Acceptance of others begins with accepting yourself. The second chapter of See Yourself, See Each Other by Allure and Ulta Beauty, spotlights personal journeys from self-consciousness to self-acceptance. In publishing these powerful stories, Allure and Ulta Beauty continue their movement celebrating respect, empathy, and limitless beauty.
Right off the bat, I should thank you. I don't tell you enough — or ever — how grateful I am for our torso. Without it, I wouldn't have lungs to breathe or a spine to help me stand upright. So thank you. So much. For all of it. Really.
There is the one thing, though.
When you were 15, arguably the most vulnerable age a girl ever is (at least in your case), you were wearing a tank top while you were talking to a group of your peers. Dave (no need for last names; I've forgiven what comes next) suggested playing tennis off a wall. When someone asked what wall, he pointed to your chest. Around that same time, someone else told you that if you ever have children, they'd probably starve because you wouldn't be able to breastfeed them. In both cases, you turned and ran and cried and didn't really stop crying for about 10 years.
Being flat-chested was part of your identity — as much as long hair or being good at math. It's who you were. It defined you, and you hated everything about that definition. You never tried to stuff your bra — fact is, you rarely even wore a bra. You know how women with large breasts try to hide them sometimes with layers and sweaters and layers of sweaters? You did the same thing. I think big, scratchy wool sweaters got a lot of young women out of uncomfortable moments.
Around your mid-20s, your flat chest, slowly, quietly, somehow became a source of, if not pride, perhaps okay-ness. So many of your friends struggled to find clothing that accommodated their figure, and they felt self-conscious when they developed. Ironically, you had already felt so self-conscious for so many years, you actually could help them through those miserable emotions.
Around 30, everything really changed — for the better. Your small breasts (they did develop, but just barely) were no longer a liability. You could run and play sports without difficulty. You could wear wispy little sundresses without much thought. You could even throw on bikinis now and again (as long as they weren't bandeau tops). But most of all, you felt like...you. They'd been with you all your life. They'd suffered humiliations alongside you all these years, and they were still there, healthy and not judging.
Then you had kids. And not only were you able to breastfeed both of your children, but you did so easily, painlessly, and for months. Your breasts served exactly the purpose they were meant to serve, and you couldn't have been more grateful for them.
Of course, there was that little snafu last summer. You know the one I'm talking about. You were on vacation with a bunch of your friends. It was evening, magic hour, and we were all dressed up and admiring a particularly stunning sunset. You had hubristically chosen a black strapless sheath dress for the night. You walked closer to the sunset, all your friends behind you (praise be), raised your arms to take a picture and — whoooosh! — down came the dress and any shred of confidence you had.
Okay, that was awkward. But then you yanked it up, turned around, and went on with your evening and your life.
And you know what? That's pretty solid advice no matter what happens in life: Yank up whatever falls down and get on with your evening. There is so much to be thankful for.
Originally Appeared on Allure