Can You Get a Job with Self-Harm Scars?

November 11, 2021 Kim Berkley

Many people in recovery wonder, can you get a job with self-harm scars, or will your past always cast a shadow over your future? The truth is, while you can't erase the past, that doesn't mean you have to let it hold you back.

Yes, You Can Get a Job with Self-Harm Scars

If you're in the U.S., discrimination in the workplace (including during interviews) is illegal. If you live outside of the U.S., this may or may not be true for you as well; be sure to check your country's employment laws if you are unsure. But regardless of the legality of it, discrimination is wrong, and any employer worth working for will not use your self-harm scars as an excuse not to hire you.

Of course, the world isn't perfect. People aren't perfect. Some are prejudiced; others may strive not to be but may still harbor unconscious biases that may influence their decisions. So yes, you can get a job with self-harm scars, but it's important to recognize when you may need to cover your scars in order to do so.

Getting a 'Regular' Job with Self-Harm Scars

If you are looking for a more traditional work setting—a job you physically attend, either on a full or part-time basis on a regular schedule—I would suggest covering up your scars during the interview process. Long sleeves and pants or a skirt are, in most cases, seen as more "professional" anyway, so these are often a good option.

If you're not particular about what job you get, you might even consider focusing your search on positions that would likely require this type of attire—janitorial services, medical practices, and manufacturing jobs, for example, often require conservative dress codes or protective gear. If your scars reach beyond what clothes can cover, consider concealing your scars with makeup if you can.

Once you're through the interview process, assuming you get the job, you can use your best judgment to determine if and when to uncover your scars.

But maybe you can't cover up all of your scars, or maybe you don't want to. What then?

Other Strategies for Getting a Job with Self-Harm Scars

One option is to ignore the advice above and go for it anyway. If you really need a job, or if you're after your dream job, you shouldn't let me or anyone else hold you back from doing what you need to do. And the truth is, while covering your scars may be the safer option, you can get a job with self-harm scars, even if you don't hide them.

Discrimination laws aside, there's also the simple fact that not everyone is a jerk. Yes, there are a lot of them out there, but there are a lot of good people too, and I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of employment in general. So while some employers may allow stigma to influence their hiring decisions, not all of them will.

If, however, your scars do become an obstacle in your job search (even if, in a just world, they wouldn't), there is yet another avenue to consider: working from home.

Remote work is more prevalent than ever, and many businesses these days offer fully remote opportunities. Interviewing over video chat, rather than in person, may make it much easier for you to avoid showing your scars without necessarily worrying about covering them up with makeup or clothing. Or, if you choose to freelance, you may be able to avoid video calls altogether.

In my case, much of my freelance correspondence has been email-only, with a few exceptions requiring audio-only calls during the interview stage. I won't sugarcoat this; freelancing isn't easy, especially if you intend to rely on it as a primary source of income. But it's an option and one worth considering if your other options seem less than promising.

Have you gotten a job in spite of your self-harm scars? Let us know in the comments what your experience was like or if you have any ideas to make the interview process easier for others. And to those currently searching for work, I wish you the best of luck.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2021, November 11). Can You Get a Job with Self-Harm Scars?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

January, 21 2024 at 10:06 am

I’m in my 40’s now and have significant scaring across my entire body which occurred during my adolescence. I’m now also a qualified nurse and social worker. I have remained totally covered since my youth. I do not show my skin, even in summer. To remain cool, I search for materials to wear in summer, often looking to warmer climates for direction. When swimming, I’ll wear a long sleeve swim/ rash suit. This is mainly for my well-being as whilst there are laws in place to protect from discrimination, it still occurs and even if it’s not obvious, I can still feel threatened by the possibility of it. I’ve lived in the U.K. and Canada. I’d say the U.K. is better regarding discrimination laws, but by remaining covered i minimise the opportunity of being subjected to discrimination, and where I have had to disclose, such as my nurse training, i worked together with my uni and employer to find a solution. My advice is to build confidence and focus on developing skills that’ll improve confidence in what you decide to do I.e cover up or not. When I needed to disclose, the points I often made were gently centred around discrimination laws, but also that some religious groups remain covered so adaptions in the workplace shouldn’t be too difficult to abide by. Lastly. Go out there, and push for what it is you want. Self harm scars should not be a barrier to you living the life you want.

