Scars are an inevitable part of the human experience. Some are physical, incurred as a result of an inopportune fall off of a bike. Some are emotional, formed as a result of losing a loved one. Sometimes, they both exist in tandem, seemingly feeding off each other until it becomes impossible to judge which came first – the chicken or the egg? If you could see my face right now as I write this, your eyes would be drawn to the large, red scar encompassing the right side of my upper lip. Or any of the other scars found on my chin, neck, and arms. All formed after coming into contact with a dangerous liquid substance (sulfuric acid), precariously stored in a box housed within a shed. The result? Spending my late teenage years recovering from second and third degree burns, a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone. As doctors did their best to sculpt my face, I soon discovered a simple truth. The invisible, emotional scars incurred as a result of this physical injury in some ways outweighed the scars I carry on my face. The marks I carry on the inside are hidden from public view; but, this reality does nothing to make them any less real. Medical professionals, eager to improve my physical appearance, spoke only of the damage to my face. Yet I soon learned of the invisible changes doing much to chip away at both my emotional and spiritual health.
Choosing to Heal
We all incur both emotional and physical scars during our lifetimes, formed as a result of living in an imperfect world. These experiences leave small lacerations around our hearts, burdens we carry with us as we travel through life. As a result, we have a choice to make. We can wallow in self-pity, allowing our scars to rule our very existence. We can avoid reminders of these marks, doing our best to ignore the pain inherent in our pasts. Or we can choose to heal by acknowledging the ways in which we were hurt, while working towards experiencing the freedom of a life lived in the present. As my own journey unfolded, I soon realized the ways in which my scars dictated my existence. The ugly, red lines covering my face made me feel small. I focused on the ways in which I was less because of the accident endured. Feeling completely worthless, I started to wonder whether live was even worth living. Until I made the choice to see myself outside of my scars. I started seeing life as an opportunity instead of a burden. I let go of the guilt experienced whenever I failed to live up to my own expectations and saw failure as an opportunity to grow. “I should have gone to bed earlier,” became “I could have gone to bed earlier.” Simply refraining from using the word should helped imbue me with a sense of confidence. Instead of provoking a sense of guilt, missteps led to a sense of an opportunity lost. I could resolve to react differently the next time an opportunity presented itself to reach my goals.
You, too can Choose to Heal
We all have scars. Parts of ourselves we wish looked different, elements of our experience we wish could be erased. Yet the scars we carry offer an opportunity for victory, the spoils of which can truly last a lifetime. When I graduated from high school, a family friend gave me a card in which she lauded the way I handled the injuries sustained on that fateful September day. I have never forgotten her closing line. “You triumphed.” Suddenly, my perspective shifted. Instead of focusing on the things adversity stole, I could shift my focus towards the ways in which I had gained. None of this is to suggest that overcoming scars is ever easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to get back up after falling down. My recovery is littered with plenty of mistakes, missteps, false victories – even searing loss. The journey ahead is a long one, with plenty of heartbreak along the way. In spite of this stark reality, victory is within reach. The scars you carry may never disappear; but, they can recede, allowing you to catch a breath from the suffocating presence these marks often exude. Adversity presents the chance to indulge in moments of self-discovery. While it may seem hopeless, the manner in which adversity is handled will serve to inform the way the future unfolds. Your new life begins the moment you choose to heal. It starts with you.
Samuel Moore-Sobel spent years coming to terms with his scars, both visible and invisible. He is nearing completion of a memoir focusing on his experiences revolving around both trauma and recovery. To learn more about how to embrace your scars and become the person you want to be, subscribe to his free blog today by visiting www.holdingontohopetoday.com