I have scars… I have terrible scars.

I have lived embarrassed by them, and ashamed of their presence. So, they became my secret… my private shame. Not only did I hate them, they were also painful reminders of my childhood, the surgeries, and the sneers.

As a young girl, my shame and the hatred of my scars consumed me, shaped and manipulated how I saw myself and at 14 years old I attempted suicide.

After that, I decided It would be better to hide them from everyone, anyone. So I became skilled at covering and concealing my scars, hiding my truth, proficient at pretending… yet underneath I had a private reality, and that reality was ugly.

I learned to put up a facade, an untrue image for the world to see, yet lived in fear that I might be exposed… So, I protected myself from the rejection I knew that would come if my ugliness was ever revealed.

Then I realized, my scars not only marked me physically, but have become a terrible mark on my soul, both spiritually and emotionally.

I got tired of the facade, living in a shadow, hiding who I really am, carrying the shame of my truth. So, I did it. I stopped hiding. I let down the cover and became real.
I have never felt so free, so liberated. Suddenly, by scars weren’t ugly to me, but a part of my story, a part of my life. I began to see my scars as beautiful for what they represent in me.

For the first time, I wasn’t defined in my heart by my scars. For the first time, I was more than my scars. Because my actual truth, who I really am is a daughter, a wife, a friend, a mother. I am a woman who knows the love of a man, who saw my scars and didn’t leave or turn away, but reached down and kissed them… because he loved me, all of me.

I am a woman who has loved so deeply, beyond what I thought my heart could hold, transformed by the moment I first held my son and then my daughter.

I am not the only one who has scars.

See, I know firsthand how deeply our scars can mar us. They can affect everything we do, how we interact, and more importantly how we feel about our self. Yet, I have learned that it was me who labeled myself ugly. It was me who rejected myself before I ever was rejected by anyone else.

I have learned that I could be loved not in spite of my scars, but with my scars, and even because of my scars. I have learned that I could love myself and see that my scars reveal not my shame, but that I survived and lived. My beauty is my heart, my faith, my resilience, my failures and my victories. My beauty is my perfection and my imperfection, because each is part of that authentic me.

I am scarred beautiful. My scars to me now are no longer a vision of the hurt of painful procedures, but a beautiful symbol that the sickness that intended to destroy me didn’t and my scars are proof that I survived.

Looking back I remember being in my hospital bed and the pain being so great that I left… like my spirit left and I could literally see myself lying below. I used to think, how tragic that was. But then this realization came to my heart that that was God. He took my spirit in His arms, allowed me to leave the agony of my pain, and held me against His heart. He showed me how He touched my terrible wounds, He sealed them and today I no longer have the mark of cancer, but I have the mark of one who is healed.

I am grateful for each scar, because my scars were the catalyst to my humility and my victory. I’m grateful for every failure that taught me to get back up and try again, each lesson and changed perspective. Ultimately I have learned to love me, to appreciate the unique and unmatchable me… scars and all. I have learned to be able to live in my own skin, and that is beautiful.

I know I am not the only person who has wounds. It is this reason I share my story.

Each of us battle scars, those that are physical and those that we hold in our hearts. The truth is, our scars can score us, change us, damage us, and even describe us… but we can also see our scars as the symbol of having lived, survived, that we grew, and that we loved, and have been loved.

Scarred Beautiful is not just about my story. It is our story. Each of us have some type of scar. Some may be self-induced and some moments when we were victims. Yet it is possible to find beauty in our scars, to allow our scars to represent our victory, the fact that we learned, we overcame and healed. Together we can see our scars as God sees them, we can recognize that our scars are our beautiful and what is more powerful, it is through our scars we can offer hope to those who need healing too.

-Andrea Casteel Smith, author of Scarred Beautiful