I've been told my tubular boobs need fixing but I love them

My whole life, I thought my boobs were different.

Weird. Not like anyone else’s, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint why.

That all changed when I accidentally stumbled upon an article describing tubular boobs.

Once I read it, I found that question I’d been asking myself my whole life had finally been answered.

Growing up through that awkward part of life we call puberty, I always felt like my breasts weren’t quite ‘right’. Mine weren’t just small; the shape them seemed to be different to others – conical, not as round as other people’s. My nipples looked different. I never seemed to be able to find bras that fit me just right.

My discomfort only grew as I got older. I experienced graphic cat calls about ‘having no tits but a nice ass’ and had a nasty ex make fun of my nipples.

Combined with deeply entrenched body image issues, disordered eating and low self-esteem, these experiences made me feel incredibly insecure about my body and my breast shape.

I would never leave the house without wearing a super-padded-XXL bra. If I was out clubbing I’d sometimes wear two bras at once, using makeup to contour in a fake cleavage – anything I could do to hide their real shape.

Thankfully, I discovered the world of body acceptance online, via Tumblr and Instagram, which helped me to tackle how I felt about my body and unlearn the nastiness we’re all taught.

However, there was still a voice in the back of my head that kept reminding me that my boobs didn’t fit with my curvy body.

Fast forward to me, age 25, stumbling upon that article describing tubular boobs. I finally saw my own boob shape represented. It was in the form of before and after photos, with mine being the before.

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It was described as Tubular Breast Syndrome, a condition in which the breast tissue doesn’t develop in the way ‘regular’ breasts do. Characteristics included puffy areolas, smaller size, conical shape and a narrow breast base, all of which I had. Finally, an answer!

However, my elation at having the vocabulary and understanding for something that had made me feel insecure for so long disappeared almost immediately. As I continued to read, those before and after photos from plastic surgery websites popped up more and more.

Statements like ‘cause significant embarrassment’, ‘cause suicidal thoughts’ and ‘fix the deformity’ kept popping up, alongside highly medicalised language and graphic images of breast-augmentation procedures.

The messaging I saw online just reasserted what that negative voice in my head had been telling me for years – my boobs needed fixing.

That’s part of the difficulty with keeping up body positivity and self-acceptance – it can feel like the world is gaslighting you. You know in your heart of hearts your body is worthy no matter how it looks, but the whole world is telling you the opposite.

As I engaged with the body acceptance community online more and more, my sadness shifted to indignation. It made me angry that so many people were feeling shame in secret because of unattainable societal beauty standards.

I was also furious that the only resources available for people with tubular breasts told us our bodies need surgical intervention to be ‘normal’. But we do not need ‘fixing’.

We are taught from childhood that our bodies are continuous works in progress, in constant need of obsessive monitoring, weight loss and plastic surgery. Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that 229,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients between ages 13-19 in 2017.

This pressure is felt here in the UK too – research from Plan International UK showed that in a study of 1,000 young women, 41% of them would consider going under the knife.

More recently, in the wake of Covid-19, British plastic surgeons are seeing a rise in bookings for surgical treatments in a phenomenon they have coined the ‘Zoom Boom’; people are turning to surgical intervention as a result of scrutinising their features on daily Zoom calls.

I would never judge anyone who did decide to get plastic surgery, I just want to make sure their reasons don’t stem from the idea that they have to modify their appearance because society has told them so.

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Conditions like tubular boobs are medicalised without reason, and because there is so much societal expectation to have the ‘perfect’ set of boobs, many feel the pressure to go under the knife.

After speaking out about tubular breast syndrome via my online campaign, #TotallyTubular, I had so many messages from people saying they had had invasive surgery, only to experience adverse effects, with some having to have their implants removed.

Another insidious lesson we are taught is that if you fix your body, it will fix how you’re feeling on the inside. But as I discovered upon my own journey to accepting my body and my tubular boobs, healing your relationship with your body has very little to do with altering your appearance. It is about unlearning harmful ideals you have been taught.

There is no one way your body ‘should’ look. You may not look like the mainstream beauty standard, but that does not affect your worth. Your worth is inherent and non-negotiable.

Three years after finding that fateful article, I am shining a light on the condition so others don’t feel so alone.

When I started speaking out about tubular boobs, I started to receive messages from people realising that they had them too. They had suffered in silence, just like me, not knowing where to turn. Thankfully, I showed them that they are not alone.

I’m here proving that it’s nothing to be ashamed of – I spent years hating my boobs and now I love them! There’s something great about not getting underboob sweat when it’s hot, or not being in pain when running for the bus. I feel liberated feeling supported enough that I don’t always have to wear a bra.

All these things made me feel left out of conversations with fellow boob-owners for a long time, but now I see them as a benefit!

Surprisingly I found a lot of comfort in the word ‘tubular’. While the word describes the condition, it’s also a word I remember being used by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and surfer boys with big fringes growing up when they wanted to refer to something cool and awesome.

Tubular boobs are exactly that – they deserve to be celebrated. It’s about time we flipped the script and fought against the idea that our bodies need fixing.

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