It is not a secret that almost every girl, actually every person, wants to change something about their body. We all stand in front of the mirror and nitpick our reflection for a variety of reasons. As someone who competes in pageants, this feeling can be heightened when I am surrounded by amazing women who are beautiful both inside and out. For me, standing in front of a mirror went beyond looking at my waist and hips because I have seven surgery scars: three on each side of my body and a long one that runs from the bottom of my neck to my lower back. These dark, raised lines mark me as different, and originally, I didn’t like that.
In a world of Photoshop and edited social media pictures, you don’t see a lot of people with scars, and it made me self-conscious because scars don’t go along with the beauty standard. On top of their discoloration, I was also dealing with accepting a different body shape. My back scar comes from severe spinal fusion that took my spine with two harsh curves and corrected it into a relatively straight line. However, my spine still sits at an angle, and as a result, I have one hip that is higher than the other. My back surgery is a story on its own, but for this article, the point is all of its effects heightened my disdain towards my scars and body. My scars were now a reminder that my body was always going to be different, it never was going to look “normal,” and I hated that. Therefore, I wore clothes that hid my scars. In pageants, I made sure that between my gown’s design and hairstyle, none of my scars would be peaking or showcased because I wanted to look like everyone else; I believed that is what would make me feel beautiful.
I no longer hold the point of view the girl in the paragraph above did. What caused me to change my mind was truly a reflection of how grateful I should be to be alive. The reason I have so many surgery scars is because I have a rare genetic condition, known as Marfans. As a result, my connective tissue is stretchier than normal. This small genetic difference is what caused my spine to experience extreme scoliosis as well as my lungs to collapse five times. Over the course of two and a half years, I was in and out of the hospital for surgeries, procedures, and oxygen treatments. Some trips were easier than others. There were times where I just slept overnight in an oxygen mask then got to go back home, but there were other times when my body was fighting for my life. The night after my spine surgery, I stayed in the ICU because my blood pressure dropped dangerously low. After my last lung surgery, I couldn’t leave the hospital for 11 days because my lung wouldn’t stabilize, and they thought I would have to undergo another surgery. You don’t realize how scary those moments are until after you are outside the hospital, and it feels surreal looking back on them trying to remember the details and your emotions. These reflections are what made me realize that I should not hate my scars, but I should love them because they are a symbol that I am a fighter.
I now call my surgery scars my battle scars because I got them fighting for my health and my body won. I now don’t care if they are seen, and sometimes, I even try to show them off. Like I mentioned, scars in the beauty world are rare, you don’t see them often. I want to change that. I understand they’ll never be the norm, but I don’t want them to be considered “ugly” or “taboo.” I’m hoping that as I compete openly with my scars and share my story, I can encourage other girls to embrace their battle scars as well. I’m hoping that I inspire girls that have yet to go through medical journeys, so they know afterwards, they don’t have to be ashamed of their scars. I’m hoping to inspire the medical community as a whole to embrace our differences because beauty does not come from looking like everyone else, it comes from feeling confident in your authentic self.
Beauty standards are a social construct. They are a mental concept that can be torn apart. With my new perspective, I plan to leave my mark on them because everyone, no matter their body, can wear a crown (real or invisible) and feel gorgeous.