scars are beautiful.

photo by Melissa O’Hearn- July 08 (prior to surgery)

scar 1
1. A mark left on the skin after a surface injury or wound has healed.
2. A lingering sign of damage or injury, either mental or physical: nightmares, anxiety, and other enduring scars of wartime experiences.
3. Botany A mark indicating a former attachment, as of a leaf to a stem.
4. A mark, such as a dent, resulting from use or contact.
v. scarred, scar·ring, scars
1. To mark with a scar.
2. To leave lasting signs of damage on: a wretched childhood that scarred his psyche.
1. To form a scar: The pustule healed and scarred.
2. To become scarred: delicate skin that scars easily.

Everyone is scarred in some way or another. Can’t get away from the fact that life brings opportunities for pain; physical and mental. Even prior to my mastectomy, my body was filled with scars that remind me of moments in time- the scar on my elbow of the time I flipped over the handlebars of my big sister’s 10 speed bike in my sassy turquoise swimsuit on the way to the swimming hole at Newman Lake; there’s a half inch line near my knee from an unfortunate shaving accident when I was sixteen; I have a funny mark near my shoulder from the time I walked up too close to the face of an unknown horse on a dare from a friend. I could go on. Life hurts sometimes, and it’s what we learn from the experiences and how we settle into the rest of our lives with the marks left as memory that matters.  

I believe that if we don’t tend to our big hurts or share the stories that belong to the large wounds in our lives, we are at risk of losing an important part of our identity. The essential task is to allow our scars or our wounds to be seen from time to time- to acknowledge that they exist and to believe that we’re still whole and beautiful despite them. And then, in time, the scars soften and become less apparent. We may even forget about them on occasion, only to be jolted into awareness upon a glance in the mirror (this is all too familiar to me) or by looking at an image from prior to the injury.

We are metaphorical scars from the moment we are literally cut from our mothers, leaving a stub of umbilical cord that eventually dies off like a scab, forming our bellybuttons. We enter the world, for the most part, bright red, gasping for breath, possibly screaming and seeking the comfort of the womb from which we just left. Into our adulthood, human beings are often searching for a way to be seen, heard, and understood. In the best of circumstances, we are nurtured and cared for, gently tended from oozing into a full blown disaster. And eventually, we work into our adulthood as manifestations of our past. We might continue to fester, or we might begin the trajectory of softening. Either way, the paths we take or the course of events in our lives inform the way in which we show up in the world. We could be jagged and angry, barely visible, or we could be a recognizable symbol of what we hope to represent in the world.

Our scars, emotional and physical, are what make us uniquely us. And this is what makes us more beautiful. Flawlessness does not exist, and thank God for that. The yoga studio where I study and teach often reminds students that “we are perfect and whole exactly as we are”- regardless of and including our scars, challenges, limitations, and emotional status. I don’t know about the perfection part, because I think perfection is overrated. But in the large scheme of things, who am I to say that imperfection can’t be the new perfection? “Perfect” can be large enough to hold it all; scars and all.

These fragments I have shored against my ruins–
The cosmos works by harmony of tensions, like the lyre and bow
And so it was I entered the broken world
Turning shadow into transient beauty–
Once upon a time, we knew the world from birth

The INTERSTICES of Terry Tempest Williams from Finding Beauty in a Broken World and T.S. Elliot “The Wasteland”

17 thoughts on “scars are beautiful.

  1. What a wonderful post, and that image of you is truly beautiful. My big life scars have been healed by so many things: life, time, understanding, comparison with other people’s scars, acceptance, maturity and wisdom. Thank you for sharing your scars.

    • Thanks, Claire- I didn’t even touch the ways scars can be healed, and I so appreciate your input. Yes to all of the ways scars can be softened and healed (and even embraced).

