Not Hiding Self-Harm Scars Is an Option
Not hiding self-harm scars can be a tough decision. When someone sees a self-harm scar and brings it up, panic often takes over the body and mind of the person who self-harms. Battling the embarrassment that comes with someone questioning a visible scar from self-harm can often bring forward many negative emotions and anxiety. From there, the battle becomes you fighting against your own insecurities. But not hiding self-harm scars is an option.
Those who are truly suffering with self-harm often do not openly discuss their struggles or show their self-harm scars to just anyone. Finding confidence and the ability to love one’s body can be extremely difficult when someone’s skin is covered in scars. I’ve discussed in previous blog entries the difficulty many have when facing their self-injury scars and it often takes a lot of makeup, bracelets and extra clothing to find some sort of security and comfort.
Wanting to Hide Self-Harm Scars
Ever since my days of self-harm, I have always worn bracelets on both arms. Even though it’s been over six years since I intentionally self-harmed, I have never felt comfortable without at least one bracelet on each arm. Recently, I have found myself oddly comfortable not wearing as many bracelets and occasionally with a bare wrist.
The fact that I do not go into complete panic mode because of this is a step in a positive direction.
Many people have behaviors they grow so accustomed to that when they have to be changed, that change frightens them. These can go from wearing a certain hairstyle to even going into a different bathroom stall at work or school. You go with what you are used to and what you find comfort in. Bracelets were what I used to cover my self-harm scars and I found comfort in them even years after my self-harm had stopped.
How About Not Hiding Your Self-Harm Scars?
Below are some possibilities on how to begin freeing your skin that’s scarred from self-harm. These are some ways that have helped me gain comfort in not needing numerous bracelets on each arm at a time. However, this kind of comfort is a process and definitely takes time. Here are some times on not hiding self-harm scars:
- Alone time: The best time to test your comfort is when you are alone. After work or school, take your bracelets off or take off the makeup that is covering your marks and make it the rest of the night without feeling the need to cover yourself up – embrace your body.
- During exercise: While some may expect people not to wear jewelry or long sleeves when working out, those who self-harm may continue to cover their scars. For the duration of exercise, try freeing your arms and allowing your insecurities to sweat away.
- One day a week: I once wrote about Free Your Wrists Friday and how those trying to overcome self-harm should take one day to allow their skin to breathe. Give yourself one day (Friday, or any day) to go without makeup, bracelets or excess clothing covering your marks.
No matter what you do, none of the above suggestions will be easy. However, over time, you will see and feel a positive change by not hiding self-harm scars.
Aline, J. (2015, March 21). Not Hiding Self-Harm Scars Is an Option, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, October 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2015/03/ways-to-feel-secure-in-scarred-skin
Author: Jennifer Aline Graham
My scars are on my legs, mostly higher on my thighs but the most recents one’s are on my lower legs near my ankles. I’ve been self harm free for about 6 months (since September). I feel very strongly that I don’t want to hide my scars because I want to be able to help others if they need it, but I don’t know if showing them would be considered unprofessional.
Thanks so much for your comment. I think it's a wonderful thing to want to use your own experiences to help others, and I think it's smart to ask questions like this. Personally, I don't think it's unprofessional, and I wouldn't want you to have to work for anyone who would think less of you for not covering your scars.
However, I know that we don't always have the luxury of choosing a good place to work right away, or who we work with. Whether or not your colleagues, your boss, or your clients will think it's unprofessional depends on them—I unfortunately can't tell you what they'll think or how they'll react. Some people are more understanding and empathetic than others; that's just how it is.
What I can tell you is that there is nothing wrong with not covering your scars, and there is no professional reason that they would be able to give you why you can't. (I'm assuming your scars won't interfere with your ability to do your job, so as far as I know you can't be fired just for showing them, if that's something you've been worried about.) If they do react poorly to your scars, that says much more (and much worse things) about them than it does about you. However, it can make for an uncomfortable work environment if you know they disapprove, even if they stay professional about it—so just keep that in mind if you do decide not to hide them.
In short—it's complicated. There's no guarantee how things will go. But I think your choice not to hide your scars is a positive one, and I hope you are able to work with people who can at least understand that.
I always wear long sleeve shirts wherever I go. Very seldom do I roll up my sleeves. I am a recovering drug addict as well, and one of the only places I feel comfortable enough not to hide my scars is in a NA meeting or around my NA sponsor. My family has no idea that I self harm, nor do I want them to know. Sometimes I don't even wear t-shirts when I'm alone, there are times that I'm ok with my scars, but usually the sight of them makes me sad and angry at myself and it can be a bad trigger for me to look at my arms. I am still not sure what a lot of my triggers are, just that my ptsd has a lot to do with it. I am hopeful that I can someday be ok with my scars and not feel ashamed all of the time. Until then I am glad I live in Alaska so wearing long sleeves and sweatshirts all the time isn't that unusual.
I burn my wrist area and do wear bracelets, not to hide scars but to stretch and snap them on the burns to get the pain again. I actually want people to see my reality. Whether they say anything or not I really don't care much. It's a part of me. Don't like it, well then, you know where to go.
a few years ago I tried wearing short sleeves and I immediately regret it. I've never been a outgoing person I was the shy girl. So that same day I was ready to be free of all the extra clothes so it was okay in the beginning as I went through my day some girl noticed I didn't have a chance to say anything before she left. That whole school year she would always make negative comment. By then I went back to long sleeves. After that experience I've never felt safe showing my skin. 2 years had past and I was a sophomore in high school and I had pe with one of my best friends. I felt scared that she would see my scares. The day we were assigned to dress out she said she had to show me something. She showed me her self harm scars and told me not to hate her. I just told her that I could never hate her for that because I knew how it felt. She was so glad I didn't freak out. After that I felt better about wearing short sleeves but only with her. I'm slowly building up my confidence and finally wore a dress with nothing covering my arm. I felt scared but free at the same time.
It has been a couple of years since I've last harmed - but been close. I do not cover my scars, they are very obvious, large and ugly. Going about my life, at work (dealing with public) people sometimes remark on them. Those that know what they are mostly have compassion - and if people have bad attitudes, I give them a similar reply. But what I do find is that not being ashamed of the battles I have endured has opened the door for others who are still in the midst of the battles, to reach out to someone. To find hope, to overcome.
It's harder when the cuts are recent! I used to always cover my arms, but when I stopped cutting it was easier to wear short sleeves, i felt it was my past and I was better now. But now that I am cutting again I could not imagine wearing anything where people could see the cuts! With spring/summer coming up I'm worried about having to wear long sleeves all the time!
I have been wearing short sleeves in public for a number of years and finally felt comfortable doing it (most of the time). But all winter I wore long sleeves, and I lost that comfortableness. On a warm day I switched to short sleeves and felt very self conscious. I will have to get used to it again.