Uh-huh. The title alone lets you know that there is so much to unpack here, so take a deep breath and let's knock this one out so that we all can get free, amen? I guess a good place to start would be with a personal example of why I think this is a topic that should be tackled more often. OK, so there's someone I know who, twice, called me because they needed money for their bills. Because I considered them to be a friend, let's just say that I took care of more than a month because I knew how down on their times they were. Y'all but when someone (several months later) in my family died and I asked them if I could use some of their frequent flyer miles (because they had a ton and clearly this was an emergency), their response was, "I plan on going on a lot of trips this year, so I don't want to give those up." Honey, someone died. DIED.
One-sided friendships are a trip, y'all. They're also just how you'd expect them to be — one person doing most of the work; one person constantly being the shoulder to lean on; one person giving 75-90 percent of the support and encouragement; one person is doing most of the giving and one person always going with their needs being unmet and sometimes, flippantly dismissed or ignored.
Honestly, if I had to choose between an enemy or any more one-sided friends, I'd probably go with the enemy because at least, more times than not, they're not getting anything out of me and I know just where I stand. Yep, that's how bad a one-sided friendship can be. That's why I think we should walk through this thing, together, in the hopes that, if you are or aren't sure if you're currently in a one-sided dynamic with someone, you can get the clarity that you seek in order to make the decision that you need to make. SOON.
First of All, Are You Sure the One-Sided Friendship Is Even a Friendship?
Something that really can't be said enough is the fact that what makes anything a healthy relationship is the root word of the word itself. To relate is to establish a connection and to connect is to communicate and unite with someone else. And y'all, this can't really or completely happen when only one individual is putting forth the time, effort and energy. You know, the reason why I've written articles for the platform like "Always Remember That Friendships Have 'Levels' To Them", "According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends", "What If You Love Your Friend...But Don't Like Her Anymore?", "What A Supportive Friend Actually Does (It's Not Quite What You Think)" and "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?" is because I know, from personal experience and the accountants that I've heard from others, that a part of the reason why so many of us find ourselves disappointed in our friendships so often is because we're not even really sure what we should expect from that type of relational dynamic in the first place. And many times, that's due to how our first friendships went down when we were kids.
It's kind of like that wack story that a lot of us were told while growing up — that if a little boy mistreats you in the first grade, that means he likes you (please don't tell your daughters that foolishness). Along these same lines, many of us were introduced to interacting with young boys and girls who were bullies, mean girls and manipulators. And so, unless someone took us aside and explained what our standards and expectations should be, a lot of us found ourselves in highly dysfunctional situations, very early on.
So yeah, if you're wondering if you're in a one-sided friendship or not, first do some real soul-searching over whether or not you even have a good grasp of what a true friend is. A true friend is loyal. A true friend is trustworthy. A true friend respects you. A true friend wants you to feel valued. A true friend shows consistent reciprocity. A true friend supports you. A true friend challenges you. A true friend helps you to feel comfortable in your own skin. A true friend is reliable AF.
If all of what I just said either is somehow foreign to you or has triggered you on some level because you realize that some of your friendships don't look this way, that is already a sign that you may be in something that isn't very healthy or beneficial for you.
How Did Things Start Off?
On the heels of what I just said, a wise person once stated something along the lines of, if you want to see how something will turn out, reflect on how it began.
That said, there is a past friendship of mine that I had to release a couple of years ago because I was definitely doing more giving than I was receiving. And when I think back on how we began, it was during a time when my self-esteem was pretty low, so I introduced myself to her while in a state of admiring her and thinking that she was beyond awesome. While on the surface, that probably doesn't seem so bad, the flag in that is when you start any kind of relationship thinking that you are "less than" in comparison to someone else, that can cause things to have a really imbalanced start. In my case, I was more like a fan of hers and she found ways to avail herself and sometimes even exploit that energy.
