The Beauty Behind the Scars
Why is it that we are never satisfied with ourselves?
I wondered this one day as I chatted with a group of girls who were convinced that life would be easier if they had their friends’ straight hair instead of their drab, frizzy, curly hair, or if they had skinny arms like that girl they work with, or if their feet were a dainty size 6 instead of a whopping size 9.
I do not pretend that I am excluded from this kind of thinking. I am right there in the midst of those girls. Why do we as a women feel this way? I know why I feel this way; and though I make excuses for myself that I am “different,” and thus, I have more of a reason to feel this way than others, I realize that every girl I have ever met makes these same excuses for herself.
Is it all in our minds? Some of it may be. Some of it, unfortunately, often comes from times in our lives when we were teased, ridiculed or picked on by others.
I know, firsthand, what this experience of teasing is like. This was a result of a serious lawnmower accident I was in when I was five. As can be imagined, it was a very traumatic experience for a five-year-old to go through. However, now I see it as one of the most formative events of my life.
Believe me, it took a long time to get to that place, and I still struggle with this view at times. For after the accident, I was left with multiple scars on my shoulder, foot, and leg. As a child, I was innocent and carefree, as children are, and I didn’t care much about the difference. However, as I began to mature, I was acutely aware of the difference between me and other girls my age. I soon learned how to hide extremely well. If I hid my shoulder and didn’t wear a tank top, then no one would know I was different and no one would ask. If I wore boots instead of sandals, then no one would see my small, scared foot. If I didn’t wear shorts, then no one could see the marks down the back of my leg.
Now, it is true that my situation is different from the norm, but, living life has shown me again and again that this feeling of inadequacy and lack of self-love is not something that only I struggle with. When I saw others harshly criticize themselves, it made me sad, and this sadness helped me acknowledge this very flaw in myself. I knew that I had to stop letting my appearance define me.
I acutely realized this on a very specific day. I was lounging around in my apartment in shorts and a tank top when I realized I needed to get groceries. But instead of slipping on a pair of shoes and heading out the door, I went to find a different shirt to put on to cover my shoulder. This was a seemingly normal action that I preformed almost without a second thought, since covering my scars had been a part of my daily life for almost as long as I could remember. I simply covered up before I went out; it was just what I did.
But as I reached for that shirt, I realized how exhausted I was by the action. I was exhausted by the state of mind that I was in. Why did it matter so much what strangers at the grocery store thought when they saw my scarred arm? I knew it shouldn’t, but it did.
I realized then that I wanted more than anything to be normal. I wanted to be able to walk out of that door wearing exactly what I was wearing and not have a care in the world. However, in reality, I knew if I walked out the door with that tank on, I would be anxious and self-conscious the entire time. And yet, I chose to do it anyway. It was a small step, but it was a step.
I think I realized then that I wasn’t normal, and I was never going to be. So I could either spend my entire life wishing for something that wasn’t going to happen, or I could learn to live a life free of self-judgment and dependency on the approval of others.
This was the moment when things changed for me. I realized that I didn’t want to base my self-worth on my looks. I wanted to base it on my choices and my actions. This is not to say that I can walk out the door, scars bared, without a second thought. This is also not to say that I don’t try to look my best. It is simply to say that I chose not to live under the heavy weight of others’ scrutiny for the rest of my life. That state was draining and exhausting and I simply didn’t want it to be my reality any longer.
When I stopped being so hard on myself, I also stopped being so hard on others. Self-love is an important step toward being the best versions of ourselves. We can’t fully love others when we have no love and respect for ourselves.
Although I would have never chosen to live a life riddled with scars, I may never have come to this realization without them. And for that, I am very grateful.