I never want to cry about my body again.
November 30, 2013 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm 21, got both legs and arms, a working brain, am decently attractive and completely healthy. I have periodic crashes where I whole-heartedly despise certain parts of my body and fall into deep despair. What can I do to help avoid these crashes? I am seeing a counselor and she's been helpful in that regard. I ask: other than therapy, when did YOU stop giving a crap about your bodily imperfections? And what's helpful to you when you do start needlessly worrying?

I'd say about 65-70% of my time, I'm fine with my looks. I'm a nice looking lady with pretty unique features and I dress pretty well. I'm healthy. Everything works fine.

However, there will be times when I will crash to pieces, spending hours obsessing over my flaws. The two big targets: the size of my nipples (big.) or the stretch marks on my ass (thin, white, wispy).

It's funny: when my brain targets one, the other problem is minimized. If I hate my stretch marks with a passion? I'm like "Why was I worried about my nips when theyre not bad, they're nothing compared to these horrible stretch marks?!". When I do eventually switch to the big old nips I'm like "Why did I care about my marks? ALL girls have them! No one has these big old areolas!"

These crashes are getting far and few in between. But I'd like to NEVER EXPERIENCE THEM AGAIN because I can't fucking do anything about them. I'm so angry with myself for being so hard on myself and putting myself down, especially online: I'll go read forum after forum about how guys hate big nipples and cry myself to sleep. I'll complain online. I'll hate myself. It's awful.

How can I start feeling thankful for what I have, beautiful with my existing features and positive about myself and my body image? AGAIN, I AM pursuing professional help with a counselor who knows a bit about this and I'll continue after I graduate with a therapist. But I can't be the only person with this problem. I want to talk to those who have overcome it and how.
posted by rhythm_queen to Human Relations (50 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I can totally empathize with you and know you want a solution now. It probably isn't very comforting to know that time does help, but really, it does. I so regret all the time I spent loathing my young, beautiful body, because what I wouldn't give to have my 21-year-old body now, at 37. And yet I know that in another 16 years, I'll reflect back on this 37-year-old body, with its stretch marks (oh, I'll take the stretch marks on your ass and raise you marks on belly, thighs, hips, breasts, backs of knees and armpits! Yay babies! Yay growth spurts!)...and I'll think "You know, you were gorgeous then, too. You shouldn't have been so hard on yourself."

So your nipples are big. I guarantee you that plenty of men find them beautiful. (I'm sure plenty fetishize them, even, but I try not to think too hard about that.) And honestly, stretch marks, they're just a thing. Practically everyone, including supermodels (Chrissy Teigen tweeted hers) and dancers and others who make money off their beautiful, imperfect bodies, has them. Again, with the time thing...as you get older, I promise those marks will become one more feature on the landscape that is your body, like all the scars we collect along the way. And men aren't going to fixate on them - at least, not the men worth knowing - and instead they'll fixate on all the other beautiful things about you, including your nipples :)

Feel free to MeMail me if you ever need a pep talk. I've been down the body-hating road and have come right back from it. Hugs to you.
posted by justonegirl at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm sure others will have better advice than mine, but I think it's great that you've noticed this:

It's funny: when my brain targets one, the other problem is minimized.

It's like you have a spot in your brain for obsessing about something and it's really just a matter of what. A quota that you must fill. I have that spot too. While some might say you should learn to quiet that spot, I've never had much luck with that. What I have had more luck with is finding more beneficial things to obsess over. Getting in shape. Working on a project. Learning a language.

In the long run, it would probably be better to put out this fire. But until I figure that out, I might as well make some smores with it.
posted by the jam at 4:43 PM on November 30, 2013 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure this is something that you could engineer, but when I was about your age, I went to see the Broadway show Cabaret. There's a chorus of women who pretty much only wear Weimar Germany period underwear. And they're onstage the entire show. You get a really good sense of how people's bodies are different, and how despite being different shapes and sizes, all of them are beautiful.

Another thing that happened with time, and I'm not sure how exactly you could force yourself to understand this (and I know you know it, intellectually), but one day it dawned on me that I don't walk around tut-tutting about everyone's pimples and whether they have nice vs. stubby fingers or what their elbows are like, etc. All this stuff about the size of your nipples and whether you have stretch marks? Nobody cares. If you're naked with a person of your preferred gender, they're going to be excited that they get to be naked with you. They're not going to be thinking, "Well she's OK, except for those awful stretch marks!"

Hell, you're lucky. These flaws you have? The vast majority of the human race is never even going to see. I have fat ankles, which often means there are no shoes or no pants that will work for me at all. It can be really hard to rationalize that away, despite the fact that it's not like I walk around checking out everyone's ankles. I'm sure most people don't notice what my ankles look like and don't care. So I really feel you. Even after years of coming to understand that this stuff doesn't matter, sometimes it just does for me. So don't pile on yourself to hard. Women are taught to obsess like this, and beating yourself up because of it isn't going to help anything.
posted by Sara C. at 4:45 PM on November 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Okay, guys do not hate big nipples. But that's not the real issue here. The issue is that you seem to find it easy to pick on yourself.

Let's continue with the nipple issue as a proxy for picking on yourself. Do you hate big nipples? Do you hate your nipples only because some douchey guy online says he does when he just says things like that because he's a simpleton who wishes a woman with any size nipples could muster up an iota of respect for a guy like him and his silly opinions? (And there are as many insecure guys out there as women---possibly more messed up dudes because at least we have our women friends to discuss and evolve and mature with, and they don't.)