So much to the point that when I jotted down how much money (for example) that I had spent over the course of our entire relationship, it was literally in the thousands. Meanwhile, she had gotten me a ring from a museum and some lip gloss that she lost (so I never saw it). Another example is I realized that when I would call her to talk about my problems, she found ways to make things be about her or she would overtalk me to the point where I didn't get to complete my thoughts. Another example? We would plan dates and either she would cancel at the last minute or if I came to her home, numerous times she would be on the phone during the visit or fall asleep (which means you didn't appreciate my driving all the way out to your house, on loop).
Now that's not to demonize her because we had some good moments and if there is one thing she did well (at least to my knowledge) was honor confidentiality. Still, when you start to really like your own self and become your own BFF (check out "Self BFF: 7 Signs You're Your Own Best Friend"), you realize that you want what you give. Not only that but you also realize that there are people in this world who are willing to step up to the plate when it comes to what those needs actually are.
Honestly, in retrospect, had I not been so in awe of her and she didn't feel so comfortable with my being that way, perhaps our friendship could've ended up a different way. What I will say is when I ponder the start of a lot of the friendships I have now, they are way healthier than many of the ones in my past. And I can't help but believe that there is truly something to that because a healthy beginning has a much better chance of continuing on that sort of path.
Have You Ever Experienced a Balanced Friendship Before?
Listen, I'll be the first to say that it's amazing that I am (still) a marriage life coach because when I tell you that both in my family and out, I have seen some straight bullshishery…whew. One time, when my mother and I were discussing this very thing some years ago, she said something that I'm glad I took to heart — "I hope you come into contact with some healthy marriages, so you don't end up becoming jaded." While I must admit that, based on the true definition of healthy, those couples are kind of like a rainbow unicorn, I am thrilled to say that I personally know some, that they are quite inspiring, and they help me to stay motivated to do what I do.
Where am I going with this? Not only do I know some healthy marriages, I also have some balanced friendships. You know what, though? Before I had experienced them for myself, it was easy for me to remain in the hamster wheel of one-sided dynamics because, while they weren't fulfilling me, they were still what I was used to. And what do I mean by "balanced"? Be careful of the kinds of people who state that they can't meet your needs because they "don't have the time".
All of us are busy. All of us have a lot on our plate. Still, we find a way to make time for who and what matters to us — and when someone truly values what you bring to their life, they are going to make sure that you know it.
The reason why I like to use the word "balance" when it comes to defining the opposite of a one-sided friendship situation is because it means things like "the equal distribution of weight". Not just one person is there for the other. Not just one person is doing the giving. Not just one person is being helpful and supportive, even when it's inconvenient at times (check out "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'"). When two people have signed up to be in a true friendship, they know that there is a certain amount of "weight" that they both need to carry. In fact, by them both doing so, that keeps the friendship from feeling taxing or burdensome for either one of them.
When you've never been in this kind of friendship before, it can be easy to tolerate something far less. That's why I think it's also really important to reflect on who you're in a balanced relationship with. Then, compare those to the ones that are imbalanced. And then, ask yourself why you are remaining in the second ones. This brings me to my next point.
Is Fear Your Relational Motivation to Remain in One-Sided Situations?
I say it often — the opposite of love is not hate but fear. Even the Bible cosigns on that. One of the things that I appreciate about I John 4:18 is it states that "fear involves to torment" and that couldn't be truer when it comes to remaining in one-sided friendships with other people because torment is about constantly worrying and putting yourself through incessant mental suffering. And when we're scared that if we speak up for what we need or are lacking in our relationships, because we don't know what the outcome(s) will be if we do, we are definitely tormenting ourselves.
I once wrote on this platform about a friend who ghosted me because I started telling her what was and wasn't working for me in the friendship (check out "I Was 'Ghosted' By My Best Friend"). I also once had a guy friend who tried to gaslight me the moment when I started to call him out on some of his manipulative ways. The thing that I hate most about both of these situations is I would've been rid of being emotionally mistreated and taken for granted had I not allowed fear to keep me from confronting them years ago.
