My self harm scars, and why I’m lucky

Trigger warning: discussion of self harm, scars, & feelings around them.

I self harmed for several years. I started after my Dad’s death, a way to cope with the overwhelming emotions I guess. Even after I stopped a few years later, I would still fall back into that unhealthy coping mechanism in times of crisis. When everything got too much it was my go to way to deal.

It’s been a long time since I last self harmed. It is now very rare that it even occurs to me as an option. But of course I do still have the scars, and it is that that I’ve been pondering over lately. How I feel about them.

I spent some time on Pinterest checking out semicolon tattoos, inspired by Project Semicolon, and how other people had incorporated the semicolon into tattoos to either hide their scars, or to turn them into something inspiring & beautiful.

The narrative seems to be that we should be ashamed of our scars, especially self inflicted ones. They are ‘bad,’ a reminder of our pain, our ‘poor ways of coping,’ or just a reminder that we are ‘different.’ For a while I felt like I should get a tattoo over them, something like ‘warr;or’ in a nice script, something that I would see whenever I saw my scars & be reminded that I am still fighting, and that I am strong.

Then it dawned on me that that wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t what I needed. My scars don’t upset me, they don’t trigger me, I don’t look at them and feel weak, or ashamed, or different, or anything. I know that makes me lucky. I know that isn’t the case for a lot of people though, for various reasons.

My self harm scars aren’t especially obvious. I see them everyday because I know they’re there, maybe other people spot them occasionally if we’re in close contact & I’ve got short sleeves on, but for me they’re just part of who I am, and I’m ok with that.

I guess, for someone who cares and worries so much about what other people think of her, it’s odd that I’m not self conscious about them. I’m sure there are some people who would make judgements about the kind of person I am purely based on the fact they saw some scars on me, and if someone voiced one of those judgements to me, maybe I would become self conscious of them & start hating them. But up til now, no one has passed comment, and why should they?

For me, my self harm scars just are. I don’t love them, I don’t hate of them. I’m not proud of them, but I’m not ashamed of them.

And honestly, if anyone does want to make a judgement about me because I have those scars, I’d point them to Jeannette Walls who wrote

The scar meant that I was stronger than whatever had tried to hurt me

If you have self harm scars, I’d be interested to hear how you feel about them and what they mean to you.


  1. Sheri

    In the beginning, when they were more noticeable, I lied about them. I was self-conscious and ashamed but always lived in a warm climate so long sleeves weren’t a comfortable option. Some are places no one can see, and those have faded so that I don’t even think about them. The others have faded some, and I can’t remember the last time someone asked me about them. I suppose if the subject came up at this stage in my life, I would be honest. Perhaps the person asking has hidden scars of their own, and it might be a way of making a connection. I no longer feel shame, most of the time. Sometimes I feel anger towards myself, which comes from being angry about all the “stupid” things I’ve done in the past. I know, that’s not how I’m supposed to look at it, and most of the time I’m kinder to myself. It’s just on those days that I’m not feeling ok, when that snowball effect of self-hatred takes over. It’s interesting this came up because I wore short sleeves for the first time this season yesterday and was thinking about how far I’ve come since I last self-harmed.

    1. Mrs TeePot

      I can totally understand how & why it’s harder to be accepting of them when you’re struggling with other issues. It’s great that most of the time you’re being kind to yourself though, and even better that you’re looking at how far you’ve come.

  2. Jill

    I’m working on understanding why I feel pride when I look at them.

    1. Mrs TeePot

      That sounds like a valuable thing to think about. Could it relate to knowing what you have overcome or what you have survived?
      It’s so complex, the relationships we have with the physical reminders of our mental illness & traumas.

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