a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
I used to be afraid of scarring.
My mom always told me not to pick at my pimples because that would only leave scars in the future, when my acne subsided. What she meant was that even though my face was less-than-presentable now, I could save my future self from having a permanently below-average face, riddled with scars.
She made it seem as if scarring was the worse thing that could happen, worse than my current state of acne—which had occupied both my cheeks, my forehead, and sometimes the tip of my nose, like it was the only the it wanted the world to see—because scarring was permanent. Because my future self would regret the mistakes my past self made. Because somehow, for some reason, my future self would be more fragile than my current self—and wouldn’t be able to bear having these scars on her face, even though my current self had to carry the weight of having more than 30 marks on her face that screamed “ugly” and “unworthy” to society.
My past self learned to deal with it, unbothered.
My past self also didn’t take my mother’s advice, and accidentally created a habit out of picking at her acne (serious advice though: don’t. Pick. At. Your. Acne. If. You. Can. Seriously. Don’t. Don’t fulfill this metaphor for the sake of validating your habits; I see you.).
In her mind, she somehow had the delusional idea that if she peeled away the top layer of skin, the pimple would shrink a little, and it would be a little less visible, and her face would be a little better—even though she knew for a fact that it didn’t work that way.
I think all of us pick at our pimples, instead of leaving them untouched, the healthy thing we’re supposed to do. We all find sneaky, improper ways to make things seem a little better. And we all delude ourselves into thinking that they do make things better, sometimes calling them “coping mechanisms” as validation.
The twelve hours of YouTube we binge in one day, because we think we deserve it since we have been feeling like shit lately. The one too many hours we stay up, not sleeping, crying into our pillows nonstop because we want to milk out as many tears as we can and reap all the sadness in this moment because this moment is supposed to be sad, and we need to acknowledge it because acknowledgment is a good thing, and so is crying, because in a strange, yet entirely human way, we like feeling sad. Or we sleep early, at 7pm right after dinner ends, because we know deep down we’re refusing to address pressing matters but that doesn’t matter because we’re sad and this needs to be validated and we need to address this sadness of ours by sleeping a shit ton, pretending as if when we wake up the next day, we will feel better.
Even though we know it won’t.
Even though we’ve been here before, and we know implementing these small hacks to temporarily suppress these problems, or pimples, are a complete waste of time.
But they become habits.
And once your sadness has been validated, once your plight, your struggles, your inability to get up and do anything besides wallow in pity has become real, once your habits have been established—now what?
The worse part is, all this time, as you go through your unchanging routines that slowly wears down your soul, there is a nagging tick in the back of your mind. A tick in the form of your mother’s voice, saying: “you’re creating scars right now.”
And that tears you down even further. Because you know it’s true.
And you know that if you don’t stop your bad habits now, NOW, the scars that form from this will drag down your future self—back into these established, confining structures.
You know you have to free yourself. Before it’s too late. And you know how: Step one, acknowledge your failed past; Step two, face the present; Step three, create your future from your current reality, not your internalized expectations.
You know all these ideals, which is great, but even still, there’s a distance between this mystical, all-healing game plan and your actions.
It’s because you’ve missed a step:
You forgot to bear your scars.
Recently, in a Dolan Twins video, Ethan detailed his journey from having intense, confidence-shattering acne, to healing his skin along with his self-worth. As a final statement to demonstrate his growth and triumph, he did photoshoot and posted the pictures to Instagram. He wanted the world to see him as he truly is, with full confidence and acne scars dotting his cheeks, no make up covering them. He wanted to convey that these scars are real, and normal, and although the having severe acne was debilitating at times, he’s no longer ashamed of these scars—they are meant to be normalized. He could learn to get used to them.
And I think that’s true for every one of us:
We get used to our scars.
Even if they are potentially permanent, even if they are debilitating, even if they hurt us every time we try to take a damn step forward— we will get used to having them. And once we do, our personal worlds will be better.
We can learn to shed off our shame and wear our scars as a part of us that’s real and normal, even though though we didn’t plan for it.
Our current reality consists of a thousand mini scars—traumas left from mistakes we made, hopelessness left from things we never did, bad habits left from efforts we never made. But we learn to keep going. Death does not occur by a thousand cuts— only scars do, and although they might not heal, they do not equate to death.
Our future selves are not fragile creatures that we need to coddle and protect, because with time, we will find a way, somehow, to fill in our current cracks and dents with structures that will not break.
So I’d like to revise my mother’s advice, because I don’t believe the worse thing that could happen is creating collateral damage that could potentially cripple us in the future. I think the worse thing lies in the present, because that’s the only place anything actually exists.
Scarring is not the problem; scars are.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.