Have you considered seeing a therapist if you aren't? You have to learn to like yourself. And you're not the only woman in the world with large areolas. There are probably gorgeous and really popular porn stars with huge nipples that could enslave huge groups of men with their large nipples/large labia, whatever. And these women are awesome because they don't give a fuck for people who don't like them.
posted by discopolo at 4:48 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, most heterosexual men have seen more real-life naked women than the average heterosexual woman. Outside of porn, stretch marks are 100% normal, and both nipples and labia come in a huge variety of colours and sizes. Look closely at where you're getting your idea of "normal" because it's probably bullshit.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:49 PM on November 30, 2013 [19 favorites]

Sara C.'s fantastic comment reminded me of something else. Something you might ask your therapist to work on with you is developing some compassion and kindness toward yourself. You seem like a nice person, and I can't imagine you'd judge anyone as harshly as you seem to judge yourself - especially not for something they're born with, like large areolas, or that just happened to them, like stretch marks. You wouldn't label them as ugly or lacking in value. Obviously, being as accepting of ourselves as we are of others isn't particularly easy or natural, but maybe your therapist could help you get started on the path, at least.
posted by justonegirl at 4:51 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I'm feeling down about my body shape, I try to remember that ALL bodies are different and, at the same time, there are similarities. (I'm small chested, and got made fun of for it my entire life. Kids are cruel. However my husband loves me for who I am, yet I still need to find myself beautiful.) Oh, and I've got some stretch marks too and I'm a very petite person, it happens to all of us!

I try to find role models who are similar to myself and remember that "They are beautiful. I look like them. Therefore I am beautiful." It makes it not all about comparing yourself to what is "attractive" but finding regular women who are attractive and realizing, "hey! That's me!"

Something that has really helped is finding REAL women to look up to. I present to you The Nu Project! Warning! Nudity ahead. It's a project shooting nude photos of real women. No photoshop. No special trick lighting. Stretch marks, different nipple sizes, and ALL! Just women in their regular environment. Please take a look and realize that there is no "perfect" or "ideal" or anything. It's hard and I still struggle with it.

They are beautiful. You are beautiful. We are all beautiful. :)
posted by Crystalinne at 4:52 PM on November 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

One way to come to better terms with your body is to enjoy the way it moves. Take some dance classes, yoga, pilates, whatever appeals. You'll feel more graceful, more self-confident, more alive. Added bonus: in the locker room you'll see that we come in more shapes and sizes than you could ever count.
posted by mareli at 5:05 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When it comes right down to it, stretchmarks and large nipples are small potatoes, visually. No one even notices, seriously. It's not like you have alopecia or you have a disfiguring birthmark on your face, or terrible burn scars (and I know people with all those things, and they're all attractive, interesting people, by the way). I sympathize, because we all have shit we dislike about our bodies, but this is nitpicking yourself! If the worst thing you can come up with is large nipples and stretchmarks, you're in good shape. I don't say that to be unkind, I say that in the hopes that you will be able to take yourself out of this mindset the next time you are crying about stretchmarks -- which like 99% of women have! -- and say to yourself, "self, get a grip. This is not a big deal." Because it isn't! Listen, I hate how crepey the skin on the inside of my elbow is, but I also realize literally no one else is paying attention to the inside of my elbow and if I cried about it, it would be totally out of proportion to the actual problem.

To me, this kind of reaction seems like you're upset or fixated on something else and you're redirecting that anxiety onto your body. I find myself doing this when I'm having anxiety, except for me it manifests itself in a ridiculous form of crazy hypochondria. I used to find it crippling but I've grown out of it, and part of this is because I have found other things to focus on: work, family, a hobby -- just other more important things. I don't have time to spend hours figuring out what crazy rare disease I have anymore.

Life is short. Do you want to waste hours crying about your nipples? I know you don't! Keep working with your therapist -- I think it's great that you're working on this in therapy -- but also perhaps work on finding other stuff in your life that is honestly diverting. Volunteering might be a good start in terms of helping you find the perspective that will help you overcome this once and for all. Take a class! Start a novel. Give yourself better things to do than worry about these things.

PS: if it makes you feels better, I totally have large nipples and NO ONE has ever said ANYTHING other than compliments about them and they've never caused ANY issues for me! I didn't even know I was supposed to be worried about them! So cross that one off your list, dude!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:09 PM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: You're all lovely.

It's just that so many freakin' dudes online talk smack about large nipples, about stretch marks. The "I wouldn't kick you out of bed, but obviously girls with small areolas and no stretch marks are preferred" attitude makes me feel wretched about myself, as if I'm eternally second best. And any dude that likes big nipples is a fetishist.

It's not just that I feel bad--I feel so bad that I will waste hours of my precious time trying to "make myself feel better" by googling the shit out of these issues. And then I feel worse for being such a self-absorbed silly.
posted by rhythm_queen at 5:15 PM on November 30, 2013

Best answer: Where are you encountering these dudes, and why do you keep going to those sites? That is something to work on in therapy. Everybody has body issues, but not everybody seeks out places where people are shitty about normal, beautiful bodies.

Maybe try going to a spa - not a rich-people spa, but the kind your Russian or Korean grandmother would go to. So much variation! So much beauty! Maybe you can start to see it in yourself, too, and be kinder to yourself.
posted by rtha at 5:19 PM on November 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

Stop hanging out where guys talk smack about big nipples online, that doesn't sound like a good use of your time.

(A lot of excellent men have seen my nipples and none has ever appeared to mind. Most of them made an effort to see them some more. Hang out with those guys instead.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:20 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, my first thought, like rtha, is STOP GOING TO THOSE SITES.

I encounter a total of 0 people complaining about my body type on the internet. And it's not because I'm a gorgeous model. It's because I actively avoid the parts of the internet where people engage in body shaming.
posted by Sara C. at 5:21 PM on November 30, 2013 [24 favorites]

"I wouldn't kick you out of bed, but obviously girls with small areolas and no stretch marks are preferred" For what it's worth, in my experience this attitude is sooo in the minority it's ridiculous. I'm not sure I've ever talked to a man who expressed an attitude like this. This may be an age thing (I'm in my late 20s and didn't have a lot of breadth of experience at your age), but the vast, vast majority of the men I've encountered in my life are not this way at all... it's more like "I wouldn't kick you out of bed because I am so lucky to have a beautiful naked woman in my bed and there is no one perfect way to look because women are a glorious diverse group of human beings and they are lovely in so many different ways"!

