Danica Patrick recently removed her breast implants and asked this provocative question on an Instagram post:
“How can I do the emotional work to see myself as perfect, having it all, and feminine?”
The short answer is: You can’t.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about emotional work before, during, and after breast implant loss. In fact, I think inner work is the only way you fully heal after breast implants. But like Danica indicated in the rest of her May 4th post, there are some rather problematic narratives involving breast implants, including their promises to make you more perfect. And though explant removes those promise-breaking bags from your body, it doesn’t remove the toxic messaging that convinced you to get them in the first place.
Women find their way onto the implant table due to powerful, deeply-ingrained, and socially-conditioned beliefs about breasts.
Your mind can never fully unlearn these beliefs because of how it works with language and cognition. Just as you don’t forget the language you know simply because you learn a new one, a part of your mind retains the unhelpful beauty standards it learned about women’s bodies—even when you realize breasts have nothing to do with your worth. To make matters worse, and contrary to popularized ideas, you cannot command your mind to “just forget” something. It will always hold society’s rules about women’s bodies.
As a result, your mind will never declare you to be “perfect.”
Though you can’t forget, delete, or eject those unhelpful beliefs—and you live in a society where they’re continually reinforced—you can bust free of them.
But like Danica reflected in that same post, “The work is always an inside job.” As a psychotherapist who explanted in 2018, I agree with that statement—personally and professionally.
Explant’s inner work includes stepping back from wanting to see yourself as perfect. Because, in order to attempt that goal, you must convince yourself that the rules about women’s bodies are wrong. And even though the rules are bullshit, when you mentally challenge one of your socially-conditioned beliefs, you keep it at the front of your mind. That mental trap has the unintended outcome of highlighting and reinforcing the very thing you want to dispel.
In reality, I don’t think Danica’s question was meant to be taken literally. I’d love to talk with her about her experience and reflections, but I suspect her question simply acknowledges that finding a way to see yourself as perfect provides a worthy talisman when surrounded by toxic messaging about how you ought to appear and what makes a woman complete, feminine, and better. Perhaps she wants what most women crave after explant: To know how to fully accept ourselves and see that we are enough, despite the messaging and predatory marketing that surrounds us.
To do that, I encourage women who explant to aim for something different: an unshakeable practice of self-acceptance. Not only is that something you can learn, but it’s something you can do. I see self-acceptance as a choice you make and an action you take. Rather than chasing external validation, the pursuit of self-acceptance is completely under your control.
I know that’s easier said than done. So I translated all of the evidence-based inner skills I use in my psychotherapy practice to create an inner healing program for women whose life journey includes breast implants. (You can learn more about it here.)
It’s the foundation for my forthcoming, first-of-its-kind self-help book, Busting Free (anticipated summer 2022). Busting Free helps women prevail over the mental, emotional, and social challenges before, during, and long after breast implant removal. Its readers forge a self-acceptance practice they can use the rest of their life, no matter how their body changes or what standards society endorses.
You can keep “abreast” of its release here.
In the interim, you can learn more about navigating the psychosocial side of breast implants and their removal by following my blog at amandasavagebrown.com. To connect with other women seeking inner healing on their breast implant through explant journey, join Breast Implant Through Explant Inner Companions.
Thank you for your perspective, sharing your experiences and your professionalism. These are certainly much-needed in today’s world where women are X planting more and more.
Although I never X planted, I did go flat after my double mastectomy (with the intent to implant). However, that was not meant to be due to other circumstances I won’t go into here for sake of brevity.
None the less, I found myself faced with a totally unexpected outcome: one I was not prepared for initially.
Yet it only took me about three days 2 adapt to the idea that I would be going flat… and I often wonder why it was that I accepted this so easily?
Was it because I used to Envy my big brother and his friends who could all take off their t-shirts in the summer when I could not?
Was it because I’ve always loved the waif look of Twiggy and others who had that thin androgynous look? (certainly this is not for everyone!)
Or was it because at the age of 56, I could not envision myself walking back into a hospital (with a cane LOL) in 15 years to change out my silicone?
Or maybe it was just because I was never that attached to my breasts …nor did I find them necessarily beautiful to begin with?
I suspect it was a combination of all of these that made my decision to go flat so simple given that going flat was not initialmy on radar!
Yet even 6 months later,
(after a second opinion and the option to reconstruct after all) I knew I was not going back …because I totally loved my new look! And furthermore, I loved the way I felt! ( like a kid again) 😁
Granted, my best friend had just undergone the same process with many complications, and yet still passionately pursued her implants!
We both came to genuinely respect each other’s perspectives and values (which was an education in itself for the BOTH of us!) She was a master’s prepared Integrative Health graduate and former research clinician, and I am now retired from 28 years of nursing with a psychiatric specialty.
It truly is an inside job!
When you are done, you still have to decide what you can live with, what you can’t live with and ultimately decide how YOU define Beauty or learn to redefine it…
The one thing I have learned, is that I’m the one who has to look in the mirror everyday. I am the one who has to live with this body and I am ultimately the one who decides what I think is beautiful!
Although this has been the case all of my life, it was especially evident now and I wasn’t about to look in any mirror with thoughts that were not about self-respect, and beauty- in one form or another.
Cancer has taught me that life is way too short and certainly too short not to accept myself and find beauty wherever and whenever I can.
Lucky for me, my newfound Beauty took about three days to find and has lasted ever since….like a fine wine😉
Thank you for sharing your perspective and reflections on your (and your friend’s) journey. It’s fantastic to hear about your psychological flexibility around society’s rules for women and breasts! I’m sure you are inspiring to those around you. The option for aesthetic flat closure after breast cancer and mastectomy is now part of the NCCN guidelines. This will help more women consider it as a viable alternative to breast implants (which are temporary and problem-prone, requiring more surgery over time). ~3/4 breast cancer patients who reconstruct with implants develop problems within the first three years, so it’s important to offer alternative solutions to those who want another route. Thanks for your comments here; I appreciate them.
All the Best and thank you for your important work 😊