When it comes to one-sided friendships, never allow fear to hold you back from stating your mind and sharing your heart. The right ones will appreciate that you did. The wrong ones? Well, they will reveal how wrong for/to you they actually were. It's a win either way.
Do You Even Know What You Need in Your Friendships?
With healing comes seeing things from a broader perspective. I will be the first to say that. And while I'm not really trying to defend those who reaped the benefits of being in a one-sided friendship with me (because, believe you me, most of them know it and have absolutely no problem with it; that's another article for another time, though), what I will say is it's unfair to expect anyone to be a mind reader.
Where I'm going with this is, something that I realized in the process of pulling my own self out of the ditch of one-sided friendships is, I had been so used to giving until I was depleted that I wasn't even really sure that my actual needs were much of the time. And so, while I knew things were lacking and I was growing resentful because of it, if one of those people were to say, "List the 10 things you need me to do," I honestly probably would've said, "If you were really my friend, you would try to figure it out. I mean, I am attentive and proactive towards you."
Y'all, if there is one thing that can spare you a ton of disappointment, disillusionment and potential heartbreak (check out "How To Heal From A Broken Friendship"), it's accepting the very true reality that it's unfair to expect people to think like or do the things that you would do, just because you want them to.
That's why clear, concise and consistent communication in relationships — all kinds of relationships — is so important because, holding your needs in, even if it's to "keep the peace" is a form of self-disrespect; however, you can only say that you aren't being respected in the way that you deserve from others once you state what your needs are and they continue to not meet them — because once they know and ignore, now it's a conscious choice. And that's when it's evident that the friendship is problematic and something must be done.
This brings me to my final point.
If Your Needs Aren’t Met, Are You Prepared to Let It Go?
Again, now that I have the kind of friendships where I am meeting needs as my needs are being met, I promise you that I can't think of a solid logical reason for why I would tolerate another one-sided friendship. Case in point. There is someone in my sphere who is cool as all get out. Still, the last time I saw her, I said, "You know we only talk when I call you, right? So, next time we chat, it'll be because you rang me." When I said it, she laughed and was like, "Not so but girl, I'll give you a ring, for sure." Guess how long that's been? Around two years now. On this side of being not codependent or fearful of "losing friendships", I am just fine with that. When I see her, it'll be fine. Yet am I interested in keeping things going by doing all of the work? Uh-uh.
As I bring this all to a close, the main point here is sometimes, the way to handle a one-sided friendship is to end the friendship. I'm not gonna lie and say that it's always easy because as unhealthy as one-sided relationships can be, clearly there is something that you like about the person that has caused you to stick it all out. Personally, what I did was come from the angle of, all of the time, effort and energy, blood, sweat and tears that I was putting into a one-sided friendship where I wasn't getting much reciprocity at all, I now have the room for people who are all about about mutuality — and that is what's so much more beneficial to my overall health and well-being.
Real talk, some of us are in one-sided friendships because we're not good enough friends to ourselves. That's why it's so important to do some self-love journaling (check out "Self-Love Journaling & Why You Should Be Doing It"), to get serious about what you REQUIRE in your friendships and to release those who are unwilling to meet you at your needs (not necessarily all of your wants but definitely your legitimate and realistic needs). Because what's the point in being in any kind of relationship where you are basically in it alone? And for the most part, sis, that's exactly what a one-sided friendship is.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Better Off Braless: The Benefits Of Not Wearing A Bra More Often
Somewhere between the start of the pandemic and entering the late stages of my 20s, bras become less and less of a priority.
Within that span of time, I, like most of the world, spent my days inhabiting my small bubble, staying in the house with loose-fitting loungewear, and being on Zoom calls that only required me to be presentable from the neck up. So as the demand to have my breasts at their perkiest form, so did my commitment to wearing bras.
