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Why Ariel Winter's decision to get a breast reduction made me cry

Lili Safon is a student at Barnard College by day and a body image blogger by later that day (well, actually, by night). While Lilis computer is convinced that she has an obsession with lingerie catalogs thanks to her blog Jug Report s...

I got a breast reduction when I was 18, and I have never looked back

I started wearing a bra in third grade. It was a small one, just a training bra, but I got the message loud and clear: my body was different from everyone else's. As I grew up, and my chest continued to grow, I became more and more self-conscious.

At 12, I started shopping for clothes in the adult section of department stores just to find clothes that fit. But even that didn't quite work because I then had to improvise with countless pins and tank tops just to cover the plunging necklines. I didn't want to be stared at, and I definitely didn't want to be judged, just because of my size and what I was able to wear. But the worst stomach-clenching thing was that I hated my body. After all, it never felt like mine.

When my mother first brought up the idea of a breast reduction, I refused. As miserable as I was with my large chest, I was convinced that surgery wasn't the answer — I wasn't about to change myself to fit society's standards. Sure, I had to go to specialty bra stores, but that was the fashion industry's mistake. Besides, I was convinced that we put way too much emphasis on outer beauty and I was dedicated to accepting my body the way it was. So what if clothing was catered to an ideal body type that was the exact opposite of mine. I hated shopping anyway. Mostly because I felt sick every time I tried on a shirt that barely passed my chest, but still.

More: Iggy Azalea's boob job shouldn't disqualify her as a body image role model

My self-consciousness, however, only got worse. The only clothes I could fit in made me feel dowdy and heavy. People stared and whispered, and I felt so completely alone. I was convinced that people only saw me for my 34J chest, the breast size only overbearing ugly women had — at least according to movies. The back pain alone made me want to get out. Finally, at age 17, I was the one approaching my mom. It was time.

Then today, unexpectedly, I was reliving that chapter of my life over and over again. But this time with absolute pride: Modern Family's Ariel Winter just shared with Glamour's Jessica Radloff that she had a breast reduction only a few months ago. I raced through the interview, unabashedly tearing up at my desk and grinning nonstop. She knew — Ariel Winter knew what I had gone through. This young actress that I have admired for years struggled with some of the same things I once agonized over.

I nodded incessantly when Winter told Radloff: "There was so little that I could wear that was age-appropriate. I'd have to wear the dress that was super tight and form fitted everywhere because if I didn’t, it didn't look good." There was no middle ground — in anything too big, I felt matronly, and in anything too small, I felt like I had a neon sign pointing down my shirt.

More: Ariel Winter clarifies her breast reduction wasn't just about looking pretty

But then, Winter hit on the most important thing of all: the reason she didn't want to go smaller than a 32D. "… I have always been a curvier girl. Always. And I enjoy being a curvier girl." Besides fearing that I was falling into the beauty expectation trap, I didn't want to lose my busty girl status. I went through hell for that honor, and I didn't want to sacrifice it completely. Would I no longer deserve that since I had "succumbed" to societal pressures? Had I failed the challenge to accept myself no matter what?

Breast reduction surgery is not an easy fix for an aesthetic whim. It's not about looking perfect in a dress. It's not even about relieving your shoulders. It's about taking care of your body and yourself. My self-consciousness practically crippled me with fear — I couldn't live the life I so desperately wanted. When I woke up from that surgery, I finally felt like myself. I could finally wear the clothes that I wanted, I could finally move the way I needed. Winter knew how best to express this feeling: "This is how I was supposed to be."

My breast reduction gave me my body back. My chest was weighing me down, and I am so thankful that I finally let go.

More: Emma Watson talks to designers about equality in fashion (WATCH)

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