Our scars don't necessarily define us, but often they help us grow. From emotional scars, to the physical ones that remind us of traumas past, the process of embracing your scars instead of hiding them can be nothing short of rewarding. Embracing physical scars takes courage, though. It means challenging a beauty status quo that often leads us to believe "perfection" is the goal. Ultimately, learning to love the bumps, divots, streaks, and discolorations that make up our scar tissue is definitely a cathartic process, but it can be difficult to see our perceived blemishes as beauty marks with a rich history.
My most unique scar came from the biopsy of what turned out to be a benign cyst on the underside of my right breast. Upon locating the initial lump, I went through a roller coaster of emotions, most notably sheer panic at the thought that I might have breast cancer. It was difficult to imagine going through the experience thousands of women face so bravely. Of course, if I'm being honest, I also just liked my breast, and didn't want to live with a scar.
It wasn't until I was able to frame my scar as a badge of badassery that I began to see it as beautiful. And since many societies often encourage the covering, disguising, or removing of scars, taking time to view images of them such as these in a kinder light might just help re-frame our relationship with the unique tissue that most of us have in one form or another.
This man embraces his scar and the knowledge that it came as a result of giving his father a kidney, as noted in his image description on Flickr. In his case, and for many others, a scar can be a reminder of the impact we can have on one another. Looking at a scar created by an organ donation is like looking at a receipt of your deep connection with a loved one and your own bravery. As are scars caused by cesarean sections or complications of childbirth.
In the case of surgeries that replace joints, correct misalignment, reinforce unstable skeletal structures, etc., scars can serve as a reminder of how far we've come and the strength we've acquired along the way. Our bodies are incredible vehicles, but rarely are they born perfect. In fact, spinal conditions such as Scoliosis affect as many as 6 to 9 million people in the United States. And instances of knee and hip replacements are on the rise, with about 226,000 knee replacements and 204,000 hip replacements preformed annually in the United States as of statistics taken in 2013. Imagine then, just how many people are walking around with unique scars from surgeries that have helped them live more active, healthy, and presumably enjoyable lives.
Sometimes our most cherished activities can lead us into a wealth of scrapes and bruises. Often, after instances of blacktop burns and road rashes, we're inclined to cover our biking, skating, running, hiking, climbing, and off-roading scars with makeup or tights. To hide away the conversation pieces that have the potential to start lifelong bonds over shared interests simply for the sake of appearing less flawed, or in some cases, more ladylike, isn't necessary at all.
4. Badges Of Bravery
Some scars just look bold. They feel like statements that highlight your inner power. If you have a particularly gnarly scar with raw edges and fierce coloring, I'd encourage you to embrace those characteristics. Scars can be akin to totems for some people: Daily reminders that they have fought private battles (even if they were just with a particularly troublesome rose bed), and have come through scathed but all the wiser.
5. Overcoming Traumas
While some scars are petite, barely noticeable from a distance, others change the very shape of our lives. For victims of vitriol attacks, severe burns, and other truly traumatic events, coping with the painful process of scarring (both emotional and physical) can be monumental.
It is hugely important that we help these survivors by supporting their recovery periods with kindness and acceptance, educating others on how to react in the event of an attack, and by doing everything possible to prevent future attacks of a similar nature. If you'd like to support acid attack victims, consider signing this petition to cease the sale of acid to the public, created by Make Love Not Scars, or donate your time or resources to the organization.
Sometimes our scars are reminders of places we've been mentally. Places we no longer need to visit because we've faced our insecurities and are giving ourselves the care and support we most need. For many, seeing the scars caused by self harm is difficult, but for many others, it is an affirmation that you can be stronger than your present, and stronger than your past.
If you're struggling with self harm, please take the time to seek help and support.
7. The Ultimate Accessory
Wearing a scar as an accessory may be a bit of a stretch for some folks; but for others, letting the simple mystery of their skin and its stories shine through is more than enough. You may get some glances of intrigue, which could be the perfect opportunity to take a stance and glance bravely back.
As a society, it's time we embraced a more reverent approach to viewing our own scars and those of our loved ones or strangers. If covering a scar is your safety blanket, that's OK. However, you may want to try stepping out now and then, just to see who else can relate to what you've experienced. And, to prove to yourself, above all else, that your beauty is more than just skin deep.
Images: burdun/Fotolia; AFP/DPA/Getty Images, Paula Bronstein/Getty Images, Ethan Miller/Getty Images