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Never Be Ashamed of a Scar: 4 Lessons on Self-Acceptance & Resilience

Scarred heart

“Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” ~Unknown

“It’s such an ugly scar, I really don’t want anyone to see it.” This is what I told my daughter about a scar on my leg from an accident I’d experienced a year earlier.

I can remember the day so clearly when I slipped and fell, while skating, breaking my ankle and tearing a ligament. It was a painful experience with a long recovery. But I also felt embarrassed because I got injured during such a simple and fun activity.

I often wondered why this happened to me. One minute I was out enjoying quality time with my daughter and after the next minute I couldn't walk for twelve weeks. I wanted to be present for her. I wanted to be active. I wanted to be involved. I wanted to be a good mother. I wondered if maybe I was overcompensating for the time I was busy keeping up with my work.

I became so entangled in my thoughts, wondering where I went wrong and why this was happening now.

After all was healed, I had a long scar from two surgeries. While I was happy to be up and on the move again, I was self-conscious about the five-inch mark on my ankle and leg area, along with the indentations in my skin from where the medal plate and screws were underneath.

I thought this scar was unattractive, and it was an awful reminder of my journey to healing. I knew with the warmer weather quickly approaching that I’d want to hide it.

I had it all planned out: I’d wear super long dresses, skirts, and pants. No one would need to stare my scar or ask me what happened. I wouldn’t have to wonder if anyone was looking at it, because I’d already taken care of that with my clothing.

One day my eleven-year-old daughter and I were discussing summer fashion and girl talk, in general. I shared my well mapped out plan to hide my scar with my clothes. Before I could finish, she quickly replied, “Why don’t you want to wear your dresses, Mommy? Why are you hiding your scar?”

I pondered for a moment, then offered a simple response that I just didn’t like the way it looked. What she said next caught me off guard and made me teary eyed.

She said, with conviction, “Mommy, your scar shows that you made it! It shows that you are no longer in that same place as you were before, that you overcame it. You should be proud to show that scar, Mommy, because you bounced back! That’s your ‘I made it scar.’ ”

I was so blown away by her response and her unknowing insight into resilience.

As parents we share much of what we know with our children to help guide them through their everyday experiences. But there are those unscripted moments when our children’s perspectives provide us with insight into how to move forward.

Here are the lessons of self-acceptance and resilience my daughter taught me that can help you:

Don’t Hide Your Scars

We’ve all been through challenging situations, setbacks, disappointments, or heartbreak, and these experiences can leave a painful residue based on how we allow ourselves to heal.

Once you make it through the healing process, sharing the lessons with others will provide a sense of empowerment for you and to those you share it with. Your “scars” or challenging experiences have a unique story of resilience, and to tell it sends a continuous chain of healing to all you interact with.

Keeping it hidden reinforces a stigma of non-acceptance of all parts of your journey in life. If you reject these experiences, you’ll feel compelled to bottle these emotions within. That’s what I did after I left a job that, at the time, caused a great amount of stress and wasn’t beneficial for me as a parent.

At first, I felt embarrassed to share with others, because I always saw myself as competent, fitting in anywhere and always able to get the job done. I felt defeated because I was unable to meet the demands of my role. I felt bad that I somehow couldn’t “cut it” and didn’t measure up.

It was hurtful since I’d given everything I had, even at times pushing aside my priorities as a parent, and it still didn’t work out. So, I wanted to keep this “failure” quiet and move right along.

However, when I began sharing my experience of trying to balance the unrealistic expectations of a big corporate organization and being a present parent, I heard stories from other women who could relate.

This was when I realized the power of sharing my story. In talking about it I felt less ashamed, and that’s when the healing began, along with gaining a sense of empowerment.

Try to put a spin on those tough challenges so they don’t hinder your growth and progress. Share your feelings and story with a close friend, and if you’re comfortable enough, with others as well.

If you’re uncomfortable speaking about it, then write it down in a journal. Getting your feelings out will help purge your mind of overwhelming thoughts and cleanse your heart of the pain.

Your Challenges Can Propel You Forward 

This challenging experience may have been rough, but it can also be the thing you need to get you moving outside of your comfort zone and into a new direction. Sometimes those unexpected setbacks build up the “muscles” that were once hidden within us due to fear or complacency. Now you’ve experienced your fears and you see that you’ve made it.

