To all my fellow uncoordinated folks on campus, I feel you. I have lived an incredibly clumsy life. Growing up, I wasn’t the most careful or graceful collection of limbs. I often found myself with scraped knees, burned fingers and random bruises of unknown origin. As a result, my body has collected over a dozen scars from miscellaneous mishaps throughout the years.
My first major scar-inducing incident took place in second grade. One evening, I insisted on making tea for the first time. Unfortunately for me, I boldly assumed that the height difference between myself and the countertop was negligible. With an arm awkwardly angled around the hot kettle, my hand slipped, splashing boiling liquid all over my wrist and burning me with what would become two new scars.
At first, I thought the marks were cool – the initial pain and grotesque look of melted skin aside, of course. I proudly wore my bandaged wrist like it was a trophy indicating some sort of accomplishment. After it healed, I showed the freshly minted scars off to my slightly grossed-out, yet equally awestruck, friends. As a carefree and slightly rambunctious 7-year-old, I didn’t realize how easily the way I felt about my scars could change.
Years later, in eighth grade, I acquired the most notable of my scars. Our PE teachers had sent us off to run the “Perimeter,” a trail that went up, across and back down the other side of a rocky hill. The path was narrow and steep, especially at the ends. Running the Perimeter wasn’t anything new, and most students were more or less proficient at navigating the bumpy terrain. That day, however, was different for me. As I jogged down the slope, my foot slipped, and I went tumbling down the rest of the hill. After rolling to a stop, sharp pains screamed at me from all over my body. Looking down, I saw a deep gash across my left knee cap. Physically, I was okay overall. However, the sting from my cuts was nothing compared to the horror I felt upon realizing that this was going to leave a scar.
At some point in middle school, I became much more aware of the way I looked and the scars that marked my body. My self-consciousness stemmed partially from certain beauty standards I’d been not-so-subtly subjected to, as well the anxious state of mind that afflicted me throughout puberty – go figure. As such, I spent the weeks following this mentally life-shattering event completely devastated by the horrendous scar on my knee.
Time passed, and my scars were as prominent as ever. As a swimmer and lover of shorts, I found myself trying to subtly cover my knee. I was embarrassed by the uneven bump of flesh and how disfigured my healed skin looked. Whenever people stared or asked what I did to obtain such a mighty mark, I answered candidly. I laughed at my story and joked about my clumsiness. Internally, however, I wanted nothing more than to hide.
This lingering sense of brokenness followed me for years. I believed the visually displeasing marks on my legs made them ugly. And I believed those marks somehow made me lesser in comparison to others. I thought my scars left everyone who saw them disgusted and appalled, and I wished I could turn back the time – very dramatic, I know.
I never thought I would grow distant from these beliefs, but eventually I did. The tumultuous years of young adolescence passed, and I experienced various other highs and lows. My friends didn’t unfriend me because of my physical flaws, and my family didn’t love me any less – surprise! No one ever shamed or made fun of me for my scars. With time and painstaking mental struggle, I realized I was the only person who cared. More importantly, I realized my opinions of my scars were the only ones that mattered, yet I was the one who continued to punish myself for them.
Today, when I look at the many scars on my body, I think of my 7-year-old self confidently deciding to pour her own hot water. I remember how fascinated, strangely enough, by my melted and disfigured skin I was. I remember the doctor telling me it’d leave a scar, but shrugging it off. I think of how eager I was to talk and laugh about my scar stories with my friends, and I smile. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve since made peace with the scars that decorate my body. And while they’ve left me with their fair share of pain and tears, I’m equally grateful to them for making me who I am.
So, if you’ve been struggling to love your skin’s miscellaneous marks, it’s OK! I’ve been there, and chances are, many others have been too. But here’s a reminder, from one scarred Bear to the next, to be kind to yourself. To remember that you’re not alone, and to celebrate all the scars, whether big or small, that make you the incredible human being that you are.
Contact Kristie Lin at [email protected].