How to Look at Scars

Photograph by Antonella Orlotti Rocha

© Copyright 2018 Antonella Orlotti Rocha, Ryerson University.

Scars are known as imperfections by society, especially in present times when it is so easy to photoshop or cover up any marks not deemed beautiful. Skin is meant to be smooth and blemish free in both photos and everyday life when we present ourselves to the world using make up or long sleeves to cover them, especially for women. The stigma against scars make people cover up and pretend they are just as perfect as the next person, despite no one being able to go through life without physical wounds, even as small as a paper cut. Scars carry history in them and value when looked at with eyes that are not judging but instead curious.

To look at scars from a perspective outside of an obsession with perfection, blending in, or beauty, is to challenge exactly what scars can mean and the value scars can have. Scars on the hands can be imprints of hard manual work, on the knees can be old playground wounds, the arms with the scratch marks of your lovable but grumpy cat, the healed over piercing in an ear the sign of regret, or even just a mark of survival and struggle. Scars don’t need to be looked at as something beautiful, but these marks on the body should be acknowledged instead of looked at as ugly and dismissed. A lot of scars may not have meanings, or reason behind them outside of clumsiness, but sometimes they can be the body telling a story long after it has happened. When you look at a scar other than as something to hide, you can find the value in them. In the above picture is a photo of a scar on my neck, and while it is faint now, it carries a reminder of an accident over seventeen years ago. It might not look like much now, but I’m sure if you were to ask my parents about that wound it would suddenly have a deeper meaning other than marring my skin and standing out.

Remnants of our childhoods follow us as we age; scuffles, sports, and fights leaving us with battle scars that at the time were just a mark of our bravery in jumping off the slide, the argument with a classmate, or our foolishness when attempting a dare. At that young age scars mean nothing other than proof of your actions and a lingering sense of pride. When we age, the scars we gain on the face seem more obvious; frown lines around the mouth, laugh lines around the eyes, forehead creases from worries. Instead of taking it as a mark of pride as we would have when we were younger, beauty and appearance take importance over the stories our bodies can tell. No longer do we compare our knees for how rough we played as kids or ask each other what fascinating story is left forever imprinted on our bodies.

We should find the time again to look over how far we’ve come, see how our bodies carries some of our experiences on it, written like a hidden language that you must ask to be deciphered. Compare foolish stories from your childhood, reminiscence on the crazy circumstance that almost cost you your eye but left you with a reminder for the future you instead. Some people don’t want to show or share their difficult stories behind their scars, but no one should be ashamed of having proof on their skin of the life they’ve led and how scars as a statement of the body to show we are still here despite it all.
Works Cited

Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.