We all have scars. Some of us may have more than others, and some of us may have scars that are readily visible while others are more discrete (or not visible at all), but we all have them. Society teaches us to hide our scars because they are ugly and a sign of weakness. In fact, this has become such a widely accepted idea that there are actually whole lines of cosmetic products to cover up and hide these imperfections. This mindset that our old, battle wounds from the difficult periods in our lives are things to be hidden and ashamed of is completely backwards and wrong though. Whether your scars are physical, mental, or both, they are an important part of your life and who you are. They serve as reminders of where you have been and as badges symbolizing what you have overcome. These symbols of your strength, perseverance, and determination should be worn proudly, not hidden in shame.
The human body has evolved to function under certain types of conditions. It was designed to walk, and run, and jump, and bump into things, and do any number of other physical actions in order to develop properly. Due to my disability, my body has not gotten used in the way it was meant to, and as a result it did not grow as it should have, leaving
me quite deformed physically. To give you just a few examples my legs are different lengths, my hips are not symmetrical, and my left shoulder is actually slowly decaying inside my body. On top of this, I have a 6″ scar on my left thigh, an 18″ scar down my back, and a hole in my throat. This is in addition to the obvious facts that I only weigh 60 pounds, have no discernable muscle tone, and have several open wounds at any given time. I have actually wondered that if I was buried in the desert and my bones were unearthed 50 years from now, whether they would think my remains were human, due to how contorted and deformed my body is. Maybe they would study me at “Area 51″…? Ok, so this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but my scarred body is definitely not what anyone would call beautiful in the typically accepted sense. This feeling that I was damaged and ugly due to my disability was something that I struggled with for a long time, and it made it very difficult to learn to accept and love myself the way I deserve.
Thanks to mass media and the way we define “beauty,” I have always been pretty self-conscious about how my body looks. Despite the fact that I can easily let a brand new nurse, who is a complete stranger to me, see me naked and touch my entire body within minutes of meeting me, letting someone see and touch my body in a non-clinical way is not something that I have an easy time with. Obviously, this has made dating and having a physical relationship with women very difficult. I know, that even though they may be familiar with me and aware of my physical limitations, that there is no way that someone can anticipate the severity of my scars and deformities. I worry that the shock of seeing what I really look like will scare people away. This makes it hard for me to feel safe enough to open up physically, because I am afraid that they will reject me because of my body, my disability, my scars. Curiously enough though, it was as a result of my struggles with letting myself be vulnerable enough to let a woman I was dating see my body, that I was taught a valuable lesson about my scars and accepting myself physically.
I had been dating this woman, who we will call Jen, for a while, and it was getting to the point in our relationship where we were ready to go from a “PG-13 type” physical relationship to a “Rated R type” one (sorry for speaking in code, but my mom reads these posts). This made me feel very uneasy, but I liked Jen and wanted to see where things could go, so I was going to try to be brave enough to be vulnerable with her. One night we were starting to fool around at my apartment, and she started unbuttoning my shirt. As awkward as it was to throw on the brakes at this point, I stopped her. I looked her in the eye and said, “Jen, I know you like me and accept me disability and all, and that means so much to me. I want to prepare you though, that whatever you have imagined in your head about what my body looks like, it is not even close to the actual amount of scarring and deformation that I really have. I just don’t want to scare you away, but I understand if it is too much for you.” She stared back at me for what seemed like an eternity, and then, as tears welled up in her eyes she leaned in and kissed me. Her silent response said so much more than any words could have, and it put me at ease enough to let us take our relationship to the next level physically.
Later that night (fill in the missing time as you wish…), as we were lying in bed watching television I noticed that Jen was slowly tracing the scar on my leg with her finger. This caused me to wonder what she had thought when first seeing me, so I asked her what she actually thought about my body when she first saw it, and I made sure to tell her to be honest as I already knew that she accepted my grotesque, deformed hideousness. Her response changed my life forever. She said, “These scars and wounds that you carry with you are not ugly or hideous. They are beautiful markings of how strong and determined you are. They are like medals commemorating your courage, fight, and fortitude. They are reminders of all of the things I love and find most attractive in you. Your body is sexy and beautiful, and I wouldn’t trade it for Bradley Cooper’s.” I had never thought of my body this way, and I had definitely never been called beautiful before (let alone beating out the handsome, blue-eyed Mr. Cooper), but her words got me thinking about how I saw my body and what is beautiful. I eventually realized that she was right, and that our scars tell the stories of our victories over adversity throughout our lives, and that they aren’t something to be ashamed of, but proud of.
Even though things didn’t work out between Jen and I, I will never forget her, what she taught me that night, and how she changed my life. I no longer have much trouble with people seeing my body or worry about scaring people away with my scars and such. I am not saying I have become an exhibitionist that goes around showing people all of my bodies imperfections, but I do wear them with pride and don’t shy away from letting others see them. I am proud of how much I have overcome in my life despite my disability. I try to live my life in a way that can inspire and motivate people to live better, happier lives, and my scars are reminders of the very traits I am trying to pass on. How could I support and encourage living your life by the same ideals as I do, and then be ashamed of where these concepts have gotten me? Unless I am a huge hypocrite, which I hope I’m not, I can’t. This new perspective on scars and what is beautiful has helped me accept myself physically, which has allowed me to enjoy better relationships and be much happier with who I am.
I know that I will probably never be a model in a Calvin Klein ad, and I doubt that I will ever be listed as one of “People’s 100 Sexiest Men Alive,” but I am a beautiful man. I may not have a six-pack, huge biceps, or even a tan, but my body shows a kind of strength that you cannot get in a weight room, and that is just as sexy and attractive (if not more so) than any amount of rippling muscles. My body — my deformed, scarred, damaged body — tells the story of where I have been, what I have accomplished, and who I am today, and I am proud of all of this. When was the last time you looked at yourself, in all your glory scars and all, and thought to yourself, “I am beautiful.”? Think about any of the imperfections you see that bother you because they are “ugly,” and think about what this scar says about you and your life. Think about the story it tells. These are the merit badges of life that you have worked so hard to achieve. Wear them with pride and let them remind you of how amazing you are. By accepting your scars and seeing the beauty they represent, you will be able to more easily accept and love yourself the way you deserve. You may even find that once you see yourself as the beauty you are, that others will too, which will lead to better relationships and more happiness in your life.