July, 19 2023 at 11:08 pm

my first day working at subway is tomorrow and i’m 15, i’m kind of nervous because I asked my manager if I could wear long sleeve under my work shirt (just a subway t shirt) and she said I could I would just have to roll it up. I have a lot of sh scars all over my arm and it’s definitely extremely noticeable, and they’re kinda dark and big and puffy so makeup doesn’t really cover them. I honestly don’t know what to do because I seriously can’t show them i’m definitely not ready for that. I’m still getting used to showing them around my own house so I know I won’t be able to handle it at a workplace in public yet, and my anxiety would be through the roof. I can’t wear bracelets or anything to cover them either because it’s not allowed. So yeah i’m really scared and idk I kind of want to cry right now cause my life is so stressful and this is making it worse. Besides that first day of work ever tomorrow yayyy?!

July, 27 2023 at 11:33 am

Hey, you alive? How was your first day/week? I'm in a similar situation to yours. Although I couldn't bring myself to apply to a job yet due to said reason. And where I live we also have to do a medical checkup, and I'm freaked out by doctors since one criticized my scars... Since then I assume everybody is a jerk, I wear long sleeves in the summer too, and that doesn't make my life any easier... I just wish I could take and handle criticism better. And maybe stop thinking that everybody is a jerk. Maybe.

May, 22 2023 at 9:15 pm

I'm trying to get a job as a lifeguard... yeah. I'm 15, so I don't have a lot of options. My parents encourage it, but I'm probably gonna have a panic attack in training.

August, 30 2022 at 7:12 am

Im working at a cashier and my coworker alway look at my arm and i dont like it and there also customer that look at it and im trying to hide them whit my jacket but sometime it get really warm and i have to take it off and that when people start looking at it

September, 12 2022 at 3:54 pm

Hi Makayla,
It sucks when people stare. I'm sorry you're having to deal with that. Some people are just curious, others are concerned, others are judgmental jerks not worth your time of day. Regardless of which of these you're stuck with at your job, you have two options: confront them (calmly, by asking them to please stop staring because it makes you uncomfortable) or learn to ignore it (easier if they're just looking but not saying anything). The jacket is a good idea, although I know from experience (living somewhere quite warm, myself) that long sleeves aren't always the best option. I've written a few posts about covering up if you'd like some more ideas:………
I hope that helps. If you have any further questions, comments, or concerns, reply here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be reading.

Eliza Whitlock
January, 16 2022 at 3:55 am

i’m writing a book, and one of my characters struggled with self harm in the past. her dream job is to be an astronaut— would her experiences with self-harm affect her getting chosen to be an astronaut (because of her needing good emotional stability etc?) just a thought.

January, 17 2022 at 12:34 pm

Hi Eliza,
That is an excellent question—one I'm unfortunately not really qualified to answer. A better person to ask would be a current or former NASA employee—maybe someone like an HR specialist? An actual astronaut, of course, would be ideal to talk to for a number of reasons, but I'm not sure how easy they are to reach. If nothing else, do lots of digging into online resources and maybe some books by astronauts and/or other NASA employees.
This page on the official NASA site also has some great links to check out if you haven't already:
(I would start with the "How to become an astronaut" link)
And this page as well:
I would imagine that mental health screenings play a role in the process, but I don't know for sure, or to what extent if they do. But I know being an astronaut can be an... intense... career in a lot of ways, and being in space for long periods of time can certainly mess with even the most resilient and stable people, so this is definitely an answer worth tracking down in detail if you want your book to be accurate.
I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful with this particular topic, but if you have any questions about self-harm, feel free to ask! Or if you have any writing-related questions (not necessarily related to self-harm), I also write fiction and always enjoy a good writing discussion. :) Here's my contact page if so:
In any case, I wish you the best of luck with your research and your book. Take care!

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