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The Most Harmful Comment I've Gotten About My Self-Harm Scars

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I’ve self-harmed since I was 7 years old. I have many scars. Not all of them can be hidden and I don’t feel as though I should have to hide all of my scars for the rest of my life. However, when they are visible I know people will look. Some will stare, some will say something and some will even grab one of my arms and demand an explanation. Obviously grabbing me and demanding an explanation is never OK.

I understand the stares and the questions. It’s not always appropriate, but I understand it. On occasions (yes, plural), I have had people inspect my scars and say “you didn’t even do it properly.” Excuse me, what?! Properly?! There is a proper way to self-harm? There is a rule book? You have that rule book?

“You didn’t even do it properly.” There is no way that statement can be taken the wrong way. There are no good intentions behind that statement. There is no kindness or compassion in that statement. There is no encouragement or hope in that statement. You sound disappointed that I didn’t do more damage. It’s as though my scars don’t mean anything because they weren’t made “properly.” It’s as though everything I struggled through doesn’t mean anything. It’s an intentionally harmful and invalidating statement to make. To make matters worse, it’s often said in a public place, just to add some shame to the situation.

I don’t know many people who self-harm who don’t already feel shame. Who don’t feel inadequate. Who don’t already feel like a failure. An imposter. If you are doing that to your body, you don’t love yourself. You don’t value yourself. Some people self-harm to punish themselves. Others self-harm to soothe themselves. “You didn’t even do it properly” is only going to add to that shame. That self-hatred. Feelings of failure and inadequacy. Your statement is hurting someone who already hates themselves enough to self-harm.

If are one of the people who say this, you can’t begin to imagine the feelings and the thoughts of someone who self-harms. So listen to someone who self harms. Listen to me. You are hurting us. You are invalidating our feelings, our thoughts and our lives. You are adding to our pain. Trust me, we’ve got the pain part covered. Please stop.

You don’t know my story and you don’t need to, although, if I’m asked with genuine curiosity, I’ll often share. If you see someone with scars and you have no kindness or compassion to share, just walk past us as you would walk past someone without scars.

Getty image by Maria Ponomariova

Originally published: August 23, 2021
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