This a cliche, but I've found men to be one million times less critical of women's bodies than other women are. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with guys where a guy says he thinks some woman is sexy and all the other women in the room say "Her?! But what about [insert totally inconsequential flaw here]?" I'm not saying sexual attraction should define how you feel about your body, but if your issues with your body lie in thinking guys won't think you're sexy, you have nothing to worry about.
posted by telegraph at 5:22 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I forgot to say: I'm a dyke, I'm in my 40s, and I've seen a lot of naked women. I have never, ever thought "Ick."
posted by rtha at 5:25 PM on November 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

First thing is first, never read those kind of forums. It's just not healthy or productive. (Not to mention, you can find ANYTHING on the internet. What does it really matter that 20 anonymous guys complain about big nipples on the internet? There's also 20 guys that hate small nipples complaining in the "I hate small nipples" thread). Along these lines, avoid any negative influences in your life. If you have friends (men or women) that make critical comments about people's looks or body, tell them that you don't want to hear that stuff anymore. If they keep it up, find new friends. Stay away from magazines, sites, shows, etc. focused on image only.

Second, pay attention to the cool stuff your body can do. In my early twenties I joined a women only "boot camp"; admittedly, my initial motivation was looking better, but ultimately my favorite thing about it was learning that I could do so many awesome things that I never thought I could do! There's nothing better than working hard and mastering a physical challenge. It will make you appreciate your body in a whole new light.

Lastly, I think it's really important that you are already self aware enough to know that you are obsessing in an unhealthy way. Make a list of things you like to do (reading, drink a cup of tea, call a friend, take a walk, work on a craft project, cook, etc.) and post it prominently in your house. When you start going down the spiral of bad thoughts just pick a thing and DO IT. The hardest part about obsessions is drawing yourself out of it -- once you pull away for a minute or two it should be that much easier to put the thought to bed.
posted by snarfles at 5:31 PM on November 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

Whoa! I was a Cabaret dancer, and I definitely have big nipples. You should know that babies love big nipples, so that makes you extra special. I had great success breastfeeding kids and having lots of hot sex with many men, despite my big nipples and a few stretch marks here and there.

I don't know what else to say. I never thought about it except I danced at clubs and guys liked me and so did babies. In between club dancing, of course. I mean, most of it's in the dark, so what are you worrying about? Just be you! And if they don't like it: next!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:39 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's just that so many freakin' dudes online talk smack...

That's not representative of anything except how the people who use that website talk when they're writing online. Even those people might not talk or think like that in real life. And most normal men don't spend their time obsessing about women's body parts online.

The point has already been made that most straight men have seen more women's bodies than most straight women have. I don't know where people get the idea that the ones who subject women to unrealistic body expectations are mostly straight men. (I'm not saying that's what you're saying, but I still think this is worth clearing up.) For 99.9% of straight men, it would make no sense to insist on perfection in women's bodies, since this would lead to never getting any sex or ever having a girlfriend. The mindset of most men is not "Hmm, her nipples aren't the exact right size," it's, "Yay, I get to see nipples!" Almost everyone is imperfect and realizes they're not in any position to insist on perfection from others.
posted by John Cohen at 5:45 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think that you're seeing some confirmation bias when you go looking for info about this, because a lot of people go onto the internet to complain and a lot if not most of of people who would air their grievances about nipples online are outliers. I TRULY think if you talked to 100 random straight dudes on the street, like, 98 percent of them would be like, "I just like nipples in general."

It's kind of like what I used to do with my hypochondria: the internet would tell me I WAS DYING, when I wasn't. Dr Google is a terrible Dr, and Boyfriend Google is just as bad! That's because you're not seeing an actual representative segment of society talking about this on the internet. That's not me trying to make you feel better, that's just fact.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you look, you will find assholes who go on and on about what they don’t like, no matter what it is you are talking about. My guess is these people are also spend their time objectifying women.

I will just add, I love big nipples. Also, I have seen quite a few naked women. Each time I wasn’t thinking “oh, stretch marks,” I was thinking “zomg this woman is naked with me!”
posted by Silvertree at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Lots of good advice here, so I only want to add to the "Don't go to those sites" answers a technique you're well on your way to discovering on your own! Since this is a recurring sentiment, sit down and try (with or without your therapist) to write out descriptions of the last few times you crashed this way. Pay attention to stuff that may seem unrelated - what was your stress level like at the time? Were you in a certain kind of situation before the crashes? What behaviors happen at the start of the crash - do you spend a lot of time looking at the parts in question and loathing them, or do you tend to cover up and try not to think about them?

The idea of the exercise is just to have clear in your head the stages of the crash, so that if you notice those behaviors wriggling in you'll have time to redirect your brain towards something positive or even just distracting. Such as, "Oh, I'm in a really stressed period, that tends to trigger me, I should take a personal day and watch that movie I've been dying to see" or " I've got the urge to go to these webforums that will make me feel like crap, I should call up Friend and see if they're doing anything." Along with therapy, trying just to pay attention to my internal situations has been helpful to me in managing my worst periods.
posted by theweasel at 6:09 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you could volunteer at a hospital or nursing home?

Looking at a lot of near naked bodies, none of whom are objectively attractive, may help develop your sense of what true beauty is. Because I guarantee you will find some people with such sparkling personalities that they seem attractive.

