"Wrinkles mean you laughed. Gray hair means you cared. Scars mean you lived your life." — Anonymous
A lot of people come to me to open up about their life, and sooner or later, they share the things that have caused them pain. A divorce. Something someone said that cut deeply. A failed business venture. An investment that didn't pay off or a relationship that didn't work out.
These are what I sometimes refer to as invisible scars — something that you can't see but that's left a mark on someone. It's impossible not to have a few of these because if you've lived beyond a few years, you've experienced some struggle. No one gets through life without some suffering.
The work I have to do involves reframing what having a few scars that only we see really means. And not the physical scars we get from sports, accidents, cooking in my case (!) ... but the unseen ones that we hold close and perceive as flaws.
Here's how to reconsider the damage you might feel deep down in a more compassionate, objective way.
1. YOU TRIED SOMETHING — HECK, YOU WERE BRAVE!
The only way to experience life scar-free is to lie on a bed of cotton wool until you die. Screw that! So, what do your scars prove to you?
That you took a risk! What was it? Living in a new city? Working in a new industry? Believing a marriage would work out? It's better to be in the arena — actually living life — than "safe" on the sidelines. You don't regret-proof your life by doing nothing. You live regret-free by taking chances.
The fact you did something that resulted in a wound means that you let optimism rule over fear. You had the courage to dance with the unknown. Every parent, entrepreneur, and human welcoming progress and change understand courage. And that deserves credit, not criticism. Notice that people who fail to risk anything love to voice opinions too. Let them ... they can stay on the sidelines!
2. YOU SURVIVED. LET THIS GIVE YOU STRENGTH.
If you're reflecting on or talking about your scars, that means one thing: You're still alive! And what can that inspire in you as you forge ahead into a new year? Even if you have 9,793 scars, they haven't killed you, have they?
Sitting and meditating on what you've overcome can be the ultimate confidence booster if you let it. Ticking off 10 things that you've survived (even in the past 12 months) on a piece of paper will remind you who the heck you are. It can also remind you that you have a history with the universe. And that you are supported. This can give you major peace and power.
Bonus action: Poke fun at your wounds and the experience you endured. This totally disempowers them! Like, Getting fired??? Is that all you got??! or Those tears over that loser ex? What?! That was no big deal!
Who said rockin' some scar tissue can't be fun?
3. YOU KNOW BETTER.
Scars work as a useful reminder of what we've learned the hard way. If you've been burned once, you'll know how to treat the next fire that comes your way and you're less likely to repeat the same mistake(s).
Scars also show you how to be present by appreciating where you are right now. You can even use them to help others going through pain you've endured because you've come out the other end. Sometimes we need living, breathing survivors to show us the way.
So don't be ashamed of yours. They've made you you. And remember: An easy life doesn't make anyone strong or interesting or wise.