Thank You, Ariel Winter, For Inspiring Me To Speak Up About My Breast Reduction Surgery

I had never witnessed a celebrity be so forthcoming about a procedure I had previously considered shameful and private.

Crying in fitting rooms is a guaranteed experience in every woman’s life. Whether you’re just having a gross day, or that guy you like isn’t texting you back, or Zayn just quit One Direction, there will come a moment when you’re staring into a Macy’s mirror, sobbing.

I was 12 years old, and after trying on my tenth bathing suit of the day, I was hysterical. My boobs were giant and so horrifically lopsided that my mom had dubbed my right breast a “Monster Boob,” as it was swollen and veiny, almost purple. Nothing ever looked good on me, and at 5 feet tall, I looked like a stubby beach ball. Even after trying on the “specialty” teen bathing suits, I'd end up exhaustedly buying a tankini made for middle-aged women. I would never wear it.

This wasn't even the worst of my boob trauma. In sixth grade, I visited an OB-GYN, who awkwardly groped me to check for swollen lymph nodes or irregular glands, coming up with nothing. I sobbed in the car about how kids made fun of my “mature” figure. In high school, I had to wear two sports bras to field hockey practice so I could run with lessened discomfort, but I still felt like I was hauling two bricks strapped to my chest. My back was in constant pain, and my compression bras, made for saggy grandma boobs, would dig into my shoulders, leaving red indentations.

Bizzy Emerson

For me, a breast reduction surgery was truly the only option. Not only was I suffering physically, I was suffering emotionally. I was really disturbed and unhappy with myself. I felt that I looked disproportionate and chunky with my oversize boobs, and this really got in the way of my self-love and self-acceptance, which is difficult for any high school girl to begin with. I probably cried a billion tears from the age of 11 to 15 for this reason alone. My life felt like a deep pool of unhappiness, and I was drowning under the weight of my massive chest.

Although breast reduction surgery was medically necessary for me, and for nearly everyone who has undergone such a procedure, it has often been classified as a cosmetic surgery. There is an incredibly negative stigma surrounding breast reduction, as many will incorrectly lump it in with breast augmentation, or breast implants. In fact, I lived in secret for years about my BR, masquerading it as spinal surgery. I don’t know if I was necessarily ashamed, but I felt strongly that anything regarding my breasts, a natural part of my anatomy, was to be kept completely and totally private. Um … what?

In society, we’re conditioned to believe that the female body is an OFF-LIMITS TOPIC, completely inappropriate and not to be discussed. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Kim Kardashian’s butt or Nicki Minaj’s thighs, or Sofia Vergara’s boobs. Women are selectively sexualized -- aggressively ogled when it’s “hot,” but disgustingly degraded when it involves medical jargon. I hate waking up every morning and feeling as if I have no control or say over my body -- that I have to get dressed thinking, If I wear this shirt, my boobs might be a little too exposed, and people might talk shit about me. It’s crazy that any girl has to consider that.

Recently, Modern Family actress Ariel Winter underwent breast reduction surgery. Unlike me with my experience, Winter was very open and honest regarding her procedure, sharing how it was both medically and emotionally necessary for her, and how it has changed her life completely. I had never witnessed a celebrity be so forthcoming about a procedure I had previously considered shameful and private. In fact, it gave me the courage to be more vocal about my own surgery. I had no one to relate to when I was 15, laying in bed in excruciating pain but nearly 15 pounds lighter, bandages coiled tightly around my upper torso. I had never divulged how, post-surgery, I could run on the treadmill without feeling breathless after two minutes, and how I could buy the first bathing suit I tried on at Target, where sizes run notoriously small. By being an advocate for breast reduction surgery, and sharing the real benefits of the procedure, Winter encouraged me to be proud of how much I’ve grown since going under the knife.

At the 2016 SAG Awards this past weekend, Winter ROCKED a black, strapless Romona Keveza gown. Due to the cut of the dress, Winter’s surgical scars just barely peeked out. Immediately, Twitter went off, with many criticizing her choice not to cover up her scars. However, Winter responded, sharing, “[My scars] are part of me and I’m not ashamed of them at all.” This really spoke to me. My breast reduction surgery is so central to how I’ve grown into loving myself and my body, and although it may be viewed as “cosmetic” or “plastic surgery,” it really changed my life for the better. The female figure is such a beautiful and natural thing, and it should be celebrated in every shape and form, not casually degraded or reduced down to just boobs.

Bizzy Emerson

Yes, sometimes I still cry in the fitting room. But now I don’t have to strap myself into two extra-large sports bras to run, and I don’t have to put all of my self-worth into one aspect of my body. I’m proud of the way I look, and for that, I’m happy.

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