Also, have you seen the image galleries of elderly people vs. what they looked like when young? Beauty is fleeting.
posted by MadMadam at 6:35 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I joined a sports team and started impressing myself with how much my awkward fallible could actually do
posted by spunweb at 7:20 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Back in the feckless days of my youth and before cell phone cameras, I was a well known flasher at Mardi Gras. The very first time I flashed was for a lecherous old man on a float - I still have the beads. But, what was so memorable about that occasion was the man standing there watching who declared, "Girl you have some alright nipples!" I have at least quarter size nipples.

I had never been complimented on them (and haven't since) but it reminded me that everyone has things that they love about other bodies that the owner of that body would not even begin to believe would be lovable.

I've been married now over 10 years and had two kids. My body is very different than when I was in my 20s and you know what? I LOVE IT MORE NOW. My husband the other day told me that he loved my body more now than when we first got together - before stretch marks, babies and time had had their way with me.

If you love your body and all of the ways that it is you, you will find a person who feels the same way.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 8:04 PM on November 30, 2013

"I wouldn't kick you out of bed, but obviously girls with small areolas and no stretch marks are preferred"

Those kinds of comments make me laugh because it's so amazingly clear to me that guys who talk like that have such limited sexual experience and lack of connection to women that they're just talking. Seriously, it's all just talk.

And let me be totally clear: when guys say stuff like that, it's their way of admitting they're scared of non-mastabatory sex with human women. It's their way of trying to hide why they have limited sexual experience or why they can't keep an erection offline or connect with women/have a relationship with a woman.

Believe me. Seriously. These guys are immature and scared little boys and they're admitting their flaws this way because they don't know how to manage their sexual anxiety, fragile egos, and fear. No mistake. There's nothing wrong with you; there is something seriously wrong with them..
posted by discopolo at 8:08 PM on November 30, 2013 [23 favorites]

(Also, even though I'm a heterosexual woman, I have a deep appreciation of the sensuality of the female form. I love beautiful bodies and faces. I don't see how large areolas are not amazingly sensual. It just doesn't compute. If you're talking "come have sensual and passionate sex with me" in terms of body parts, there's seriously nothing more clear than large areola after the bra comes off.)
posted by discopolo at 8:19 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Aw, man. I've been fighting the self image battle for a long time. I do not mean to minimize your feelings in any way, but I'm 47 now and I wistfully look back at the time when my only body image drama was stretch marks and what some random thought of the size of my nipples. Please don't create space in your life or mind for hateful people like that; I wish I'd stopped sooner.

Spend more time on body positive sites and surround yourself with body positive people. I follow a bunch on tumblr and I'm happy to send you links if you like. Here's a quote that helped me:


I hope that helps, in some small way, for you to think more kindly about your one and only perfectly imperfect self. Sending you lots of strength. Good luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:35 PM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I look at this a little differently. It seems to me like you have a problem with an obsessive thought, just one that concerns particular body parts, not an unusual topic for a female in our culture. I have the same problem, only about different topics.

Everyone has thoughts about their bodies that perhaps something is not quite adequate, that's normal enough. Your problem is the obsessive focus on the thought for a long time. The longer you stay focused on the thought, the more juice you put into the circuit that maintains that thought, the stronger it seems to be. Kind of a flaw in our rationality mechanism especially with emotionally charged thoughts.

I'm going to paraphrase a technique I read recently: You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life

The basic premise being that the thought drives your perception into an end game of emotional tumult from which there seems to be no way out.

The author has a four step process: relabel, reframe, refocus, revalue. I do this with lots of thoughts I'm getting too caught up in, 'that person dun me wrong' being one of the chief types.

Relabel: this thought makes me feel (fill in the blank with several difficult emotional states)
Reframe: this thought is a lie my brain has cooked up
Refocus: I'm just sitting here doing my everyday life at the moment
Revalue: what a waste of time that thought was

Rather than argue with your self-image about whether you should feel this way, just demote the thought until it disappears from lack of attention. Best to read the book and find out the whole scenario.
posted by diode at 8:36 PM on November 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: As many have said, big nipples (what does this mean, btw? how big is too big?) and stretch marks are, in the grand scheme of things, negligible.

What may be happening is, for whatever reason, you have deeply-ingrained anxiety and dislike for your self and/or body. Your mind & intellect knows that you are fine, a lovely, healthy, well-dressed young lady -- yet these feelings come crashing down at regular intervals, brought about by external stress, maybe, or unacknowledged negative thought patterns. When these feelings hit, as a way to seek reassurance, you go searching on Google for what men think of big nipples and stretch marks ... and inevitably find things that push you spiraling downward into a paroxysm of self-hatred and despair.

So perhaps this all is only tangentially related to big nipples and stretch marks; they are merely the focal point, not the source. Start to pay close attention to your general emotional and mental well-being, anxiety and stress level. Learn to recognize the beginning of the wave, and find ways to stem the tide when it is but the faintest ripple. Learn to see yourself with utmost compassion. Find one beautiful thing about yourself each day, truly appreciate it, then let that feeling of warmth arise to envelop your entire body, until you believe that you are, in fact, a unique creature in this world, and deserving of love and kindness just because you exist, without having to be a perfect anything.
posted by enlivener at 8:43 PM on November 30, 2013

Response by poster: I just wanted to say because people seem to think quarter-sized areolas are what I'm referring to as big--No....I'm talking 2.5ish inches wide in diameter. It's just BIG. I have double Dish-larger breasts, thankfully, so it isn't that disproportionate, but still big. And one is bigger than the other. :/

I am finding this helpful, but I am also fighting all the way. I do understand that at 47 I'll probably look back at this time wistfully--that struck a chord with me.

Diode, wow--have you tried that yourself? Did it work easily?
posted by rhythm_queen at 8:51 PM on November 30, 2013

Just a data point - I stopped going through periodic bouts of obsessively hating particular aspects of my looks when I was about 25.

Although not healthy, I think it's pretty common for young women to have that experience, and it sucks.

