Woman measuring her small breastsThe reality is that women unhappy with their breast size are in the majority in this country. According to surveys, an alarming 70% of women report being unhappy with their breasts. This figure helps explain why breast augmentation products and procedures continue to be so popular in the United States.

This number has been steadily on the rise for the past two decades. These figures include both breast enhancement and breast reduction. For many women, their relationship with their breasts can have a very real impact on their self-esteem if their boobs are anything less than what they consider”perfect”. Some of these women are prone to body-image issues anyway, but they fixate on their boobs as the source of many problems in their life.

Cultural conditioning along with biased advertising is a big reason for this. For many women, boobs aren’t just a body part—they define who they are. So it stands to reason that a woman’s boobs can influence her self-esteem. But what, exactly, is contributing to this widespread dissatisfaction?

Why Are Women Dissatisfied With Their Breasts?

girl in beach wearThe most obvious contributor is the fact that our modern culture inundates us with images of one particular ideal, sending the message that anything other than that ideal is flawed. Whether we like it or not, breasts have become the symbol of femininity. The TV images and ads don’t reflect the reality that there are as many breast shapes as there are women.”

From asymmetrical breasts to overly small or large ones, every pair a little different. Yet when women want to “fix” their chest, they almost always ask for the same thing: a C-cup or small D-cup, with nice proportions and perky cleavage. Many women have an unrealistic size and shape in mind as the ideal breast. They have this idea that upper breast fullness is beautiful, and that is really something that seldom occurs naturally.

These Issues can Start Early

young girl looking in mirrorFor many women, this angst begins before they even have boobs. Concern about breasts not living up to cultural expectations can start when they are still quite young. Girls who develop very late start feeling that something is wrong with me. When other girls the same age are starting to look more womanly and you still look like a girl, that is ‘different’ enough to get you a lot of unwanted attention. This can be the start of self-esteem issues.

On the flip side, for young women who develop early, their breasts often are their identity. They quickly realize that their appearance gets you an auto entry into social groups, and it’s hard not to invest in that. Girls who develop large breasts young face a greater risk of depression, eating disorders, lower academic achievement, and drug use, according to this government study.

When you say ‘adolescent’ and ‘breast,’ people tend to think they just don’t like their breasts. But the issues can run much deeper. Young women with asymmetrical breasts or overly large breasts were more likely to suffer from self-esteem, depression, and social issues; they also scored lower on emotional health scales than other women their age without these issues.

These young women can feel stigmatized and separated from their peer group. Many can’t even find clothes that fit right. For some of these women, surgery can indeed provide a better quality of life. Surprisingly the most grateful are the breast reduction patients. They get sexualized from a young age. They used to run, play soccer, swim, and now they’ve given up their sports. After the surgery, he said, these young women reportedly felt physically and emotionally stronger.

Other studies have also shown that women who undergo breast augmentations have a higher rate of esteem problems prior to surgery. These women often find themselves particularly vulnerable to the surgery’s outcome. When the surgery fails to live up to their expectations, some women suffer further mental and emotional struggles. Which is another reason why patients need to make sure their expectations are realistic.

There Are No Easy Answers

Unhappy girl in mirrorSo, if a young woman remains flat-chested through puberty, her self-worth suffers. If she develops large breasts too soon, she can end up sexualized, ostracized, or stigmatized. Then, in adulthood, women are reminded every day that our boobs are too small, too big, too pointy, too far apart, or that our nipples look like silver dollars.

There’s always something. We’ve created a system where “perfect” boobs for most people is only achievable through procedures—no wonder it’s so popular. While there’s no quick fix, nearly every expert encourages helping women understand the true range of breasts that exist. Most women don’t know what the whole variety of breast shapes are. Actually, nearly every plastic surgeon says they had to remind patients that so many images of breasts in the media are photoshopped. So as our culture moves toward accepting bodies of all varieties, let’s be sure to take special care to include breasts of all varieties, too.