“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” by Nido Qubein
I’ve been wanting to share my keloid story for a while. If you’re reading this right now, I just want you to know that you are not alone and that you’re perfect the way you are.
If you knew me growing up, you’d think I was uninhibited, outgoing, spontaneous and with zero insecurities.
At home it was a different story. Society’s obsession with physical beauty beat down on my psyche. My mom would often compare me to my light skinned cousins and say that no one would marry me because I am dark skinned, scar prone and (now) gray haired.
Today, I my response is…so what?! But it wasn’t always that way.
My Keloid Story
When was the last time you felt you needed to change yourself in order to be liked, accepted and loved?
And as women, we often do this to ourselves consciously and unknowingly. We change how we talk, how we dress, even down to how we eat.
This warping of our personality drains our energy and takes us away from who we really are. All so that we are deemed worthy by others and not by our selves.
I’ve had a keloid scar smack dab on the middle of my chest since I was 9 years old. I am Vietnamese and superficial criticism seems to be engrained in our culture.
It’s toxic and disgusting.
The scar resulted from a chickenpox scab that my mom had picked off. Initially, the scab grew to a tiny scar and as a child no one really noticed.
At the age of 11, a knife was taken to my scar and it grew four times the initial size. My small dime sized scar had turned into a 3 inch chicken bone-shaped scar across my chest.
In my family where dark skin was thought of as ugly, I began hiding my scars like a nasty secret. I began to internalize self-loathing messages of “I am not worthy.” I remember hearing my family making fun of me for my dark and scar prone skin.
And now with the chickenpox scar on my chest, living with a judgemental mom just made me feel worse about myself.
I was called ugly and this really affected my self-worth. I would constantly hear my mom tell me that, “No one would ever marry me,” and that “you are ugly.”
Having a scar affected the way I dressed. I would dress conservatively and avoid scoop and v-neck tops. Crew necks were my friend. In the back of my mind, I would tell myself that I was ugly and this prevented me from expressing myself authentically and shamelessly.
What is a Keloid?
A keloid is a smooth, hard, benign growth that forms when scar tissue grows excessively beyond the dermis. It is common during pregnancy, with people younger than 30 years and for those of African, Asian or Latino descent.
Basically, anyone with melanin in their skin could get keloids.
Why Are Keloids Annoying?
Many people think keloids are ugly and some keloids are so severe that they may even disfigure some people. Some people spend thousands of dollars to get rid of a keloid scar.
The keloid removal process is slow and arduous. It’s not something that can be done overnight. It takes a huge investment and years to resolve.
Keloids are also very hard to get rid of and many factors may affect keloid treatments. Every individual and their keloid journey is different.
Keloid Treatments I’ve Tried
Treatments for keloid scarring are not always effective and can even worsen the area. I learned this the hard way. I spent over $3,600 on treatments that included steroid injections, pads, ointments and even make up.
At one point when I was injecting 5-FU and steroids into my scar. The scar flattened but within a few weeks, it came back full force. I would have had to continue with the injection for years.
Imagine going in two times a month for two years, with each application costing $150-$200 for an injection. That’s $7,200 to get scar tissue to just flatten and even then, it’s not guaranteed.
Even with a flattened scar, there’s still the shiny skin that is leftover from the keloid, so it’s never truly gone.
I thought if I had removed the scar, then my problems would go away. Boy was I wrong.
I still lived with past trauma and eventually, my keloid came back.
How I Learned to Love My Keloid
So, I decided in my teens to change how I perceived my scar. Not as something ugly, but more so something that makes me different. It’s not something I asked for, but it is something I will have to live with.
It started in my teens with my dark skin. I learned to ignore my family because it was not something I could change about myself. Eventually, they stopped making fun of my skin color when I did not react the way they wanted me to.
I then learned to love my keloid when I began my yoga practice. I was introduced to the 8 Limbs of Yoga by an instructor at Yoga Works.
