I work with women whose lives, bodies, and minds are touched by breast implants, whether they’re longing for them, removing them, or somewhere in between. Guilt is one of the emotions they tell me about, no matter if they love their implants or long ago removed them. “Breast implant guilt” isn’t a universal experience. It’s also not an indictment that women with breast implants have done something “wrong.” It’s more personal and nuanced, and often involves:
- the costs involved in getting, keeping, or removing breast implants,
- lying to partners, daughters, sons, and others about having them,
- not loving and accepting your body right from the start,
- breastfeeding with breast implants in-place,
- not being able to breastfeed because of breast implants,
- living with health or lifestyle impacts-related to breast implants for many years.
And here’s the thing:
Guilt can be an amazingly helpful emotion.
How Guilt Helps
Like an indicator light on your vehicle’s dashboard, guilt alerts you that something needs your attention. Guilt tells you that you’ve done something that goes against what you care about. It warns you that you’re not behaving like the kind of person you want to be. The discomfort you feel with guilt is designed to get your attention, so you choose differently next time. For example, my youngest daughter was less than two when I got breast implants; she grew up thinking I was naturally busty. As she entered puberty and was learning about breast development, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with her not knowing. My “guilt” alerted me that I cared about being honest with her. So, it felt great to be transparent with her when I chose to explant.
How You Most Likely Respond to Breast Implant Guilt
Unfortunately, you may not respond to breast-implant related guilt with the same nonjudgmental curiosity you would with a “check engine” light. Instead, you might ruminate on it, beat yourself up about it, or try to disconnect from it. But responding to guilt like this is about as helpful as talking badly about yourself when a “check engine” light comes on, without ever checking it out. It’s like ignoring the light altogether, in hopes it will simply fade away. Just as those approaches don’t end in car repair, self-blame doesn’t repair you.
Tips for Helpfully Responding to Breast Implant Guilt
So the next time you notice breast implant guilt “lighting” up in you, use the following 7 tips to do the inner equivalent of pulling over, checking under the hood, and making a repair:
- Use nonjudgmental curiosity to gently check out what’s going on inside you.
- Give yourself the same care and compassion you would to someone else. It’s unlikely you shame your friends or family; try skipping that with yourself.
- Make a genuine repair with YOU by telling yourself, “I’m sorry.” Include authentic statements like, “I feel sad over how this worked out.” Being real with yourself like this is NOT an indictment that you did something wrong or “bad.” It’s about opening up to your entire experience.
- Take it to heart that guilt shows up around things that matter to you. For example, if you now value natural or organic living but it wasn’t important to you earlier in life, you may feel increasingly guilty about having breast implants inside your body. Look for ways moving forward to honor what matters to you.
- Commit to changing one thing in your relationship with you, even if it takes several small steps to get there (e.g., learn how to practice self-acceptance, stand in your truth about choices you made for your body, do something caring for your body each day).
- Lastly, and this part is often the most difficult, once you’ve apologized to yourself and committed to doing things differently, let it be. Give yourself permission to move forward, taking your new awareness with you, showing up more wisely in your relationship with you.