  2. I believed for a long time that those with physical scars were more fortunate because at least there was evidence of pain that others could relate to, but today I tend to believe that it’s the attitude of the person carrying the scars, whether inside or on the body, that counts. I have quit trying to hide my scars, and let the world see me as I am, scars, grey hair, you are so right, it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

    • YES! Letting the world see us for who we are- imperfections and all. Of course, I still have a certain amount of vanity, but it’s a humble and loving vanity that takes things in more of a stride than ever before. Isn’t it great to get older and wiser and to realize that gorgeous is more of a feeling than a physical trait?

      • I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Youth was much harder than aging is. I’ve grown into myself and actually like myself, some thing I couldn’t say then.

  3. Great post. I was only talking about this last week. Saying that scars visible and invisible are more features than flaws as we learn from the experiences they came from. This was a line the VW garageman once quoted to me when I suggested that all my windows opening at once meant that the electrics in my car were shot. He said ‘That Madam is a feature and not a fault.’ Makes me smile every time.

    • Eilish- I love the idea of scars being “a feature and not a fault”. Such a perfect way of viewing it- our reality shifts, and maybe now something else can open up- like the quote from Japanese poet Masahide: “Barns burned down…now I can see the moon”.

  4. It’s a beautiful post Wendi. This line “who am I to say..” resonates so deeply with me. It is a question that hangs over me each and everyday. In so many different ways. Seeing the beauty in the freedom of those 5 little words that pose a bigger question about beauty, and grief, and understanding. Who am I to say that things should be any different then they are. Thank you for choosing to share your scars and ask us to look deeply at our own. xoxo M

    • Thank you, Michel- I agree. I am constantly questioning my own reality and beliefs. Even the ones I think I hold so tightly- because in the big picture, really, how important are any of them? It seems more important to love and to remain soft to the possibility of something bigger. I cringe at the idea of how many people, places, and ideas I’ve shut out in the past because of my “beliefs”. It’s complicated. And “who am I to say”? 😉

  5. Beautiful photo Ms Wendi! You be gorgeous! I’ve always thought of my scars as my markings of living life….better than a journal entry, photo album….they are permanent, always with me…a part of my life story. I wish our culture embraced those markings as beauty instead of imperfections….perhaps that may be why we’ve become so tattoo focused…..markings we choose as opposed to owies and surgeries that happen to us….anywho, always such wonderful ponderings in your blog….thank you for sharing your fantastic writing and wise insights!

    • thanks, fabulous Leslie- so true! I keep playing with the idea of a tattoo on or near my scars, but I’m in slowly and surely falling in love with my scars. there really is something beautiful in choosing a marking that has meaning and significance.

  6. I am so thankful for Christi for sharing your blog. You write beautifully, succinctly and are able to glean the simple truth and reveal it in a slow unfolding of words that is truly wonderful. I too have scars. Most are small inconsequential reminders that life can bite. My biggest scar is a reminder that each life is a selection of choices. I lost a lot of weight and had my excess skin removed. I have a lasting (albeit fading) scar of what I achieved and how we are agents of change within our own lives. Thank you for this lovely post and for sharing your inner machinations and thank you to Christi for sharing 🙂

    • What kind and generous words- thank you! Your reminder of scars being reminders of choices is profound- any time a scar is the result of surgery or an act that required thoughtful (or not so thoughtful) preparation, I think the body memory shifts a little. When we don’t have the choice or the scar is from an accident or immediate injury, then we don’t have time to imprint the memory of the body prior to the scarring. I don’t know that studies have ever been done about this, but it seems to be a reality that when we have the chance to process our grief in anticipation of the loss that it changes our way of handling the loss. In your case, there was a double loss- the loss of the weight and then the loss of the excess skin. Seems that the scarring would hold some complicated feelings for you. Reminder of struggle, hard work, transformation, and possibly metamorphosis?

      • Possibly, but I actually love my scar :). Its my battle wound that reminds me of just what I had to go through to get to where I am now.

  7. […] scars are beautiful. ( 28.602037 77.251760 Rate this:Share this:FacebookLinkedInTwitterTumblrEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged with: life, meanderings, notes to myself, observations, philosophical meanderings, poetic attempts, Ramblings, reflections, Wound […]

dialogue is good- yes? comment here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s