Do I hate my body or do I just have an Instagram account?

by Gemma Murphy (she/her)

Content Warning: Disordered Eating, Body Image

Just yesterday I was scrolling peacefully through social media when an obnoxious yellow notification spread across the top of my phone. Snapchat, letting me know that I have a memory to look back on. 

I often, like others, dread these notifications. Will it remind me of a migraine inducing outfit I once wore thinking it was an absolute fit, possibly show me a boy that I used to kiss in a desperate attempt to tell myself I wasn’t gay, or worst of all, will it show me a beloved picture of my ex that serially cheated on me. These are the worries that cross my mind as my finger hovers over the inconspicuous banner. 

To my surprise, it was none. Just a gentle reminder that two years ago to the day I hated a part of my body so much I had booked in a consultation with a plastic surgeon to have myself permanently altered. 

The image showed me with an overjoyed smile on my face that I had captioned “Finally booked my consultation to get my boobs done”. News that I thought was so exciting I had to share immediately with my friends. 

Fast forward to today, this is news that I am ecstatic became nothing more than a meaningless Snapchat. 

I started hating my boobs, or for better description lack of, when I was around 12. The wonderful age of puberty where our body goes through changes out with our control. But I wasn’t upset about that, I was upset my body wasn’t going through the changes that I saw happening to others. 

My friends had all started wearing bras long before me, I could still get away with wearing vests. This was ultimately humiliating but I don’t know if seeing my A cup bra being half empty was even more humiliating as I changed in the shower cubicles before PE.  

My Amazon library

I heard the boys I fancied talk about how they could see girls’ pink bras through their school shirts or how big other girls’ boobs had got over Summer and little 14-year-old me craved this male validation. Thankfully something I grew out of when I was introduced to the wonderful world of feminism. 

I grew more and more insecure of my chest as the years continued and it became more obvious I wasn’t going to inherit my mums DD’s. This manifested and spiralled into a world of body dysmorphia and disordered eating caused by the belief that the rest of my body looked bigger because my chest was smaller and the only way to fix this was to make all of me smaller. 

My Instagram become inundated with workouts, thinspo, women with perfect body and in my eyes the perfect boobs. I became obsessed, I done workouts that I was told would enlarge my breast muscle and asked for an eBook titled “Boost Your Bust: Female Enhancement for my 15h birthday. 

I spent my summers dreading wearing a bikini and hiding behind an oversized top and slowly forgot how to live in the world because I was so obsessed with the space I took up in it. I compared myself to every body on Love Island and every up-and-coming influencer. So I started going to the gym and became the fittest and most toned I had ever been, but I still wasn’t happy. 

By 18 I was hell bent on getting a boob job for my 21st birthday – the age I found out from a google search that breasts stop growing. 

In fairness to my younger self, I researched it extensively and knew I also had to wait because I would be spending up to £10,000 on this. I knew of the potential risks; I knew of the pain, and I knew of the side effects, but I was certain that this would make me happy and cure all the issues I had with my body. 

There was some sort of hesitance always at the back of mind, the acknowledgment that I could visit the Bahamas with this sort of money, or the acceptance of having something so artificial in my body. But I ignored that because I hoped it would be worth it.

Then COVID happened. 

The world went into turmoil, I got dumped, and my unhealthy eating habits spiralled to something much worse, isn’t it lovely how things come in threes? But seriously, life was hard and I’m not going to go into the triggering details of things, but I learned that I didn’t matter what size I was, I was always going to find something to hate about myself because that had become a habit. Lockdown allowed me to process that even at my thinnest I still hated my body; I had been more toned before and would still hide behind my clothes. I quickly realised that I could change my body however I wanted but it was my mindset that needed to change. 

I started truly questioning why I wanted a boob job. Where had this idea that the boobs I had weren’t good enough. These purposeless balls of fat were completely dictating my happiness and I wanted to know why. I spent time on TikTok and Instagram curating a space of body neutrality, following those that had their implants removed – learning that 65% of people they polled regretted their surgery – and figuring out my sexuality. 

After coming to terms with my lesbianism I realised that I never once judged a woman for her boobs or body at all and felt comfort knowing that they wouldn’t do the same to me. Being desired by women allowed me to feel desired in a way that was new to me, in a way that liberated me from my body because we had one of the same. 

All these combined made me realise my need for this stemmed from the bodies I had seen idolised by men in the media. I didn’t think to question whether that was what I wanted because it was pre-programmed into me that it was what I needed to be. 

2 years on only now can I scroll through social media peacefully because I no longer strive to be a person where the first thing people appreciate is my body. I have curated a space where I unfollowed anyone whose only purpose on my screen was to make me compare myself. I filled it with women who promote body neutrality, people with amazing fashion that I try to replicate, book reviews, musicians, art. Anything that makes me feel something that isn’t insecurity. 

I learned, and I am still learning, that the most interesting part about me are the things that can’t be seen. Did you know I can’t say the word Vinegar? That I have to tuck my septum piercing up every time I visit my gran? That I love country music? Or that I’m learning how to ride a motorbike? I am so many things that aren’t my body. 

If you know that getting a boob job will make you happy then that’s great and for many it is, but make sure you’re doing it for you and only you. The number of people undergoing breast augmentation has rapidly dropped in the past 10 years and I can only hope this is a result of moving away from seeing humans as only their body. From the wise words of Little Women’s Jo Marsh: “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty.”