How to Talk About Scars

Happy mother talking to her daughter at home.

Whether you’re proud, ashamed, self-conscious or indifferent about your scars, everybody’s got a story to tell. Prominent scars on exposed areas of the body such as the face, arms or legs inevitably lead to questions.  Kids especially aren’t afraid to inquire about anything they don’t understand or that seems different. So how can you handle those questions when they are asked?

Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

This depends on your unique situation and who is asking.  For example, if your 5-year old niece asks about the self-harm scars on your arm, some redirection or creative interpretation may be in order, for obvious reasons.  On the other hand, if you are asked by a mature adult whom you feel comfortable with, you may choose to be more candid. What you ultimately decide to share about those scars is your call, but often times a quick version of the truth without painful details feels better in the long run than an outright lie.  Again, this is a personal choice with no right or wrong answer.  You may even choose to politely let the person asking know that you would rather not discuss it.  You can always bring the subject up again later on your own terms.

If your scar is from a car accident, happened at birth, occurred in childhood after a fall from a tree, or through a heroic tale of saving someone from a burning fire, for example, you may be more than willing to talk about it.  Keep the details limited when speaking to children, but be upfront and honest. While kids can appear quite curious and precocious, they often just want the truth and many times handle that truth with poise.

Self-Injury Scars

As noted above, these scars are among the more psychologically sensitive and can be very difficult to talk about. Here are some tips from Healthy Place that may help. You will likely find that people will embrace your honesty and show empathy for your situation.

  • Focus on the feelings: Remember, the physical scars left behind aren’t the most important thing here; the emotions that drove you to do it are. People identify with emotions and can feel for your situation through your story.
  • Seek understanding and support: Rather than simply mumble something about self-harming, take ownership of those scars and tell the story behind self-harm injuries and why people do it. Provide them with a website, support group or book to check out on their own to learn more about self-harm. Spreading awareness is key in your recovery.
  • Communicate in a comfortable way: If face to face isn’t something you’re ready to do right now, try email or write a letter to convey your thoughts, sharing only what you’re comfortable with to start. This will naturally lead to a face to face conversation, acting as a buffer.
  • Allow time for acceptance: It can be hard to process the information they’ve been given, so allow the recipient time to accept what you’re saying. It can be devastating to learn that someone they love has been hurting themselves on purpose all this time

Hopefully the above tips will help next time you are asked to talk about your scar.  In the meantime, if the visibility of your scar bothers you, you should know there are things you can do to improve its appearance.  This may include simple non-surgical treatment using a proven topical scar gel like Scarfade or in more dramatic cases it may include medical treatment or surgery.  Either way, stay positive and be strong.  It is hard to move forward when you are looking back.