The relationship that most women have with their bras is… well, complicated. While society has led us to believe that they’re required for us to be deemed as “ladylike” and “neat,” many of us find the garment to be a bothersome (and optional) accessory at best.
From underwires that poke and dig at our sides to push-ups that spill over, the argument in support of bras has begun to wane over the last few decades, with women of all cup sizes asking themselves if it’s better to just go braless.
Courtesy of Harper Wilde
“Many years ago, I ditched wired bras and opted for going braless out of a desire for freedom and celebrating natural human form,” multi-hyphenate Alyson Stoner tells xoNecole. The movement activist best known for their fly dance moves with the likes of Missy Elliott and on Step Up 2: The Streets, shares that when it comes to their bra selection, comfort is key. “As someone who enjoys moving their body, I found that I do want an underlayer that provides some support without interfering with comfort and mobility.”
A source of concern when choosing to go braless is whether or not the lack of support from a bra will, in turn, affect the firmness of one’s breast, resulting in early sagging. However, Sabrina Sahni, M.D., an oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, shares that breast sagging is a result of age, not whether you’ve ditched your bras.
“Sagging breasts – also called ptosis – generally occurs due to chronic aging,” she tells xoNecole. “The breast is made up of a combination of glandular and fibrous tissue and fat tissue. Over time, the glandular tissue may become replaced with fattier tissue, and that can lead to more sagging. Wearing a bra or not wearing a bra ultimately does not change that.”
"Wearing a bra or not wearing a bra ultimately does not change that."
Women with heavier breasts may find that going braless may have its set of drawbacks, but Dr. Sahni says that you should always pay attention to your comfort levels since bras are a garment designed to support your back and correct your posture. “Those with heavier or larger breasts who choose to go braless may actually have worsening back/neck/shoulder pain,” she says. “Wearing a bra may allow them to correct their posture and help alleviate tension on those muscle groups.”
“Women with larger breasts may benefit from wearing a well-fitted, supportive bra as it may alleviate things like upper back pain or neck pain,” she shares.
Listening to your body is key when choosing whether you want to toss out your bras forever or just for a day. The beauty in a woman’s body is that it will tell us what we need to know before we even have to ask. There are common misconceptions about tighter bras being linked to causing health issues like breast cancer.
And while studies do show that Black women are “twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer early when compared with Caucasian women,” the manifestation of this disease is predetermined by other varying factors.
“There are a lot of myths out there about going braless being better for breast cancer risk. It is completely false,” Dr. Sahni explains. “Whether or not you wear a bra does not have any bearing on your overall breast cancer risk. Ultimately, your risk is dependent on a variety of factors, including family history, your breast density, your lifestyle, and your reproductive history.”
If you’re looking for classic, weightless comfort that’s close to going braless, Alyson Stoner recommends Harper Wilde, a body-inclusive intimates brand on a mission to create a more comfortable world for womankind. They currently have a capsule collection with the intimates brand in partnership with their company, Movement Genius.
“Harper Wilde has been my go-to for years now because the materials are truly soothing on my sensitive skin, the amount of support feels like you're being gently hugged (not squeezed), and the styles are flattering and beautiful enough to wear as shirts or visible layers,” they say.
Courtesy of Harper Wilde
The brand offers super soft, breathable cotton fabric in their Triangle and Scoop Bralettes ($40 each) that will put the bliss and comfort back in your bosom.
Dr. Sahni says that choosing to opt out of bras or keep them close to your chest “truly depends on the individual” but it should be understood that “wearing or not wearing a bra won't significantly impact your overall health.”
“Ultimately, it comes down to comfort. There are some women with chronic breast pain where perhaps changing their bras to something more supportive and well-fitted may help,” she says. “Alternatively, some women find that going bra-less will alleviate their breast pain. I tell women that they should choose a bra that is comfortable for them, feels supportive, and one that they can wear regularly.”
So whether you choose to free the tatas or wear a bra that feels like it’s barely there, remember to listen to your body because ultimately, the choice is yours.
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