“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 Organizational Consultant, committed to supporting professional women and organizations with embracing change and transitioning seamlessly to their next big thing. Schedule a complimentary session by clicking the link Schedule your session here or visit her at www.raphaelabrowne.com for more information.