For example, maybe one of your worst fears is to lose your job and not being financially secure. If you’ve been laid off or fired, while this is hurtful to your self-esteem and brings about uncertainty, it may be an opportunity in disguise.

Perhaps this is your chance to go full throttle in starting the business you’ve always wanted, or maybe this is the push you need to get you to go back to school, or into the true field you desire to work in. It might even be a much-needed opportunity to take it easy and take better care of yourself.

Take time to process the lessons you’ve learned from this situation. Use them to help you regroup, refocus, and move ahead. What you were once afraid of is now a thing of the past.

Use your setback as a stepping stone to a new transformation in your life.

Be Gentle and Less Critical of Yourself and Your Journey

You may have gone through or are currently going through a tough time and you’re having thoughts about feeling “dumb,” feeling less than or not being able to cut it.  While these thoughts are normal, spending time dwelling on them will never help you feel better and learn the lessons.

Stop beating yourself up. Offer yourself and your past forgiveness in order to set yourself free from the pain.

Giving so much life and emphasis to what those things mean about you is taking away from living out this one life of yours. Recognize the lessons and be kind to yourself so you can begin the next chapter of your life.

Surround Yourself with Resilient People 

We spend so much time in our own heads pondering questions like “Why did this happened to me?” “What did I do wrong?” Indulging the “what if” questions will cause intense overwhelm and keep you stuck in your thoughts.

Surround yourself with resilient people who will listen to you, offer you encouragement, and help you find that spark you need to move forward. My daughter was a calming peace to my anxiety around my scars. While she shared a dose of encouragement, she unknowingly provided me with enough space to think about what she said, which gave me the ability to identify my next step for moving ahead.

A gentle spirit with words of wisdom was the catalyst for me to think differently about my situation.

Life is not meant to be lived hidden. The entire fabric of who you are is what makes your story unique and rich with wisdom. I once was afraid and ashamed to share those lessons of setbacks and hurt, fearing judgment and rejection. But I’ve found even more strength and humanness in sharing those stories, as they are part of who I am and it's not necessary to hide that anymore.

About Raphaela Browne

Raphaela Browne is a Certified Transformation + Career Coach and Nonprofit Organization Consultant, committed to empowering professional women and organizations to embrace change and transition seamlessly to the next level. Raphaela’s main focus is to support women in leading a life using their strengths, developing their unique leadership skills and equipping them with the necessary tools. Visit her at www.raphaelabrowne.com or www.instagram.com/raphaelabrowne/

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  • Diwakar

    I had been having problems since I was a Kid. I was diagnosed with a genetic for which I was told there was no treatment. I had consulted many doctors and they gave different names for my eye disorders.. I am 32 years old . I recently lost vision in one eye due to glaucoma last year. Since I had been having problems with my vision since I was a kid , I had not taken proper care of myself.. I am going through a lot of emotions which I am unable to handle.. feeling guilty that I havent taken care of myself, whether to tell my employers about my disability of lost vision, feelings of insecurity whether my other eye will allow me to see for the rest of my life, currently facing a lot of challenges at work since I havent disclosed this to my organization .. and the question of what next in my life .. a lot of these and more is going through my mind.. how do I get out of this and live the life that I want .. I want to take control of my life so that I can help my son 2 years get educated..too many questions in my mind.. Please hep..

  • Teri Tischer

    What a wonderfully inspiring article Raphaela! Your daughter is wise beyond her years! You have passed that wisdom and insight onto her. Be proud of yourself!

  • De

    I was sexually abused by my father as a child. When I was 40 and started having flashbacks of the abuse I started purging to have some control in my life and maybe part of it was anger at my dad that I couldn’t express. Then that wasn’t enough control/punishment so I started to burn myself with a rod of metal or else I would cut with a razor blade the temporary physical pain blocked the emotional pain for those short moments. (I was a cutter before I had even heard of others doing such a thing). So I have a large burn scar on my upper arm that shows if my shirt sleeve isn’t quite long enough. Sometimes I get asked about that scar and I don’t really want to explain it to those who don’t know me that well. So I might just respond with I had a bad childhood. I also have lots and lots of thin scars across my upper thighs from cutting with a razor blade. Sigh, those cause a problem when wearing a swimming suit so I usually wear long shorts over my swimming suit.
    It’s hard when I have to go to a new doctor that would see those areas and I have to explain the scars.