Yoga Works in a chain of yoga studios located in California and New York. I highly recommend the studio if you’re ever in the area. They also have online courses that are highly effective.
Initially, I was terrible at yoga.
My body was as bendy as a PVC tube and my mind constantly repeated, “What the heck. I can’t do that!”
Yoga taught me that with practice, all will come. Yoga taught me to live in the present moment, to stop worrying about what people think of me, and how to recognize and pacify the hardest person to please, my inner critic.
Through this journey, and especially the 8 limbed yoga path, I learned that I am so much more than my physical body. I am my mind, my spirit, my strength, my determination, and most importantly, I am capable of unconditional love.
And with that I stopped hiding my scars. I wore them proudly and without shame. I have multiple scars and each scar tells a story. Two scars are from my sweaty and strong yoga practice that gave me pimple scarring on my right shoulder. My chest scar is from my childhood.
Scars tell us where we have been, but does not necessarily determine our future.
I learned about Atman, our highest form of being. I learned that pain was our attachment to ideas such as needs, fear, and aspirations.
Yoga allowed me to see my physical body and mind in different ways and as two parts of me that co-existed but could also exist without the other.
It gave me the same acceptance as the time when I first heard the story of Job at a bible reading…
“Naked from the womb I came and naked I shall return.”
I learned that the physical body exists and for the time that it does, it is so minuscule compared to the grand scheme of things.
Millions of years from now, having this little scar on my chest won’t even matter to anyone. It only mattered to me.
How I See Scars Now
I see scars as medals. They’re the trials and tribulations that you’ve been through both physically and emotionally. They’re reminders of your past and motivators towards your future.
I also realized that...everyone is imperfect.
What I realized from my own experience is that some of us are so good at hiding our imperfections. Giving an illusion of perfection.
Some of us even chase perfection knowing we’ll never attain it.
How Can I Love My Scars?
For years I would adopt behaviors that revolved around hiding or compensating for my keloid scar. I realized that I was my biggest critic and that inner critic kept me from expanding spiritually and emotionally.
This self-loathing also caused me to live like someone I wasn’t. This behavior is so toxic and I hope through my post that you have the power to realize this too.
I challenge you to find something you dislike about yourself. Ask yourself why do you not like that about yourself and what your life would be like if that issue was eliminated. Then tell yourself that it’s never that easy.
Now, I want you to turn this dislike for this quality into love or into a strength? What could you learn from this imperfection? Could you learn to love other qualities about yourself too?
What can you teach others about their self-worth? It’s important to differentiate between how we perceive ourselves versus how others perceive us. Try to not to internalize others’ perceptions of ourselves, because that would only hinder your growth.
It’s important to recognize your story and share it with others. They might be walking a similar path as yours.
Another challenge is to do what you’re afraid to do. For me, it was exposing my scar to others. As I slowly began to wear low-cut tops and bikinis proudly, I started to realize that no one cared.
People may have their thoughts. Some share it and some don’t even bother. And when they do, it’s typically out of curiosity and not ridicule.
I felt all my worries lifted and my imperfection helped me bond with others because they were imperfect too!
Be proud of what makes you different. When we learn to love our imperfections, we learn to liberate ourselves from the confinements of life.
The next time you look at your scar and have a negative thought, just remember that this is what makes you unique. It’s a physical mark that belongs to you. Only you have lived with this scar and it has a story.
And if you never tell that story, it’ll never be heard.
If you ever have questions or just want to chat, feel free to send me a message. I would love to hear your story too.
Until then, love yourself because you deserve it.
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Thursday 26th of December 2019
I look very much like you. I have long greying hair which I love and also a large keloid on my chest, although mine is a different shape. You are so right, I shouldn’t try and cover it, it’s who I am and in the greater scheme of things it is insignificant. Thank you for writing this. I don’t feel so alone now!
Thursday 26th of December 2019
I am glad you found my story Charlin! <3 I am with you girl. LMK if you're ever in Seattle (or anywhere else in the world really), would love to connect in-person.