I'm answering reader questions from my Q&A with J at HHH post. Today's question comes from an anonymous reader who explained some of her background, but I simply printed the portion with her question.
The thing I am struggling with the most is my chest size. I have struggled with it my whole life due to unkind remarks from friends, boys, past boyfriends etc, but I felt pretty confident about myself until I found out about my husband's issue [he previously confessed to a porn addiction] and it's like it resurfaced worse than ever. I suddenly felt that I would never be sexy enough or as well endowed as them. I was so hurt because I felt like I wasn't special enough to wait for when it came to his sexual desires. Thankfully, since then, my husband has gone above and beyond to set up boundaries in his life and to help me work through our previous issue so now I know this is mainly my insecurity.
Although, I do see him occasionally look at other women, I know in my heart that he isn't "checking them out" and he will admit that he notices other attractive women but that he is not lusting after them like before. I struggle because when I see him look and if it happens to be another "chesty" woman I just want to cry or hide in a hole. I don't even want to go to the beach with him and I just downright feel uncomfortable with myself. I am a small petite girl and it wouldn't even be right if I had larger boobs but I still feel like I will never compare to these women or feel attractive enough to catch my husbands eye like they do. He tells me that I am the most beautiful woman to him and it's like it doesn't even register in my head because I don't feel this way.
I don't want to be ungrateful for the body God has given me and I don't want to diminish the encouragement that my husband is giving me, but I just feel hurt and feel stuck. With posters of women and scantily clad women everywhere, I just want to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin and be able to accept my husband's compliments and actually feel like he means it. My husband and I have thought that maybe I need professional help, but I don't even know where to start to find someone to help me with body image. Any advice?
I need to confess at the start here that I was a very small-chested woman who had breast augmentation two years ago. If you want to read about my experience, I wrote about it with My Best Chest, My Best Chest - Part 2, and Thanks for the Mammaries. Just as this wife describes, my hubby repeated told me how beautiful I was to him, even when my nipples looked like teeny china cups on flat saucers. I got breast augmentation for me. Does my husband like it? Yes. But he liked me before too.
So do I think that all small-chested women should have breast surgery? No, of course not.
But whether it's dissatisfaction with your small or sagging breasts, your thunder thighs, or your varicose veins, there are only two paths to dealing with a body image issue:
- Change it OR
- Learn to live with it.
The third option of whining and wallowing and belittling yourself is no option at all. It sucks to feel that way. It sucks for your husband to deal with you that way. And it doesn't resolve anything.
This is an option for some. Now, for those who decry plastic surgery and other "fix it" solutions, I'd say it's a matter of degree. We are typically okay with fixing something we genuinely view as abnormal, such as a sixth finger or super crooked teeth, but is a super flat chest abnormal? And what about enhancing something you just don't like about yourself--like removing a mole or getting liposuction?
I gave my reasons in the above posts for why I made the plunge into plastic surgery. But I also gave some warnings. Surgery is a big stinkin' deal and shouldn't be entered into lightly. Even smaller medical procedures can cause unforeseen issues.
Any time you consider making a permanent change to your body, you need to ask some serious questions about why you want to do so. If you are trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal--especially one created by fashion magazines or pornography--you need to change your ideal, not your body. If you are in the midst of other stressful circumstances, you may be looking toward changing your body as a one-stop solution for your ills, and believe me, it isn't. If it's just to feel more beautiful, then you may need to reconsider how beautiful you already are.
I don't have problems with people who choose this route. I obviously chose it, but I did so cautiously, prayerfully, and for myself, not so my husband could have more than a mouthful. Most husbands are quite happy with their wife's body, even if our imperfections stand out to us.
Learn to live with it
I don't even like that I used that phrase. It's more like, "Learn to revel in the beauty of your body as it is!" Yes, so much better.
Now how do you do that? Several ways.
Learn what beauty means to God. Psalm 139:13 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." You were stitched together by the Almighty God. You are a beautiful daughter of the King...which makes you a princess. Move over, Cinderella!
Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." God talks about making the nation Israel beautiful in Ezekiel 16:14: "And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord." And 1 Peter 3:3-5 admonishes us that "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."
Feeling worthwhile, beautiful, valuable starts from knowing who we are as God's daughters. Of course, the Bible is not unaware that men like beautiful women. God used Esther's beauty to His purposes, capitalizing on the king's desire to look upon a physically appealing woman to save His people.
Yet, I have a feeling that Esther was especially gorgeous not merely because she had supermodel looks. Maybe the king couldn't put his finger on what was so appealing about her, but she held herself not just as the wife of a king but a daughter of The King.
Now we ladies can know all of this intellectually, but unless it sinks in, these are just words on a page. When you have a thought about being lacking as a woman, bring out a verse that reminds you who you are in God's eyes. Replace negative self-talk with your Holy Father's perspective of you.
Over time, you will come to see that you are God's handiwork (Ephesians 2:10). And believe me, God doesn't make stick figures (like I do). He makes beautiful women, in all sizes and styles.
Learn what beauty means to your husband. Psalm 45 is a royal wedding song. In it, the bride is told to "Let the king be enthralled by your beauty." What is this beauty? We aren't told specifically. It's assumed that the king thinks his bride is gorgeous...or he wouldn't want to marry her, right?
Most husbands are enthralled by their wives' beauty. Some of you ladies might be surprised how often I hear from husbands who say that their wives don't like their own bodies but the husbands adore them.
What's particularly appealing to men is that we women are different. Our bodies don't look like theirs. Women are softer, curvier, and have parts they don't have. If you have a nice little molehill for your nipple to sit on, that's still rather intriguing to hubby. And when he touches, licks, or kisses it, and you go a little crazy, well...husbands think that's awesome!
If your husband says you're the most beautiful woman in the world to him, believe it--especially if his other actions toward you demonstrate his love. In this reader's instance, the husband's confession, boundaries, and investment show a commitment to the marriage.
Proverbs 5:18-19 says, "May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love." It does not say, "may her big breasts satisfy you always." That's not part of the deal. That the wife is loving, graceful, and has breasts seems to be the point here. Why not be satisfied and intoxicated?
Like the Lover in Song of Songs 2:2 chose his Beloved, your husband chose you: "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women." When you doubt that you are beautiful to him, don't ask, "Am I pretty?" "Are my breasts okay?" "Am I as pretty as so-and-so?" Ask your husband what he likes about your body. Make it a positive sexy moment for him to remind you what is beautiful to him.
Learn what beauty means to you. Make yourself feel better and more confident by dressing and presenting yourself in sexy ways. Find clothes that fit well and play up your best parts, including lingerie. Set up the lighting and environment in your bedroom in an appealing way. Maybe discover which sexual positions make you feel more sexy and give your husband an eyeful of your good stuff. Learn to walk into the bedroom with good posture and confidence. Do those things that make you feel pretty, like taking a bubble bath, getting or giving yourself a pedicure, or wearing sassy panties.
It's okay to spruce yourself up a little. We shouldn't rest on outward adornment for our sense of value, but you find numerous examples in the scriptures of women making an effort to appeal to their men. Naomi even coached Ruth in getting a husband by telling her to "Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes" (Ruth 3:3). Not bad advice.
Ultimately, the fix for not feeling good about yourself is to do positive things to be attractive and to replace negative self-talk with positive truths.
I would love to hear from other wives who have struggled with body image and how they positively changed their viewpoint.