  • Raphaela Browne

    Hi Dwakar- You are definitely experiencing a lot but also have an opportunity to make changes that are helpful for you and your son. I would love to talk to you more. Here’s my email info@raphaelabrowne.com.

  • Raphaela Browne

    My daughter definitely blew me away with this one and I’m so proud she was able to encourage me in that moment. Thank you so much Teri, I appreciate your encouragement! Much love and light to you.

  • Raphaela Browne

    Thanks for being so open to share your story. I’m so sorry you had to experience that and hoping that sharing it and connecting to those who have overcome similar experiences will help in your journey.

  • Ari Maayan

    Thank you for a great article Raphaela!!! Your scar and the wisdom of your daughter seem to have propelled you to an epiphany. I applaud your courage in taking your lemons and turning them into lemonade. I came home from Vietnam with multiple gunshot wounds, a broken back and a fractured skull. I have numerous holes and incision scars running across my upper body and my right leg. For many years, any time I went to the beach or to a swimming pool, I would always wear a T-shirt so that no one could see the wreckage that was my body. But then after a few years of going to VA Hospitals for treatment and seeing other war-wounded veterans whose scars were much worse than mine, and seeing how they conducted themselves with openness and dignity, my attitude began to shift. After much prayer, meditation and therapy and being around my fellow veterans, I think of my scars as being the symbols of my dedication to my country and to my fellow Marines. Honestly, when I go out to a venue that allows me to take off my shirt, I do it without one single thought about how others may view it. Once again,thanks for a beautiful article and blessings to you and your wise daughter.

  • Raphaela Browne

    Wow…this is amazing and really touched my heart. Thank you for being so open to share your story. Your scars are definitely ones to be proud of and your story will always encourage others to feel comfortable enough to share their experiences. Much love ❤️

  • Thai Nguyen

    Great artical about “Scar”!! I’m currently stuck with the past not one but two that hurting me. One with the one that I was supposed to stay with and get married but we ended up broke up. Secondly is the current one which is my ex-wife which we had 3 small kids together but for some reasons I ended up come back with her eventhough she cheated on me and divorced me. The artical about “Scar” is great and it telling me not hide about stories and pains but to be strong to overcome and be proud that if I can forgive because the goods for my children. Thanks again!!

  • Keshia

    This is an awesome article. I read this on the plane as I am in a place of true self acceptance. Coming from a very toxic relationship that was in the process of leaving some deep Scars. It’s taking a lot of work self-love which wasn’t taught to release those scars from the past which can almost feel permanent. Learning to love myself just a little bit more each day and reading post like this with other like-minded people who are experiencing the same thing in life is so liberating to continue pushing towards change and healing. So I thank each and every one of you all and wish you all the love, peace, happiness and healing.

  • Raphaela Browne

    I’m truly happy that this was able to encourage you. The journey to loving yourself is ongoing work, but it’s the best gift you could give yourself. Thanks so much for sharing and many blessings to you!

  • Raphaela Browne

    I’m glad you found something within my story to encourage you! I wish you nothing but the best in this life. Thanks for being so open to share your story with me and others. Much love and light to you.

  • Trey Dennis

    Ironically, scars themselves are less resilient. Scars are less durable, less moisturized, less elastic and more susceptible to sunburn and sun damage than normally. I found that out first from reading about boxing, because some boxers’ became more to cuts on their face due to scar tissue. Of course some scars fade and become more durable over time due to some replacement of normal skin in areas, depending how big the scars are. So you don’t have to be ashamed of them, but you need take better of them than the rest of your skin. I read certain massages help break down the scar tissue and replacing it with stronger healthier skin.

  • cas123

    I really like this. What I do not like is having to explain scars. It makes me relive the trauma again. Why do people feel it is ok to ask? So I hide as much as I can. For my own peace, not out of shame.

  • Raphaela Browne

    I’m so glad you connected with this! Feel free to share your story with whomever you feel comfortable with; everyone does not need to know. However as you become more comfortable, you will notice how empowered you become in telling it.
    Much love and light to you.

  • Lindsay

    What a touching insight from your daughter, kids are so wise. Whenever I feel uncomfortable about sharing a struggle, I have to remind myself that I always see it as a sign of strength when other people do it. Funny how sometimes we are extra hard on ourselves, so I love your reminder to be kind.

  • Raphaela Browne

    I’m glad this resonated with you! We tend to extend more grace to others and are hard on ourselves. I’m so glad you noticed that and will be kinder to yourself!