Adults With Scars: My Teenage Cutting Does Not Define Me
Raise your hand if you’re over the age of 18 and used to or still self-harm.
Keep it up if you’ve already graduated college.
Now keep it up if you’ve already started working.
My hand is up.
As a young professional, I am often judged not only on the quality of my work, but on my appearance. As a writer for an institute of higher education, appearances mean a lot when trying to climb the professional ladder. This is not something that I put much thought into when I was a sixteen-year-old girl who found comfort in cutting her arms.
I didn’t care about the scars that would remain permanently on my body. In the moment I was upset, naïve, and unaware of the lasting effects that self-harm leaves on people. Scars ignite guilt for some. Others see them as battle scars that tell tales of their past. I don’t really see them as anything.
With maturing came acceptance of my body. Even though I am most aware of my scars during job interviews or around family, I feel no reason to hide them when out in public. They are part of my body. They are not something I can fix. There is no amount of Mederma that can save them now. Having scars on my body is not like having excess fat, split ends in my hair, or blemishes on my face. They are sealed upon me and are there forever. So, I’ve come to wonder why I should be judged for them? It’s not like I can do anything about them now except cover up with clothes.
The way I see it, my scars are mere representations of my past. I have found it difficult to explain to my fellow colleagues that I used to cut but I have since recovered. I lost my first job out of college because one of my bosses saw my scars and confided that she was worried I may be unstable. I feel it is important to address that more and more adults entering the professional workforce will probably have scars and other mutilations from their past.
I know my generation is filled with former self-harmers, and now many of these recovered people are pursuing careers and starting families. Even years after I stopped cutting and I was studying English in college, I met others who were still suffering with self-mutilation while living adult lives.
Though it is never something you recover from, I believe that cutting is something you can put behind you. A new suit you wear to an important job interview can land you the job, but it can’t cover you forever. Should a boss have second thoughts about their employee if they catch a glimpse of their scars? Before they even knew about them, you were a perfect candidate for the position and had clearly put work into being eligible. Some employers may see it as false representation; others may think you’re trying to hide something. I think it’s completely unprofessional to assume someone is erratic just because they did something to their skin that you would never do.
I have a lot to say about cutting and why people do it. It isn’t something I should have to share in a professional work environment. I feel that if a boss really values your work and sees that you are a capable individual, the best step towards addressing visible scars is to just simply ask if that person is okay. Chances are they will tell you why they have scars, when they happened, and about their recovery, if they have since recovered. If this type of conversation sounds daunting, then the best we can do is keep them hidden for employment’s sake. We can strive for acceptance, but it may not always be attainable. That is the sad truth.
Based on the kind of reaction I would like to have, if you see an adult with scars, please try to refrain from judging them. And if you must ask about them, please be courteous, patient, and kind.
Written by Leah Moreno