We’re all living with scars.
Some are visible…others are hidden. And it’s the hidden scars that can cause the greatest pain in our lives…but it doesn’t have to be that way.
You don’t have to deny the experience of the pain or the presence of the scar. You simply have to give yourself permission to share with someone who can help you heal.
Think of it this way: if you cut yourself badly enough you go to a surgeon to stitch up the wound – the bleeding stops and eventually, the pain subsides. All that’s left is the memory of the moments that led up to that painful experience…that, and a visible scar. But you don’t look at the scar and physically re-experience the pain of slicing a carving knife through your finger, do you?
We have all suffered emotional cuts and bruises and, when triggered, we viscerally re-experience the emotions when the wound isn’t healed properly…
So why don’t we go to someone who can stitch us up?
The walking wounded, the scarred, and the scared.
How many times have you been part of a conversation in which you start comparing your scars?
“I got this one mountain biking when I caught a snag on the trail.”
“I got this one when they fixed my rotator cuff after that playoff game.”
“I got this one when I broke my shin skiing.”
If you’re living with scars like these, you can almost brag about them – they’re evidence of your life’s activities and they don’t impact your sense of self-worth among your peers.
But how often do you hear…
“I got this one when I got fired from my job.”
“I got this one when my wife left me.”
“I got this one growing up in a verbally abusive home.”
Never, I’d imagine. Because those hidden, emotional scars are often a source of needless shame – so they’re not discussed. And, unlike the physical scars, the mental scars do have an impact on your sense of self-worth among your peers. They make it difficult for you to have healthy relationships with your family, your friends, and your colleagues.
That’s why it’s so important to find a committed listener, someone who can help you expose and redefine those scars.
Are they scars that limit your future…or times you were forced to grow?
Rather than thinking of your emotional scars only as evidence of pain, look at them as metaphorical and psychological reminders of those memories and challenges. They’ve stretched you to fully experience life as it happens – good or bad, positive or negative, challenging or inspiring.
Keep in mind, your scars don’t have to involve abuse or neglect. They could be the shadow of a dream or aspiration you abandoned – or feel you were forced to abandon – but still carry in your heart and soul. Regrets can wound you and leave scars, as well.
Our life gives experiences to us. It’s up to us how to frame them. I once heard someone say,
“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Capture the good times. And if things don’t work out, just take another shot.”
Personal and spiritual development is a process. You can either just let happen and be an observer, or you can be more purposeful in your personal exploration…be a participant in the unfolding or emergence of your being.
This will mean getting naked.
Show your scars…get emotionally naked.
Getting emotionally naked takes bravery…and trust in your confidante. You may turn to a therapist, life coach, spiritual director, minister, or best friend. There’s also a real opportunity to nurture a few relationships with those you love and trust most where you can be real.
Whoever you chose, if you’re living with scars that just haven’t healed, you need a place of trust where you can be comfortable in your skin.
Being comfortable in your own skin means to be satisfied with yourself. Often, in American culture, and certainly for women, this is interpreted in terms of appearance. However, true satisfaction and self-esteem reflect your ability to cope with whatever challenges life has for you. – Rosenya Faith
In my career as a psychologist, I found myself helping people complete “unfinished business” – Gestalt theory and Fritz Perls. This can be freeing. But the goal was to help them find safe spaces and relationships in the real world where they could be totally revealing when they needed to…when they needed to be truthful about a deep feeling, old hurts, trauma, grief, and loss.
As a life and wellness coach, I am more inclined to give people a sacred space in our conversations to reveal those parts of themselves that are unfulfilled, unrevealed, unrealized, and often unspoken outside of their own psyche.
This will mean revealing your emotional scars. But like the physical ones, they can be healed, allowing you to move forward in your life with purpose, vision, and confidence. You can be comfortable in your skin.
If you’d like to get a more in-depth perspective, you can check out my book, Getting Naked: On Being Emotionally Transparent at the Right Time, the Right Place, with the Right Person.
Or contact me and we can start a conversation about living an authentic life.
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This article was originally published in 2017 but has been updated in June 2020.