3 Reasons to Embrace Your Scars

I was rummaging through some business photos the other day, when my youngest child said, “Daddy, what’s wrong with your face?”

The photo she was referring to was my “professional head shot” photo for work.

As I looked at the photo, I realized what she was referring to.

When I took the photo, the photographer immediately uploaded it to his computer and started doing his “magic”.  He said, “It’s amazing what the camera can see.”  When I asked him what he meant, he said, “I can see where your skin is damaged.  I can see blemishes you didn’t know you had.”  When I responded with an intrigued (and somewhat concerned) look, he said, “Don’t worry.  I can fix them.”

Then I watched him work.  He smoothed some skin out here.  Removed a scar there.  Gave me a little color.  Fixed my collar line.  At the time, I thought, “How cool.  This must be how they do it in the movies and magazines.”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that he wasn’t really capturing me.  He created a version of me that looked, well….”plastic”.   And my little one was sharp enough to pick up on that.

I looked deeper at the photo.  I started to account for the scars that were missing in the photo – and what each one stood for.  One from falling out of a tree.  Two from chicken pox when I was a child.  One from an outpatient surgery.   And others…

Scars mean many things.  They remind us of our adventures, risks, and even some of the dumb things we did.  Sometimes they remind us of success, while other times they remind us of defeat.  Sometimes they are a reminder of a funny story.  And sometimes they tell the tale of a painful and tragic event.

Regardless, they are a part of who we are.  And from the funny to the tragic, they tell the story of where we’ve been.

Personally, I have found that embracing my scars is an important part of my well-being.  I am mentally healthier because I allow them to remind me of:

  • Life lessons.  Most of us can account for every scar on our bodies – we know what happened, how, and when.  We remember the lessons that we learned – and are keen about not repeating our mistakes.
  • Identity.  Not all scars showcase a mistake, sometimes they tell the tale of who we are.   When I was a younger man, I worked for a short time for a farmer.  Before he hired me, he asked me to show him my hands.   When I did so, he nodded in satisfaction and said I could work for him.  Confused, I asked for an explanation.  He said that my hands had nicks and scars and that showed him that I wasn’t afraid to work.  Scars showcase experience and tell a tale.
  • Survival.  Regardless of whether the scar was caused by a major tragedy or a minor folly, they remind us that even in the worst of times – we had the fortitude to survive.   We persevered.  We endured.  And that reminder gives us hope the next time we face a difficult situation.

As I reflect on my own scars, I think not only about the physical scars, but emotional and psychological scars as well.  All of these together represent many lessons of risk and reward; recklessness and consequence; tragedy and triumph.  And it is up to me – it is up to you – to determine how to view our own scars.

We can try to hide and forget our scars and let them bring us down when we catch a glimpse.  OR we can embrace them, remember the lessons, and live stronger and wiser because of them.

Personally, I choose the latter.  These scars are part of who I am.  Their experiences have molded and shaped me into the person I am today.  I am thankful for them.

I have since retired my “professional head shot” photo.  I’ll go back and take another at some point, but this time, I’ll have the photographer leave the scars there – to properly reflect the real me.

How do you view your own scars?

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2 Responses to 3 Reasons to Embrace Your Scars

  1. Jason says:

    One reader sent me a private note talking about the value of a very visible scar that he had on his face that is a reminder that he needs to exercise his “patience muscle” more often! Thanks for the note and sharing your story! That’s a good lesson for all of us.

  2. Pingback: Scar Stories « The Art of Doing

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