The Lesson My Scars Taught Me
When I was about 18 months old, I was burned quite badly. These were scalding hot water burns. This was an unfortunate household accident that could have happened to anyone ― and as a parent myself now, I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for my parents at the time.
This took place in the 1970's, so technology wasn’t what it is today. I did get skin grafts, but it was still pretty bad. Most of the damage was on my chest and skin was grafted from my upper thigh to my chest leaving another large scar on my leg.
As I grew up, I struggled with my scars. They seemed so big, ugly, and disfiguring. Kids would always ask what happened to me. In beach pictures I would desperately try to cover up my leg with my hand or hold something in front of me. Throughout my entire life I wore only high-necked tops so that my scar on my chest wouldn’t show.
As puberty began, the pity party really started. I would look at magazines of women in beautiful dresses showing cleavage with their super-soft, scar-free breasts and wish I could look like that.
My friends would wear bikinis in summer and I would hide in a high-necked one-piece or else avoid any swimsuit-wearing activities completely. I missed out on a lot of fun. It’s not as easy as you would think to find a cool looking high-necked bathing suit during summer at the local mall and there was no internet shopping.
My scars led me to believe I would never be loved by men because I wasn’t "normal" looking without my clothes on. My breasts didn’t look normal with that gnarly scar there running in between them. I never had a boyfriend in high school because of my insecurities.
As a young woman, I convinced myself that I needed to have perfect skin in order to find true love. Everything was on a superficial level and every stunning woman showing cleavage in a movie or magazine made me feel bitter.
I could not get over the fact that I had these scars and that they were a burden and a hindrance. If it wasn’t for the scars my life would be perfect.... right?!
In my early 20s, I finally started dating but still had major issues when it came to intimacy. Lots of men thought I was attractive, of course, but I could easily cover my scars with clothes. When I did reluctantly disrobe in romantic situations, most of the time the man didn’t care. Some men were a little bothered by it. I was bothered by it. I made it a huge issue.
When I got married the first time around, my husband had been the first man to really accept my scars. I believe now that this was probably one of the main reasons I stayed with him, despite our troubled relationship.
After my divorce, I was a little more confident. I had been through more in life and was becoming less worried about my burns. I started to realize how irrelevant they were in the big picture. I started to realize that I was just using my scars as an excuse to stay hidden and avoid new experiences.
In my 30s, I was dating my now-husband and thinking more and more about what one of my best friends had said to me in frustration when I was 19. She had taken me by the shoulders and said, “Michelle, stop hiding! Your burns are battle scars. You need to wear them like a badge of honor! You’re a warrior and one day you’re going to find a man who loves you so much that he’s not going to think twice about your scars!”
Unfortunately, it took me another 15 years or so to discover that she was right. It took me that long to realize that so many people in the world are dealing with disabilities or disfigurements that are far worse than what happened to me, and that many of those people are thriving in their lives, not feeling sorry for themselves like I was.
Some people have no arms or legs and somehow they find a way to carry on in the world and succeed in their ventures.
For a long time, I was insecure and vain. I robbed myself of experiences. I wasn’t in touch with who I wanted to be in life.
Scars can be difficult to deal with. But in the end, it’s just damaged skin. It’s not a life sentence. I’m disappointed that it took me so long to get over myself and my scars.
And I did find a man who doesn’t think twice about my scars. Now, on most days, I don’t think twice about my scars either and often wonder what all the fuss was about.
Life is about so much more than worrying about the flaws on our bodies.
I do wish I could go back in time and shake some sense into my younger self but this is just one of those lessons that took time and growth. I had to learn humility. I had to realize I’m not the only one who carries painful burdens in life both physically and emotionally.
Now what I once considered burdens are indeed just battle wounds that I can carry with pride.
Do you have scars or a disability that used to or still does make you feel insecure in the world or in romantic situations? Please share your comments.
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