Last week I posted a braless video, where my tits were all jiggly and free, on social media.
It was accompanied by a piece of writing about how breast-owners are expected to do all the work of protection (protecting themselves from judgement and protecting others from any reaction to their boobs), and how at least that day, I was refusing to protect anyone.
The reactions to the video were extremely interesting to me, and worth exploring, since they were evenly split between people who clearly felt comfortable braless, and those who clearly do not.
On the “comfortable” side I got lots of comments about how much more comfy going braless is, and how sexy and confident and free they feel braless, along with many (inaccurate) projections that I looked like I felt comfy/confident/free.
Some of these comments were from men who assume bras are uncomfortable and wanted to be supportive (pun intended) of women doing whatever is most comfortable and assuming less restricting clothing = more comfort (which I can understand) but the majority were from women.
Reading these comments was weird, since I can’t think of anything LESS comfortable than going braless. Literally, it’s sooooo deeply emotionally uncomfortable for me, that even the physically uncomfortable fact of bra straps and bands digging into me are preferable.
I do not feel comfortable braless, and I sure as hell don’t feel sexy. I feel self-conscious, and awkward, and nervous, and just so fucking uncomfortable.
So why do I go braless sometimes anyway? Two big reasons:
Personal growth. I am engaged in relentless personal growth, and facing my fears is a regular self-care practice. Anything that causes fear or discomfort immediately goes on my to-do list, as often as possible, until it’s not scary anymore. The first time I went braless I nearly had a panic attack, I was so uncomfortable I could barely move and wanted to die. But I survived and I kept doing it, and now it’s just regularly old boring discomfort. It gets easier every time I do it.
Fighting the patriarchy. I am ethically opposed to the combination of beauty standards and femme-body-negative culture which converge to make women feel like they have to wear bras to cover up, hide, fix, manipulate, push together, and otherwise alter the appearance of their breasts with bras. As a person who wants to walk my talk, I consciously make choices that align with my values, and often that means things like going braless, going makeup free, letting my belly hang free even when I’m bloated, and refusing to pose in “flattering” ways to make myself look smaller for photos.
I may have looked confident and free and like I felt sexy, but actually how I felt was uncomfortable, brave, and proud of myself for making the harder choice to align with my values.
The other half of people had a reaction to the video that felt very familiar, talking about how much discomfort and anxiety going braless would cause them, identifying the self-consciousness and fear of being looked at, laughed at, hit on, judged as unprofessional, groped/assaulted, or other scary and bad things.
I got a few messages saying they cringed for me as they watched, and many more saying “I could never do that, I’m not confident enough.”
While the sentiment behind these comments makes perfect sense to me, I was struck by how everyone seemed to fall into one of these two camps in reaction to my video, and how they represented exact opposite experiences of being in a body with boobs.
The other thing that really struck me was the fact that behaviors regarding body image are often misunderstood to come from a particular “feeling,” namely the feeling of confidence, in which the person feels good inside their body while doing something another woman would feel uncomfortable doing– wearing a bikini, or dancing, or having sex with the lights on, for example.
This is a completely backwards and damaging view of confidence, IMO.
Someone might say “I don’t have the confidence to pull that off,” and what they really mean is “people who pull that off must feel a specific feeling that I don’t have, because if I were to put that on I would be uncomfortable and afraid.”
But what if that person who seems to be so effortlessly “rocking it” is also uncomfortable and afraid? You wouldn’t know it if you look at them, but this is very often the case.
This misunderstanding unfortunately keeps a LOT of people from taking the exact actions that would help them build confidence in the first place, because they have the false idea that other people who take those actions do so only after achieving a specific feeling.
They wait for that feeling, and they will wait forever, because fears don’t go away without being faced.
The reason this is so tricky is that we only see other people from the outside.
If you saw my video you would see me smiling and walking “with confidence” as my tits bounced and jiggled all over the place, and you might get the idea that I felt sexy, felt beautiful, felt free, felt comfortable, or felt confident in how I looked. If you waited until you had what you perceived me to have in that video before going braless to face your own fears, you would be waiting forever.
I wasn’t faking anything, either. I was happy, I felt good about who I am as a person, and this is like my 150th time going braless in public so it no longer feels quite so shocking or vulnerable. I just simply don’t believe discomfort is a reason not to do something.
I personally believe confidence is the result of facing our fears over and over to strip them of their power, as well as tapping into a deep fundamental set of values and ethos which you can feel confident about your behaviors aligning with.
I’m a big believer in “facing it until you make it” (because fuck faking it), but it’s important to remember that we are all projecting what we think other people feel in their own bodies based on our own experiences. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking the difference between you and a “confident person” is a feeling.
It’s not. The difference is a set of actions and behaviors in spite of having those same exact feelings you experience.
Yours in courage and confidence,
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