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Embracing My Scars, Inside and Out

So often we look at ourselves with a sense of disdain — a dislike for the person looking back at us in a mirror. So often, the value we place on ourselves is based on an outer image; we use the mere shell that houses us to measure our worth. We measure who we are on the inside based on what we see on the outside, and what’s worse, we use this to draw comparisons of our worth with others.

There aren’t many people I know who can quickly and without hesitation answer the question, “So what do you like/admire about yourself?” The most dreaded question. Nine times out of 10 when we get asked this question, we pause and must think long and hard before answering.

What do you admire about yourself?

Having to undergo surgery of any kind (and in my case open heart surgery) is not easy. It’s a long haul, dreadful, soul-sucking, painful and lonely experience. Never mind the months of anticipation and build-up, knowing full well that your body is not functioning, not coping anymore, knowing that it is shutting down and preparing to, well, die.

We endure, undergo, wake up with a clean bill of health and then continue. Like nothing ever happened. Like our bodies weren’t just sliced open and torn down in order to be built back up again. And what is left after all is said and done? Scars. Bruising. Miles of stitches and staples. A morphed figure of a person you once knew so well with a new, big, scar laying on her chest like a railway track. A constant reminder of what has been, and certainly no promise of what is to be. And somehow after months of recovery, a new normal begins to set in with a combination of the person you once were with an obvious symbol of who you are now. What’s the hardest part of being a medically complex surgery survivor? Afterward. The part no one really talks about.

I’ve been a pretty confident person my whole life. I’ve never shied away from talking about what I’ve gone through and what was left behind. Major credit goes to my parents who raised me to be proud of what I’ve been through and wear my scars gracefully. I’ve received a lot of stares from people in shops and restaurants when my scars are visible — I’ve never covered them intentionally. I catch a lot of eyes glancing towards my chest. Is that bad? I don’t know.

People tend to be unaccustomed to anything that doesn’t constitute perfection, and when something is out of the ordinary, we simply do not know how to react. Also, we often think people are more fragile than they are. It seems far easier to stare than to ask. I can understand for some it’s a vulnerable situation to find yourself in. I get it, I’ve been there.

Body positivity is a constant “work in progress” for me. I’ve never come full circle and been OK with everything about my body. But the one thing I wear with pride, with grace and with the most confidence is my scars. Maybe you see them as ugly, that’s OK. Maybe they’re weird to you, that’s OK. Maybe you judge me for being “too comfortable” showing them to the world, that’s OK. It’s not society’s job to understand what they mean to me. It’s mine. Each day they are visible it’s a part of my life I’ve shown you. A strength that came from an incredible vulnerability. I won’t hide it. I won’t hide who I am. It isn’t always easy, especially when you get the stares and the whispers and the looks of horror. But I get it. I do understand.

We can spend a lifetime finding a calm and confidence within ourselves. But whoever you are, scars or no scars, whatever you carry as a result of something that was beyond your control, I have only this to say to you…

Own it.

Own who you are and what you’ve been through. You are beautiful and worthy and more than enough, and those scars are a reminder of what you have endured. Wear those battle wounds gracefully and show the world what the face of bravery really looks like. Be proud of how far you’ve come.

I’m proud of you, heart warrior, and you are not alone.

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