In my case, I found that time and experience, including more sexual experience, helped me to get past it. I consider myself lucky that it never occurred to me to google anything or seek out forums about it. Definitely try to stop doing that.

And I strongly agree with others who are saying that the kinds of guys saying these things online probably lack experience and maturity.

While there may be a whole bunch of guys expressing this fringe view in a few specific forums, it is not representative of grown men in the world. Men don't care about stretch marks. And they love boobs. All boobs. All shapes and sizes. Honestly.

I would also say that it's great that you are actively seeking to tackle this issue now, because you're only 21, and the more of your 20s you get to spend truly enjoying your young hot self, the better!
posted by reshet at 9:25 PM on November 30, 2013

It's interesting that the things you are obsessing about are things only someone who you'd become intimate with would see. I would pattern a guess that if someone is willing to get intimate with you, they already pretty much like you enough and vise versa. If the stretch marks and such become a problem after that, well then that guy just did you a favor. Cause he's a shallow ass, and if it's not one thing it would be something else.

There are people out there who won't judge you for stupid shit like that, and if they do that's their issue and not yours. Seriously, what about people who are disabled? Do you think they're worrying about how big their nipples are? I'm just saying put things in context.

No one is perfect and we all have things we obsess about. If you're frequenting message boards where guys are posting about kicking girls out of bed for such ridiculous things, I'd say you're on the wrong message boards, because these are boys not men. They're probably also watching a lot of porn where women are paid to be flawless, which is not representative of the rest of the human race.

Would you say things to your best friend, tell her all about her stretch marks, and how bad you think they look? I think the answer would be "no". So why say them to yourself? "Be the kind of friend to others that you would want to have", also applies directly to you first and foremost. If you had a "friend" pointing out all your supposed flaws, would you hang around them and want them in your life? Hell no. So don't do it to yourself.

To be ok with it is to know everyone else has flaws, just like you do. Find comfort in knowing you will never be perfect, nor will anyone else. We're not supposed to be, we're human. Focus on the things you do like about yourself, and throw out the rest of your negative thoughts.
posted by readygo at 10:00 PM on November 30, 2013

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”— Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck
posted by hush at 10:11 PM on November 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

I've said it in a couple of threads, but my rule is that if I look in the mirror and say something mean about myself, I walk away. I do it mentally as well. I just find something else to do, instead of sitting here bothered about X part of my body. I mean, it's a small part of my body, an even smaller part of my life, why am I giving it so much?

Do I love my body? No, it's just my body. That doesn't mean I hate it though.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:25 PM on November 30, 2013

Best answer: I just wanted to say because people seem to think quarter-sized areolas are what I'm referring to as big--No....I'm talking 2.5ish inches wide in diameter. It's just BIG. I have double Dish-larger breasts, thankfully, so it isn't that disproportionate, but still big. And one is bigger than the other. :/

I guarantee my nipples/areolas are larger than yours, and I actually had to look, because this is not something I ever think about. Seriously, internet forum dudebro speculation is enough to make you hate yourself? (God, being 21 sucked.) Believe me, men who nitpick about unimportant bodily features are not men who spend a lot of face-to-face time with naked ladies.

Real talk. I'm a decade older than you are, and I have a laundry list of gross body stuff. I've got your enormous nips and your stretch marks, but a whole lot more of them, plus skin tags, huge brown birthmarks, more cellulite than you can shake a stick at, and some really ugly scars. Also, did I mention I'm morbidly obese? That being said, I'm married to a man who thinks I'm the most gorgeous creature that ever walked this earth, and he chases my fat, stretch-marked ass all around the house. You deserve no less, giant nipples or not.

Your body is your body. It's a tool, a glorious machine, a biological marvel. Bodies sweat, fart, bleed, make weird noises as you get older, and sag. Neither your body nor you owes prettiness to anyone. Your body's got better shit to do, and so do you. When women, in this thread and elsewhere, tell you that they regret all the time they spent hating themselves and their bodies, that they despair the days they wasted crying over their chubby thighs or ugly feet, listen to them. You don't get that time back, and both you and your body deserve better.
posted by timetoevolve at 11:16 PM on November 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

The "I wouldn't kick you out of bed, but obviously girls with small areolas and no stretch marks are preferred" attitude makes me feel wretched about myself, as if I'm eternally second best.

Lemme just say, YOU are not the one who is eternally second best in this (largely-hypothetical) situation. Any guy who would type this on the internet, never mind say it in real life, is pretty damn low-class. The only feelings that are deserved by a statement like that are "Thank god you identified yourself as an asshole early enough that I know I will never make the mistake of dating you."

Not that this does a thing for the whole intrusive, obsessive thoughts part of things, with which I am also alas all too familiar. But this may help you as a kind of shielding mantra -- the problem, quite literally, is them, not you.
posted by KathrynT at 12:12 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to be like you, and I would always be completely covered in clothing when I went outside - I hated Summer intensely as a result.

It all changed though when I went travelling to Thailand - It was just SO hot that I had no choice but to wear singlets and shorts...and because I felt anonymous there I had the guts to do so.. But I also learned that people still wanted to talk to me and were open to my company regardless of how I looked. That is what made me more comfortable with myself. I was 25 when I went to Thailand, and I am now 29 and I am as comfortable with my body as ever.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 12:50 AM on December 1, 2013

Best answer: Huh. I never got the memo that big nipples are supposed to be unattractive. I think the memo is a lie, but let's just say that it isn't, in which case, this also makes sense:

Tulips vs Roses: UGH! The petals are so THICK and THEY STICK STRAIGHT UP. How could anyone have tulips around? Disgusting.

Orchids vs Roses: Too few petals, bleh. And the stamens are so obvious, GROSS.

Daisies vs. Roses: Ew, ray petals and that giant yellow stamen. Ick. Ick. Ick.

