When I was two years old, my parents and I visited some family friends in Oregon. Now, these friends had a pet dog they loved more than anything. That afternoon, they informed my parents it was a very friendly dog that loved to play with kids. I do recognize that it’s quite possible I wasn’t the most charming of toddlers. Maybe I pulled on its ear a little much or maybe I straight up punched it in the face. Who knows. Either way, I must have really ticked off this dog, because he decided to attack my adorable, chubby, little face.
As my father tells the story, they pulled the dog off me and there was blood everywhere. The panic set in for everyone. The owners learned their dog was the devil. My mother’s baby was a bloody mess. And, as my father tells me, he seriously thought I’d never be attractive again. Thanks, Dad.
My parents immediately rushed me to the nearest medical center. My worst injuries were my nose, cheek, and lip as they had been pretty viscously ripped up by the devil of a dog. When they arrived at the clinic, my mother, a nurse-midwife, took one look around the shabby facility and said, “Chris, I don’t think this is going to work.” She eyed the doctor, who had pulled out fishing wire to stitch me up, and said, “Let’s go.”
For two hours they drove me to a plastic surgeon who, as Dad says, put me back together again. (No need for the story of Humpty Dumpty in my household. I’d already been there, done that.) After the swelling went down, and the stitches were taken out, I was almost as good as new.
Except for a curved scar above the left side of my mouth.
My dad would tell me this story and say, “You are so lucky you got away with only that scar! It could have been so much worse!” As a kid, I’d think about that and say, “Yeah! Thank goodness! Thanks, Dad!” And when friends asked how I got the scar, I’d tell them the crazy story of the evil dog that attacked my face. I felt pretty legit.
As I grew older, I became more worried about my appearance, I started noticing the scar constantly. While, most of the time, people didn’t notice it – sometimes, they did.
“WHOA!! Grace! What happened to your lip?!” people would ask.
“I just got bit by a dog when I was a kid. It’s nothing,” I’d respond.
Boys, of any age, would inevitably say, “Cool!” and walk away. Girls, however, would either be silent or say, “I’m sorry.” They would look down, ashamed to have brought up my imperfection. I hated feeling their pity for my flaw.
You know that sickening feeling like there’s something in your teeth? When no one is telling you, but everyone is looking at it? That’s how I felt about my scar. Even if people weren’t staring, I was worried they were. It would eat me up inside. I would feel horribly ugly – like I was the scar.
And then, one day, my parents took me aside and said, “Grace, if you are self-conscious about your scar, we can do something about it.”
My family has always been far from wealthy, so for them to offer this to me was huge. I sat there for a moment, dazed. Then, I allowed myself to consider the idea of me without a scar. For a brief second, I thought,
I would be so much more beautiful. I wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed anymore. I’d be free.
And, then, I started to really think about what that meant.
I had spent so much time hating that imperfect part of me that I hadn’t thought about how much it was me. How it made me unique – different from the world. I would lose my story, my battle wound. I’d suddenly be just like everyone else. I knew my answer, before I’d even finished thinking it through.
“No, Mom and Dad. I’m fine. Thanks, though.”
It is so easy to get caught up in our imperfections. We think how much better we could be without them. We so often forget our imperfections are what make us interesting. They are the stitches in the fabric of our life. They hold us together, perfect us, and make us different from every other person out there.
Maybe you don’t have a physical scar, maybe yours is emotional. We certainly have enough of those kinds of scars, don’t we? We hide them from the world, scared of how people might judge us if they saw them. What if we stopped hating those, too? What if we embraced them as a beautiful part of us? The signs of our strength. The signs of our maturity. The signs of a life fully lived.
I have decided my scars do not define me; they accentuate me.
This is why I love my scars.
Do you have scars that are hard to love? Leave a comment below.