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Why I Stopped Hiding My Self-Harm Scars

April 25, 2018 Kayla Chang

Kayla Chang, author of the blog 'Speaking Out About Self-Injury,' discusses why she chose to stop hiding her self-harm scars and what happened afterward.

I stopped hiding my self-harm scars so I could feel free. Let me explain: self-harm insists on making its history known. It leaves evidence of itself on your skin in marks both faint and bold and in times of both struggle and recovery. These self-harm scars can make you self-conscious, remind you of a painful past, and draw unwanted attention. The common impulse among self-harmers and those with a history of self-harm is to hide them. But hiding self-harm scars, for me, just never felt like freedom.

 

Hiding self-harm scars is understandable. For years I hid behind sleeves, wristbands, crew socks, pants, and even chunky jewelry. For years I tried every brand of scar cream I could find, and when that didn’t work, every makeup product matching my skin tone. I had a catalog of lies about my self-harm scars running through my head at all times: which lie I told to whom, and when, and to what extent.

At a certain point, it had to stop. As time went on I started to question whether all the effort toward hiding my self-harm scars was even worth it. Who and what was hiding my self-harm scars really serving?

Hiding Self-Harm Scars Risks and Consequences

Hiding self-harm scars reinforces a toxic sort of secrecy. Self-harm itself is already a toxic, furtive act and hiding it only causes that toxicity to fester. The more you try to hide it, the larger it looms.

The constant lies drive a wedge between you and the people you care about. The lies make you live in fear of exposure to the people around you — that is, it makes you live in fear of the people around you. You are withholding a big part of yourself from them and it will make you feel like a fraud.

Psychologically, you start to view the scars — which are now a part of you regardless of how you feel about them — as something shameful. When you live in shame of any part of you, you are living in shame, period. This shame will only strengthen the forces that drove you to self-harm in the first place (Causes of Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Self-Mutilation).

Hiding Self-Harm Scars and Recovery

This is the single most important reason to stop hiding your self-harm scars: hiding them inhibits your self-harm recovery. All of these things — the lies, the fear, the shame, the obsessiveness — keep you stuck in a part of your life that you may otherwise be able to move on from.

For some (as it was for me), exposing your self-harm scars may be the very thing that starts you on a path toward receiving professional help. For others, it may be a way of finding a life and identity beyond self-harm.

Exposing your scars is not a denial of them or your experiences. Exposing your self-harm scars is the ultimate act of self-acceptance. And self-acceptance allows you to move on.

APA Reference
Chang, K. (2018, April 25). Why I Stopped Hiding My Self-Harm Scars, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2018/04/why-i-stopped-hiding-my-self-harm-scars



Author: Kayla Chang

You can find Kayla on Google+.

Beth
September, 16 2021 at 11:41 am

I am hoping to get to the place where I don't put makeup on my arms anymore. I have many round flat white scars and some purple ones from skin picking, an OCD condition called Dermatillomania. It's embarrassing and disgusting but I am just so sick of feeling this shame. The makeup doesn't even cover it all up (I use Dermablend) and my skin feels "icky" all the time. Plus I get it all over the inside of my car, my clothes, sheets, etc. I slowly started to realize how free and nice it feels to not have the coverup on. So today, I am taking a big step and not wearing any makeup. I'm not sure what I'll wear, I might still wear a long sleeved blouse, but baby steps, right? I just want to get to the point where I can handle the stares and looks of disgust. That is what I am most fearful of. But I can't keep living like this, it's horrible. Your article has given me hope that I can be "normal" again. I am also going to see a dermatalogist to see if there is anything they can do to at least fade things a bit. I won't lie, I'm scared but I am not going to give up!

October, 13 2021 at 10:14 am

Hi Beth,
I'm not the author of this particular post but I'm glad you found it helpful. As someone who also struggles with skin picking (although mine is less visible than yours; I only pick around the edges of my fingers and the bottoms of my feet), I can empathize with where you're coming from and I'm glad you feel able to ditch the makeup and take those small but important steps toward living the way you want to live, without letting your scars dictate your decisions. I'm not sure how noticeable your scars actually are, but in my experience, no one finds the details of your body quite as noticeable as you do—it may be that your scars will draw less attention than you think. But even if that is not the case, if someone does look at you with disgust, know that that is more a reflection of their own flaws than your own. Scars aren't disgusting; they are a reminder that we are alive, and capable of healing.
I wish you all the best in your recovery journey!
Kim

M
October, 11 2019 at 9:51 pm

I like this concept, however I don't know if can app,y to everyone. I'm 31. Almost finished my professional qualification in social work. I have to hide my scars (mainly on arms) as they are extensive, I thi k that due to social pressures and career choice i will always have them keep them covered. I don't think that I'll ever be able to not hide my scars especially in public, but maybe when I'm at home I could not cover them but I live in shared housing so that's awkward

July, 31 2019 at 11:27 am

Hi Melissa,
I'm very sorry about what you're going through. I hope one day you'll find yourself able to accept your scars and make peace with your past.
All the best,
Kayla

Melissa
July, 27 2019 at 12:08 am

I can't hide mine. I disfigured my face. I can't afford plastic surgery. I am basically suicidal. Don't tell me to get treatment. Tired of the comments. Even my mother when she was alive said i was ugly. Now at 45 it's worse than at 17. I don't mutilate anymore but damage is done. Puckered, sagging , discolored scars. I have done collegan injections, lasers, ect. I am happy that you are able to be ok with it. Guess I'm vain but daily life has become exhausting. I do yoga, meditate but still no peace. Sleep is my friend. Hiding behind hair. But it causes breakouts haha.

Mirka Cihlar
May, 1 2018 at 7:51 pm

I like what I'm reading in your piece&what's more,this topic is near and dear to my heart,even totally painful,though.

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