“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.” – Sir Francis Bacon
For some people, scars are not an issue.We get them from falling over, burning ourselves on the oven, chickenpox, even acne. Some people are fond of their scars and look upon them as ‘battle wounds’, or even as a journal or life-map.
On the other hand, I know of many people that hate their scars and are always finding means to remove them. This is also one of the most frequent reasons that people consult dermatologists and plastic surgeons. I beg the question; if it is normal to acquire scars, why then, do the public and the media exploit the ‘unconventional’ means of scars and skin imperfections? What exactly IS perfection anyway? Is it internal, or, as the media expresses; attractiveness on the outside to achieve social, material and psychological happiness?
The media has transpired into an industry which needlessly exploits the public with the illusion of unwarranted medical services and cosmetic products, promoting the ‘ideal’ of a symmetrical face and body in order to boost contingent sales targets. Huge sums of money are spent by advertisers who rely on ‘attractive’ people to sell their products. When was our idea of beauty defined? Have your views of beauty in society changed over the years?
To answer some of these questions, I have asked Alex, a personal friend of mine to share her personal experiences of self-harming and the public’s perception to her scars with us at Reasons to Be Beautiful.
Could you tell us about yourself and how you acquired your scars?
“I self-harmed since the age of 12 until I was about 21, and it’s left me with scars on my legs and arms. People often stare and ask me awkward questions when I can’t be bothered to wear long-sleeved tops. With time they’ve started to fade, but I still feel nervous showing people and explaining them when asked on the spot. It’s not that I’m ashamed of how I coped with my life, it’s just awkward explaining a very personal part of my life and what I’ve been through.”
Have you ever lied to someone about how you attained the scars?
“I’ve lied and have said I burnt myself on the oven or accidentally put my arm through glass. I used to feel embarrassed because I didn’t want people to pity me or think I was ungrateful when some people have been really hurt against their will in an accident or an attack. But now I realize it was against my will too- I didn’t want to have the scars; it was just an act of a coping mechanism. Society makes a massive assumption when they know you have self-harmed.”
Do we as a society really value a person’s outer appearance over their inner beauty?
“Do the media care about perfection on the outside? Of course! How can they sell their products and ‘celeb’ stories when someone on the front-page is as normal as you or me? Nothing would sell because we would already own what they are advertising. No one would make money. I grew up wanting to be beautiful. Who doesn’t? It sounds vain but it’s just a way to be accepted. When I was younger I envisioned the media of how I perceived high school; the most beautiful are the most popular. The funny thing is, now I’m older, the ‘most beautiful’ aren’t actually unattainable at all. They are normal human beings and have flaws, and if I’m honest, aren’t as attractive as I remember. We put people on pedestals because they represent something we want.”
Has your perception of beauty changed since you acquired your scars?
“My scars represent the pain I went through in my life, and though sometimes I hardly notice them, other times I hate them. I don’t think I would ever want to forget them though. It’s a constant reminder of how much I appreciate my own life. I used to hate my body before the scars. I compared myself to the ‘beautiful’ girls in music videos and often cut myself to cope with knowing I’d never look like them. It’s funny how ironic it is that I feel more beautiful now than I ever have done. I think real beauty is about acceptance and the ability to be comfortable in your own skin. Be happy with yourself, because you never know how much ugliness is underneath all that so-called beauty in the media!”
Learning to accept your scars, ‘imperfections’ and disfigurements is an important part of recovery. They should be a reminder of the stronger person you have become. Through my years, I have discovered that the biggest hurdle in life is dealing with other people and the way in which society perceives you. Real beauty is within. I will leave you with this; do not ever feel you have to justify who you are!