Hibiscus vs. Roses: Revolting striation and OMG what's the deal with those nasty ruffled petals?

etc. Because how could anyone be attracted to or enjoy any flower except a rose, right? And white, pink, or yellow roses are right out. The only acceptable flower is a red rose, which is the platonic ideal of a flower and the only desirable form, and all other so-called flowers should just dry up and die.

What a sad, sad, boring, impoverished world that would be. That's the same world where your nipples and stretch marks are something for you to actually be embarrassed about. But thank god we don't actually live in that world. If I wanted the wondrous universe circumscribed to a tiny pimple of a point by dull blubbering slackjawed loudmouths with nothing better to do than trumpet their uninformed, bizarrely narrow, moronic opinions on the internet, I guess I would spend time in the spaces they inhabit and join you in feeling really terrible about myself – and most other things in life except the handful of relentlessly conforming items these guys think are okay... but since I literally could not care less about the discerning tastemakers who occupy those wastelands, I'll just carry on feeling pretty happy about myself and the insanely glorious bright pink bougainvillea unaccountably still blooming outside my window on the first day of December.
posted by taz at 1:37 AM on December 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

Unless you ARE Miley Cyrus, you're not Miley Cyrus, and neither am I.

I used to tell my first (and deceased wife)...."It's not what they look like, it's who they belong to that matters to me."

Did not do the slightest good. She wasn't Miley Cyrus either. At the time she died, Miley Cyrus was just then starting to be Miley Cyrus, FWIW. She did the breast augmentation, then breast reduction, then lipo, a little tuck here and there, eye mods. Then she died (unrelated). That last part... it's critical. Her efforts did not prolong her life, they prolonged her dissatisfaction and temporarily relocated it, but in the end, were wasted effort, money, energy. I guarantee you, if she had the chance to trade her boobs for another 50 years..... done deal.

Wear isn't ugly, in and of itself. It's hard to appreciate it in yourself, if you don't appreciate it in others. Every spring, when I walk my dog in the morning, I see the new leaves popping out. I always ponder that in a few months, the light green perfection will turn to dark green maturity, holes, dust, tears and burns. Then... a month or two later... beautiful yellow, reds and browns and a snowfall of color. Youth is a brief affair. It's a constant meditation to appreciate that.

Gratitude for what you have is so scarce. In your case, it's about looks. The rest of us discount something else. We are all ridiculous, vain little beasts, and even that is kind of cute.
posted by FauxScot at 1:57 AM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Greetings. Quite a lot of thoughts about this one. I'm going to self disclose some in the hope of demonstrating it really is possible to get through this shit :)
After the body hating that a lot of young women (and maybe most folk.. but probably women especially go through as the beauty industry has so much to potentially earn by fueling insecurity)... mine was about being flat chested as I teen... by 18 I was slim and heavy busted and wearing a bra 3 cup sizes too small (*I really couldn't see I had a bust).. then it shifted to my face that "each feature was nice.. but it didn't make a nice face".. Eh?! .. and so it goes on...

I really used to think I needed to let someone "get over my face /my body" etc and found it torturous going out with my friend that men seemed to trample me to reach (she for sure had nil body image issues but was also incredibly vain). It was all so incredibly painful.. and largely a private pain....

I somehow grew body confident.

I don't know how it happened exactly.. (I also had a mother who would say things like "I was a lot slimmer than you" (I'm a UK 10)... but I have a few ideas of things that helped.

Being a feminist and having a sociological/anthropological interest in the construction of beauty. Look across cultures and generations for beauty ideals... there is no constant. Really learning to appreciate the many types of beauty in both sexes... I'd say I definately gravitate to more unconventional beauty in men... but also enjoy it in women.

At 21 I wound up with a controlling boyfriend who I fought tooth and nail against. One day he said "I'd find you a lot less attractive if you didn't shave under your arms". I thought WTF?! You're supposedly in love with me... and barely, ever shaved again. This is very unporn (which I LOVE! As I will in no way seek to subscribe to the porn aesthetic).. weirdly enough.. controlling boyfriend really rated me for standing up to him. I've had shit about it since .. in Western culture, with a few exceptions, this is quite "out there" ... but most of the crap's been from women.. it honestly washes over me. I've never been troubled to stand apart from the crowd, I'm pretty strong in that way. Once even I met a lovely, handsome man who approached me in a bar and said "I think it's really cool you don't shave under your arms, I'm really into natural women". Ok I'm talking a tad too much about pit hair eheh but my point is that there ARE free thinkers and they are probably the ones you'd prefer to be naked with anyway, being generally better company.

As a mental health professionally I have fairly unusually worked in both eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder and I would say this .. what we think about gets bigger.. many of this people happened to be very good looking.. but that's not the point...

Everyone has had (and will have) positive and negative feedback about their looks.. those comfortable with their looks aren't better looking than those who aren't, it's so much about perspective. What you don't like in yourself may be what someone else finds incredibly unique and attractive. My favourite part of me? A 'weird' strawberry coloured birthmark on my arm that no one notices.. I don't know why I like it so much, but I do :)

Vital reading...
The body image workbook
The beauty myth

Try listening to "always wear sunscreen" a weird/great revamped 1940's song about staying sane that draws on loving your body.

If you don't exercise - find the thing that you like.. it will be out there.. be in your body.
If you don't masturbate... learn how to be good at it.. enjoy the pleasure your body can give you.. check out the BRILLIANT Betty Dodson and dodsonandross website. She is a 'sex positive' feminist, an artist, a psychotherapist/thinker/social commentator who is also hilarious and vital. The grandma we all could have used (men too).

Value all your body does for you... there is a great quote online from an African tribeswoman interviewed by Eve Ensler (the vagina monologues.. a great read or play to watch also :)) it is something about how in the West we think so much about what our bodies look like but for her women their bodies do their work and earn their living. That kind of perspective is also useful.

