’t have pillows built in, they cup in a way that leaves a gap between where your boob ends and the bra starts.
I find this gap to be very symbolic. I imagine my boob being the reality of who I am in the present. And the bra being the goal of who I “SHOULD” become. The gap between the two is where suffering lives. The “SHOULD” becomes the obsession. The reality of who I am becomes neglected and, even worse, shamed. It’s the gap that companies want to fill with “stuff” to make us feel more worthy of what ultimately drives every human – connection and love, and at an even deeper level, safety.
I’ve worn these stupid bras that sculpt my boobs, Barbie style, my whole life. But in the last year or so I’ve really started to fill this “boob gap” with a sense of acceptance. Basically, I face my boob and say, “you’re just fine.”
I’ve never been one to fill the gap between reality and images with “stuff.” I caught on early that filling your life with stuff, identifying yourself through tangible things, does not, alas, make your life any better. It typically serves as a short-lived reward for your brain. And these short-lived rewards are everywhere, from likes on social media to more heavy addictions.
These messages of “shoulds” are everywhere, too. It doesn’t just apply to perfecting your body. It applies to the labels you grab onto that directs your day-to-day behavior. You should be people-pleasing, you should be a selfless mother, you should be outgoing and witty, you should date a perfect man, you should be independent and achieve. You should make lots of money. And the biggest should that I’ve struggled with my whole life: you should find your purpose, be successful and perfect in the process.
These little messages give off the big message that love is conditional. If you fulfill these “shoulds,” then you will reap the benefits of connection. You are worthy once you reach these “goals.” Once you prove that your independent self is kickass and special. But in a short time, I’m learning the power of acceptance in who you are right now. How the byproduct of that acceptance makes your moments of self-reflection much more grounded. It becomes easier to make little everyday decisions that start you down a path that feels more “true.”
And it helps in moments where you find yourself in your own living hell – the mall. I took the escalator down from Nordstrom, having failed at finding a “normal” bra. I looked down at all the racks of shirts, blouses and coats. I noticed my body was becoming overwhelmed with old, familiar feelings of sadness, entrapment, emptiness and anger. I paused and noted the moment. And in came the new, baby feeling of accepting the state of how things were right then. As I stepped off the escalator, I sensed that I was walking on a new path that, like my desired bra, feels less padded, more uncertain, with the gap between who I am and what I truly want closing in.
Image: Vija Celmins: Star Field III, 1983 / via Wikipedia
Emily lives in San Francisco.