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If You're Nervous to Show Your Self-Harm Scars This Summer...

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Article updated July 15, 2019

As the weather gets warmer and summertime nears, many of us have started daydreaming about beach vacations, time off school and more chances to be outside. But with sunshine comes something that might be stressful for people who have self-harm scars — pressure to wear more revealing clothes, both for comfort and to “fit in.” It can feel like a lose-lose situation when you’re trying to decide what to wear. Will people ask questions if you wear long sleeves? Will they stare if you don’t? It’s a tough spot to be in, especially if you feel like you’re in this alone.

To empower people with self-harm scars who are nervous for this summer, we went straight to people who get it — people in The Mighty community who have self-harm scars themselves — and asked them what they would tell someone in their shoes. Whether you decide to bare it all or keep yourself covered this summer, there’s no shame in your choice, and always remember you’re not in this alone.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “As someone who has scars from self-harming, I would tell them it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all have our scars — some just wear them differently — and that doesn’t make us any less strong or beautiful. It shows that we’ve fought a fight and that is absolutely not something to be ashamed of or afraid to show.” — Kristina K.

2. “People will stare, but not necessarily for the reasons you may be thinking. They may be thinking, ‘They must have gone through a lot,’ and you may even pass someone who has scars from self-harm and sees you embracing yours — that may give them the strength to do the same.” — Megan E.

3. “Wear whatever you want! If you’d like to keep them private, however, I can show you exactly how to cover them with makeup. Whether you want them on display or not is totally your choice and both are valid but never, *ever* be ashamed of your body.” — Shoshanna J.

4. “I had this problem for many years. Both my arms are scarred from cigarette burns and cut marks. These are over 20 years old. I’m 45 now and spent many years wearing long sleeves only, including in the summer… As time went by, I slowly talked myself into wearing short sleeves, in short bursts, until I became more comfortable and confident… Baby steps.” — Nicola D.

5. “I remember the day I wore a tank top for the first time, my healing scars still raised and red. I felt like they were screaming my secrets. But I did it, I wore it anyway. And guess what — the sunshine and saying no to feeling ashamed healed my scars and my soul more than I knew was possible. I don’t want to say that people didn’t notice but the ones who I cared about — they loved me anyway.” — Marielle E.

6. “Nine out of 10 people won’t even notice, to be honest. They’re all wrapped up in their own lives. Or they won’t know what they are. Wear whatever you want.” — Naoko P.

7. “It’s an unfortunate balancing act, weighing up your trust in people to be understanding (or at least accepting), against your ability to accept them potentially treating you awkwardly in the future (or at worst, removing themselves from your life). The stakes become a little higher in a professional rather than social situation. But the risk can have its rewards — often people may pleasantly surprise you.” — Dan H.

8. “People are probably going to look at you — some children might ask their parents what happened to you. Some people will judge you, but you’ve already proven you’re stronger than all of that by still being here today. You’ll be nervous, but you’ll realize that in the end nobody will care. People will look and people might know what happened, but you may be able to help someone else who is about to pass out from the heat who is covering the same scars you had the courage to show. They are a part of your story as a person. Do not be ashamed of what helped you cope for so long. I know you’ve heard that these are battle scars hundreds of times but every time you’ve heard it those people were telling you the truth. Do not avoid the sun because you know that will make them stand out more. You are strong. You are powerful. You are courageous and you can do this.” — Morgan S.

9. “‘Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’ I would tell [others] that I love them and care for them and that their scars don’t define them, that there is so much more beauty around them, and that their scars are proof that they have survived and are winning the battle.” — Conor L.

10. “Everyone has scars, but not everyone’s scars are visible. You are stronger and have battled through the unbearable suffering so be proud of your scars…. you have physical proof that you are a warrior.” — Laura B.

11. “You do you, boo. It’s nobody’s business why or when those scars were put there. Be proud of your body, no matter how scarred you might think it is. — Laura C.

12. “Every scar is a reminder of how far you’ve come and how strong you’ve grown to be. I wear my self-harm scars with pride because every day I go without a new one is a small victory.” — Lindsey Marie G.

13. “Do whatever makes you comfortable. You have nothing to be ashamed of and should feel free to wear anything you like. However, there can be the odd occasion where you don’t want to or are too tired to deal with rude questions that might arise, and shouldn’t feel bad about wearing something that’ll conceal the scars if it will make you feel better.” — Caz G.

14. “Each scar tells a personal story… don’t be ashamed. It’s proof that you’ve made it through your hardest challenges and overcame it. You’re beautiful/handsome no matter what.” — Cherish I.

15. “Your scars are a part of your story, but they don’t define you. There is no shame in your coping mechanisms — they show that you did cope! Also, your scars are an opportunity for you to educate other people, if you’re comfortable with that. You’ll get stares, some shaken heads, but you’ll also find compassion.” — Christina S.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Thinkstock photo via GaudiLab

Originally published: May 12, 2017
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