Keep at it.. you're body and you can get along just fine :) I'm living proof xx
posted by tanktop at 2:38 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just to help you reflect: in your last update, you write " people seem to think quarter-sized areolas are what I'm referring to as big".

No, that's what you think people must be thinking, because in your mind the only way people would say 'big' areolas and nipples are okay (and more common than you'd think) would be if 'big' was actually 'smallish'. Do you see what your mind is doing here? There's one person in this thread who mentioned quarter sized and she was talking about nipples.

I can imagine the fighting you're trying to hold on to (you're probably reading this and thinking "thanks guys, I appreciate you trying to make me feel better but let's be realistic and you really don't understand..."), but allow yourself to let it go, even if just a tiny bit at a time.
posted by Ms. Next at 3:00 AM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm kind of glad you posted this because it's like I am getting a chance to talk to my 21 year old self. Here are some of the things I'd like her to know --

1. You get no points for apologizing for your body. This is the body you have. It's your instrument for every physical experience you get in this life: running, hugging, traveling, climbing a volcano, getting a backrub, sex, staying up all night, a great stretch. Enjoy every second of it -- it's your birthright. When the bad thoughts come (and they will, because there is too much money in the body-shame marketing complex for it not to have some effect on you when you're young) then take a moment to realize how stupid it is to hate your beautiful healthy body that lets you do all that stuff. This habit gives you nothing. It won't even change your body! All it does is rob you of your rightful happiness.

2. Guys on message boards talking smack about nipples: Honey. They are not a panel of experts! They are not even regular dudes that you might want to date! They are goofy dorks talking BS on the Internet! Like this. Listening to them and taking their foolishness to heart is crazy. It'd be like taking your life instructions from howling cats outside your window.

3. Read The Beauty Myth. It's not a panacea -- it didn't magically solve my issues when I read it -- but it does help to illuminate the variety and source of the voices that tell women to hate their appearance. (Spoiler: there is a lot of money to be made from selling women "solutions", and it's a proxy for a million fears and resentments and prejudices against women in general.)

4. Perspective. We're all checking out someday. At the end, what will you wish: that you'd gotten over it and decided to let yourself have as much fun as you want -- and ignored stupid hateful chatter from anonymous fools on the Internet -- and enjoyed and flaunted your body and lived a happy life? Or that you'd spent more time hating your body and apologizing for it (to whom?) and choosing to let the chatter define how you felt about your own beautiful self?
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:33 AM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

My biggest body image issue was always fat. I was a heavier than average teenager and that weight has gone up and down but one thing that stays the same is feeling fat.

Once I had a therapist tell me to stop and listen when I was feeling fat because actually probably I was feeling other things, unpleasant, scary, anxious things, and my body somehow automatically translated into feeling fat.

It made so much sense. I could by totally happy in my body all day and then feel just horrible about the size of whatever body part. What? It didn't change in the last twenty minutes.

On the one hand, women are held to ridiculous beauty standards at the same time as being taught to be relentlessly self-critical (or else be torn down as vain if not worse). On the other hand, women are also taught to constantly regulate our feelings for the comfort of those around us and to be extremely careful about expressing anger and other 'unpleasant, unattractive' emotions.

Subconsiously channeling those emotions - not letting them ever even coalesce enough to even pin down what they are - into completely self destructive and pointless body angst is a very neat solution!

I think it needs to be fought on ALL fronts, and you should be prepared to fight across all fronts, according to what seems nourishing, possible, and appropriate at the time.

So when you are feeling shitty about your body, stop and really check in with yourself about what is happening in your mind and life at that moment - at school, at work, in family, friends, and romantic relationships, in stressors, in health, etc. your body is telling you it needs attention but it needs a different kind than is obvious.

But even when you are feeling good about your body, read empowering work, immerse in body positive culture, throw out fashion magazines, look for the beauty in others, support and participate in social justice movements that support all people's full humanity, etc.

It's an ongoing struggle for sure. And it's in a way much bigger than you think because it's not over tiny variations in human bodies like your stretch marks and nipples, it's actually to claim full possession of your self as a human being against all the pernicious social and cultural forces working to strip away your power in yourself as a woman.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:17 AM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Guys who would stop dating you for larger than average nipples and small stretch marks are not guys worth dating in the first place.

Also, aside from therapy? Age sometimes helps with this. You're still very young, and many people get more comfortable in their skin as they get older. Spending more time with real people while avoiding excessive media consumption and whatever dreadful websites you're reading this crap on will help.
posted by Ndwright at 6:22 AM on December 1, 2013

based on my body and my naked woman viewing experiences in places such as sorority houses, tiny nips are the minority. I think its some genetic thing.

I have aereolas that are essentially a little boob protruding from my regular boob. My regular boob used to be nicely rounded, but since i stopped taking birth control, it got smaller and more like a flattened tab. i used to be self conscious about my nips, but when i asked 2 boyfriends if it was a turn off, they didn't know what I was talking about. Like didn't even realize that nipple size was something that gets judged (one said "its not a thing guys say to each other about a girl like "nice butt" or "pretty eyes" might be).

Are you reading these comments on Reddit or something? My experience with huge nips and non-perfect boob shape has been TL;DR had sex.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a saying for a reason. In time, you will find to grow and love and appreciate your body. Do not let anyone else's standards of beauty define the ones you hold for yourself. You may focus and amplify on things that are inconsequential for yourself, but think of it this way. You can only find fault with two areas of your body, that means that the rest of your body is beautiful, which statistically speaking, if you find yourself 98% beautiful, even if it is for 60-70% of the time, isn't that saying something? Also, read this: http://www.thenuproject.com/news/love-letter-to-my-body/

It is really moving and super endearing, a post about a woman who is writing a love letter to her body and detailing the things she loves and how she should care for it more than just nitpicking her body's appearance. Trust me, there are a lot more things to worry about and concern yourself with than what you look like. And most people aren't sitting there staring at certain parts of your body and criticizing them when they are interacting with you. It's going to take a while, but eventually you'll appreciate your body and you'll realize that it's a great thing to have one in the first place. :)
posted by lunastellasol at 6:03 PM on December 1, 2013

Best answer: Google "big aureolas" and you'll come up with a bunch of sites by people who think big aureolas are hot. Spend some time looking through the pictures and really try to see the beauty there. Not that it's hard to see, I think they are very sensual and beautiful myself and obviously others do too, hence the very existence of sites dedicated to pictures of women with big aureolas. (In fact now I will probably spend way too much time this evening going through these sites and enjoying the pictures of all the pretty boobies.)

