Beauty Marks: Scars, Bruises, and Self Image

Being fair-skinned and occasionally coordination-challenged means that I have always been quick to bruise. As a kid, black and blue blemishes on my shins and elbows served as constant evidence of having a good time. My knees were perpetually red for years after multiple run-ins with mailboxes while attempting to ride my bike, and though I never got into fisticuffs, or even so much as a slap-fight, with anyone, I still managed to wind up with a black eye one time when I tumbled face-first into the wooden edging of a planter in the front yard.

Being on blood-thinner medication has not exactly improved this facet of my existence. I bruise now more than ever — more frequently and more noticeably. The boo-boos of my youth were largely trifling things, minuscule spots that came and went in a day or so. Now, if I so much as sit cross-legged on a tile floor for too long, I risk bruises the size of my palms on my feet (if my INR happens to be on the high side of my range). Catching the corner of the bathroom counter with my knee means two to three weeks of a very black, very blue kneecap which no amount of cheap makeup can hide. And then, of course, there are the surgery scars, which still haven’t gone away.

It would be so easy, at this point of my story, to toss out a couple of heavy-handed cliches about how time heals all wounds and real beauty is on the inside. And it would be so nice to be able to say that I have made peace with my body, that I have risen above all modern conceptions of beauty and can now look at myself in the mirror without an ounce of judgment or a modicum of dissatisfaction.

But I will not, and I haven’t. The truth is, I still sometimes apply a little extra makeup to lighten the visible bits of my scars before walking out the door. I admit that I have had days where I ruefully returned a beloved dress or skirt I’d been dying to wear to my closet, switching it out instead for a reliable old pair of jeans because I was too painfully aware of how obvious and nasty-looking the latest bruise on my leg appeared to be that day.

Photo (c) Kim Berkley 2016

One of my weirder bruises, on my upper thigh. Still not sure what caused it, but it was about 6″ at its widest.

If previous entries have not already made this point obvious, I am not by any means a pinnacle of self-acceptance and inner peace. But I do try, and I do believe I am getting better. What follows, therefore, is not a prescription for a cure, but rather a list of tools which may or may not help other lasses (and lads!) who, like me, may be struggling a bit with post-surgery self-image concerns. Think of these as sticky notes to be posted in the dark corners of your mind for reviewing on bad days, to remind you that, after all, things maybe aren’t so bad as they seem.

  • Scars (and bruises) eventually fade. As I mentioned, my scars aren’t gone, but they are growing fainter as time goes on. Similarly, while my bruises may last longer than they used to, they do always go away at some point or another. Even the worst wounds generally heal with time.
  • Cover-up is not a crime, but it is not the cure, either. Whether you choose to wear your war wounds openly is up to you. No matter who you are, there is no shame in wearing makeup (or accessories, or certain clothes) to alter your appearance to your liking if you prefer to shift focus away from your bumps and bruises, whether for a special night or on a more regular basis. (Though many, including myself, will point out that natural beauty is often the most lovely of all.) The trick is to make sure that, if you do wear something to cover up, you’re wearing it as armor, not a crutch. In other words, don’t depend on makeup or fashion as the source of your good looks; these things are meant only to enhance, not to replace.*
Photo (c) Kim Berkley 2012-2016

*Unless it’s Halloween. If it’s Halloween, there are only two options: go big, or go home. (And yes, those scars are fake.)

  • You are not your body. You are more than the sum of your physical parts. Is this a fancy way of saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Perhaps. That doesn’t make it any less true. The measure of a person is not found in their body measurements. Whether you consider yourself an attractive person or not should not depend solely on your physical appearance. You are more than just a sack of meat strung up on sinews and bones. You are a human being, and the definition of what makes you “you” should be much more complex than merely a superficial description of what you look like.
  • Scars and bruises signal strength, not weakness. This, by far, is the toughest point for me. My bruises still make me feel frustratingly fragile, because they remind me that cuts and injuries are bigger deals for me now than before I was on anticoagulant therapy. However, what I (and you, dear reader) have to remember is this: even heroes get the crap beat out of them. By the end of most battles, they’re at least bleeding a little, if not broken-boned and bedridden. And you know what? When they sustained those injuries, they didn’t stop to wonder whether they still looked good with a black eye. They were too busy getting back on their feet for round two.

Finally, I ask you to remember this: the opinion which matters most is your own. You decide who you want to be and how you want to see and present yourself. Above all, love yourself. I know how cheesy it sounds, and how awkward it may feel to try if you are unused to your own affection. Trust me, I have been there (and back again). But February the 14th is all about love, or at least it should be, and so in the spirit of that ideal, please, be kind to yourself. Be loving. Be forgiving, and be supportive. Because, at the end of the day, the one person who must always be there for you — through rain and shine, thick and thin, sickness and health, and everything in between — is you.

Photo (c) Kim Berkley 2016


Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you’ve got tips for dealing with post-surgery scars and anticoagulation-related bruising, theories on constructing (or deconstructing) one’s self-image, or just some well-meant musings on love, life, and valentines, please feel free to leave a comment below or send some feedback my way via the form on the “Contact” page. Also, if you like this blog or enjoyed this article, please don’t hesitate to like, share, and subscribe!

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2 thoughts on “Beauty Marks: Scars, Bruises, and Self Image

  1. Sounds to me that you are doing a good job of coping with your scares and bruises. Having two surgical scars myself (not visible when dressed) I’m aware of self-image issues with that. Even if no one sees the scar or bruise, you know that it is there. You are beautiful inside and out and scars and bruises are signs that you live. It can be frustrating though.

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    • Yes, it can. The top of mine is pretty visible unless I’m wearing a turtleneck, though most people who know me here now already know the story. It’s nice not to have to explain all the time.

      Funnily enough, right after writing this I got a bruise on my foot just like I described in the post. Oh, the irony.

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