A few short months ago, my boyfriend showed me a video titled "Be Proud of Your Scars: Lessons From a Broken Japanese Bowl" by Sean Buranahiran. He describes how in Japan, when a bowl is broken, it is put back together and the cracks are filled with gold. This emphasizes its beauty, because when something has suffered damage and has history, it makes it more beautiful.
I had a difficult childhood due to minor health issues, which led to me being overly medicated, ultimately giving me horrible side effects. Because of the side effects, I was taking seven to 10 medications daily starting at the age of 10. As a young girl, I had multiple operations, both minor and major. The two major operations left me with four small scars on the sides of my abdomen and one larger vertical scar in the center.
I remember crying when looking at my scar. I thought I was ugly, and I felt worthless and sorry for myself. I would always ask and say to myself: "Who's going to want me, a girl with a scar? Everyone will judge me!"
Although I was finally off medication, I still had my scar and felt I could never show my body again or be normal like other healthy and scar-free kids. I remember when I finally decided to try to be confident about the thing I was going to have to live with forever and went on a seventh-grade field trip to Black Bear Lake. A boy, who I considered a friend, looked at my scar and shouted "Eww . . . disgusting!" This made my other "friends" laugh.
I decided to cover up for good. Bikinis were thrown away, along with any sort of top that could come close to showing my scar or have any chance of being lifted or blown by the wind.
I've learned not to care what others think, especially if it's negative.
High school came and went. As I entered adulthood after over 10 years of living with my scar, I finally started to show it a little more when vacationing. I figured no one in other states, islands, or countries would see me again anyway, but I still felt ugly and insecure. People would stare at me or ask about it, which made me feel embarrassed and even angry. Usually, I didn't want to respond, but at some point, after being annoyed enough, I'd respond in some typical sassy "Courtney" way and say I got clawed by an owl or attacked by the infamous New Jersey Devil.
To be honest, my negative feelings about my scar went out the window when I met my boyfriend. Still technically "strangers," I told him my story when we first met. When he saw my scar he said, "What, that's it? I was expecting something worse." He followed that by saying it's totally OK, it's just a scar, and called me beautiful, battle scar and all.
It's been two and a half years since that moment and each day my confidence about my scar has been building up. I've learned not to care what others think, especially if it's negative, and to realize that not everyone is going to react in the way I expect.
After he showed me the video, I began to develop confidence in myself and a love for my unique vertical scar. I realized that building up others who have scars is a passion of mine and part of my purpose. Those of us with scars are true warriors who survived something; our scars are our testaments to that, and we should wear them like Badges of Honor.
I wear bikinis and crop tops now, and if anyone looks at my scar, I smile brightly at them and sometimes tell them my story.
I write this to not only liberate myself, but to hopefully inspire and set free other individuals who have scars and feel embarrassed and alone. Own your scars, it's who you are. If people stare, strike up a conversation! You never know who you'll meet and inspire by doing so. Sometimes it takes a stranger to build you up. I know it's scary, but I promise that once you get out there, you will touch somebody, gain confidence, and inspire others who just like us, have scars. There is power in encouraging others and power in helping others realize that they aren't alone.
I painted my scar gold to show the world that yes, it's here and it's beautiful. I encourage those with scars to paint their scars gold because they are beautiful too. To those with scars, know that I 100 percent accept you, you are not alone, and I hope you realize it's OK to be your true self. I will unapologetically be myself — a girl with a gold scar — and I hope others feel inspired to do the same.