The Day I Ditched My Bra

I grew up in a conservative household where any mention of body parts was frowned upon. No swear word could pass my lips without getting a whack across the head or facing the steely stare from my mother. So, no need to tell you that as soon as I hit puberty, I had to keep my body well covered from neck to knees. Hiding the shape of my developing body and the appearance of my breasts was a necessity.

In those days I was too young to wear a fashionable bra. My mother had an aptitude at assembling pieces of fabric together in a flash. I was in awe of her talent when under a couple of hours, she would present me with a beautiful dress. I would then rush to school the next day to parade in front of my envious classmates. So, it was all more natural that my first brassiere would be one of my mother’s creations.

To my dismay, it was not a lacy number which I saw in the women catalogue. Shame on me for even thinking of bringing attention to the shapely roundness of my blossoming breasts. My first bra, a home-sewn body piece felt and looked like a corset stiffened with whale bones. I was mummified – tight, uncomfortable, a nightmare. I cried and pleaded but my mother tutted and said, “That will do.”

“Freedom lies in being bold” – Robert Frost

Years later, as soon as I could afford it, I bought my first sexy bra. From a wide range of designs and fabric, from La Senza to Victoria’s Secret, I could choose whatever I wanted. My mother’s eyes no longer bore into me and I could indulge in playing safe or being naughty. I no longer felt swaddled. I loved the soft lacy feel against my skin.

I learned about what went into the construction of underwear during my college years. I worked on designs commissioned by Berlei and created my own showpiece. I could not be prouder. It was only then that I appreciated all the efforts my mother put in my first bra. I regretted those unnecessary tantrums and sent her an apology.

When I first read about ‘bra burning’ in the 1960’s, I could not understand why those women protested about their femininity. They protested for equal rights because they no longer wanted to be known as housewives and mothers. But refusing to wear a bra because they believed a competition valued women’s bodies more than their brain . . . I am still confused. Doesn’t a woman love to feel beautiful and feminine?

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” – Albert Camus

Over the years, while bras have remained part of women’s wardrobe, they are not a necessity. Depending on a woman’s breast size, a bra is worn either for comfort or to enhance her sex appeal. It is no longer a functional, restrictive garment.

There is no shame in going braless. It is a myth that not wearing bras would make our breast droop. Of course, they can improve our posture and prevent us from back pain if we are heavy-breasted. On the other side, not wearing a bra in the long run, can strengthen the pectoral muscles in the chest and redefine the breast shape in a better way.

The choice is ours rather than going along with what others tell us.  

The day I ditched my bra was at the start of the pandemic when we went into lockdown, almost a year ago. In the beginning I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious as though I could hear my mother telling me to keep my breasts encased. But with the restrictions, I needed to find a balance between comfort and looking after my mental health. Looking sexy was far from my mind too.

Today going braless has become second nature. Maybe when the world returns to some form of normality, I could dig out my romantic, sexy lingerie but for now, I prefer to let my assets free.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Perfect of Them All

Brene Brown suggests that ‘perfectionism’ is not the same thing as striving to be your best.

‘Perfectionism’ is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It is a shield. It is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it is the thing that is really preventing us from flight.

A few years ago, I believed I was a perfectionist. I needed to appear perfect as I believed that I mattered only when I achieved great things. For me it was a positive trait rather than a flaw. Though I worked harder to achieve my personal best, I was never satisfied with the result. I kept telling myself I was not good enough. Insecurity gripped me as I feared disapproval from others.

What makes us aim to be perfect?

It is not clear what causes someone to become a perfectionist. Studies have found that high levels of perfectionism relate to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harming and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a behaviour that we learn from our own inadequacy or when we copy someone close to us.

Our idea of perfectionism is based on our past actions. It is a combination of what we learned, imagined, and experienced in the past. It can be exhausting when we are trying to avoid repeat failures, but hopeful when we learn from our success. Depending on the outcome, our persona changes. We can become hypersensitive and defensive.

“When perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking” – Brene Brown

It took me years before I let go of the pressure. I no longer feel guilty when I leave my belongings scattered around the bedroom or dump piles of books on the table. I do not feel embarrassed when my family tells me I am a hoarder. Nor do I feel ashamed to say that I am not good at something which I am not particularly keen on.

And yet, when I am making art, I get frustrated and anxious when it does not turn out as I envisioned in my head. Even though others see a brilliant creation, I am critical of my own work. With advertising and social media, I am constantly reminded of all the things that I fall short. Self-doubt creeps in and I take a nose-dive into the pit of self-pity; I am not good enough.

“Have no fear of perfection- you’ll never reach it” – Salvador Dali

Perfection is not a quest to become the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough, that we should try harder. Perfectionism is unachievable. It is a function of the mind that can instigate defeat or success. It all depends on how we use it. Our goal is to reframe our mindset, shift our focus on living only in the present.

Therefore, we should not strive for perfection and we should not concern ourselves with what others think. The desire to achieve perfection can be a detriment to our health. It can cause us to lose our self-confidence and the ability to perform. Everyone has their own values and standards. Let us not second guess ourselves by trying to emulate others. We might end up becoming our worst enemy.

I am okay with not being perfect, because that is perfect to me.