My aureolas are bigger than yours. I know this because I just went and measured them for the first time ever. 3 inches in diameter (and the other one is a little smaller, so there you go.) DD breasts here.

My sexual partners have liked my boobs just fine. I like them just fine myself, even though they are not my ideal boobs. I'd actually prefer if my aureola were a bit darker, and I wish the actual nips themselves were bigger. I once had a friend describe her nipples as "like those big fat pencil erasers" and how men went crazy for them. I've always thought big nips like that were very sexy too and I was quite envious. But mostly I am cool with what I have and I've never heard any complaints or had anyone seem less than eager to get busy with my tits. :)

Just keep in mind that there are men and women who love big aureolas, and some who love small ones, and many, many who find all kinds of tits attractive and are just happy to be looking at and playing with a pair of real live sexy tits.

Also, you don't have to be a man's "ideal" of beauty in order for him to be madly in love and lust with you. When my husband looks at porn he always looks at women who are way thinner than I am, and he thinks that tiny, small-breasted Asian women are super-hot, and he prefers long hair on a woman. And here I am, a big, large-breasted white girl with blue eyes and short red hair, and 8 years older than him to boot. (Never seen him looking at "older woman" porn either!) But you know what? He loves me. He truly loves me. And we have sex with the lights on and he keeps his eyes open, and he enjoys the body I have just fine.

I once asked him (badgered him more like) to admit that he would like it better if I were thinner. He realized (because he knows me incredibly well) that I would never believe him if he said no. So after a lovely speech where he told me all of the things he loves about me and all the reasons he finds me sexy just as I am, he said that sure, he might be slightly happier if I were thinner. And he held up his thumb and forefinger and they were about an 8th of an inch apart, and he said "maybe this much happier, if that." And I believed him, and quit worrying about it after that.

It didn't hurt matters any that his previous girlfriend had been very beautiful and sexy, and he broke up with her to be with me. For him (and for so, so many other people) attraction and love don't depend as much on physical beauty and perfection as on the total package you bring to the table. A person who loves you will love your nips, whether or not they are the ones he'd have picked out of a catalog.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a 21-year-old guy. I also have big nipples. Not huge, but inflated enough that I don't wear tee shirt ever because you can see them easily. They have been the source of a lot of stress, self-hatred, and body issues in my life since for at least seven years. I kept thinking they would go away (as they do for most guys), but they never did. I am otherwise attractive, and I'm confident about my other features and the way I dress, but I've never been able to rid myself of anxiety about my nipples.

So, rhythm_queen, I just wanted to say thanks for posting this question. And thank you to everyone who responded. Reading these responses has been incredibly helpful for me as well. This is something I've been wanting to ask on Metafilter for awhile, but I could never muster up the courage because I hate talking about my nipples or acknowledging to anyone else that they exist. Looks like that might change soon, though.

For what it's worth, I don't know of any worthwhile guys who find big nipples unattractive. And most guys couldn't point out stretch marks if their lives depended on it. Besides, are big nipples or stretch marks inherently unattractive? I don't think so. Not in my book.
posted by rensar at 7:53 PM on December 1, 2013

I almost forgot: my ex of many years had micro nipples and some dude made fun of them on the men's locker room at college and he had a slight issue with them that was ridiculous. I never thought of them as micro nipples or thought of topless guys with huge nipples or whatever.

Nipple sizes vary tremendously in guys, you know.
posted by discopolo at 8:34 PM on December 1, 2013

For what it's worth, most heterosexual men have seen more real-life naked women than the average heterosexual woman.
How could that be true? Even if a guy has slept with say, 20 women, you'd see that if you've ever been in a women's changing room.

Or is this where you tell me there is some US cultural thing where you never, ever see women getting changed? (But there are mens changing rooms, right? So why would women be different?).

P.S. My boobs are not that big (more like C?), I can't find a tape measure but I think the aereolae is about the same? Anyway, it takes up far more than 1/3 of each boob (unless they're really, really cold etc). And I am a sexy, sexy lady.
Seriously. I'm so sexy! I don't shave, and I'm never ever 'kempt', but I'm totally awesome.

Anyway, it's not actually your body that is stressing you.
You're focusing on something like that to relieve stress from some other part of your brain. Some part that believes you suck, and feels a bit relieved when you can focus on a reason why. Or some reason that you can't do something, or other people won't like you, so you won't have to try the thing and be disappointed.
But that isn't actually the reason. Come back to me in 10 years and tell me that's actually the reason, because it won't be.
Pretend you are someone else, pretend you are a friend, or Sherlock Holmes, as long as they are NOT you, and get that other person to think up reasons you might be stressed.
So your own reasons might be something like worried about body parts etc, and being a failure at getting daily exercise done or something.
Imaginary outside person might say something like, well, that work situation that you don't think about actually sounds pretty stressful, on top of having to do that volunteer work so soon after the flu.
Imaginary outside person's idea is usually more accurate than my own list of what I'm worrying about. I don't know why. Anyway, that's usually why people have friends and therapists, but it's a neat trick if you can figure it out yourself. It took me a few years to start getting a better grasp on it.
posted by Elysum at 8:20 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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