Content contains minor graphic material.
May not be suitable for all.
She asked me to write on a blank sheet, one reason why I find myself to be beautiful.
One reason. Any reason. White canvas, pen in hand, I began to write:
I am beautiful because… (wait, what am I supposed to write?)
I am beautiful because… (there is nothing that comes to mind.)
(Let’s try this again. It shouldn’t be this much of a chore to come up with something.)
I am beautiful because… (still drawing a blank.)
There was something strangely difficult and extremely uncomfortable about inking that piece of paper with the line, “I am beautiful.” But for some peculiar reason, those three little words were pushing my buttons. Like, they had somehow said something erroneous and inappropriate, and I found it offensive. And, the longer we made eye contact, the more awkward it became and the eye rolling, more frequent. It’s not like it was a foreign language. The word, “beautiful” has been used in description numerous times before that it was hardly a stranger. And then it hit me. It hit me hard like a train wreck.
I have a butterfly tattooed on the center of my back, and it wasn’t my decision.
It measures about five inches in width and half a foot in height, with wings symmetrically positioned right smack dab in the middle of my mid-back. I’m not talking about tattoo ink because I am talking about real life ink. I am speaking about scars—visible scars that have formed into the pattern of a butterfly. It’s been years and years of inconclusive diagnoses. But recently, new research and discoveries have persuaded the medical professionals to believe that it is likely to be derived from an autoimmune condition, where slim to none literature can be found because there are only eight documented case studies in the United States. We’re not sure if it is correlated with the Lupus. And because of the way things have manifested and the shape of the scars, both my rheumatologist and dermatologist sometimes refers to it as the butterfly pattern on my back. I prefer to call it: THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT.
A few times a month, I get these flares. They’re called flares, but they’re more like burning flames because that’s how physically painful they are. Something in my body decides that it wants to create this unexplainable rash, which feels a lot like a hundred itching mosquito bites. The bumps turns into water blisters, the blisters pop, and then there remains open sores without any way to treat them. The flesh never fully heals before the next cycle repeats itself, and I cannot even begin to tally the nights I’ve lost sleep because of how bothersome it has been. Or, how I ‘ve had to take scorching hot showers at one, two, three in the morning because that somehow temporarily alleviates a little smidge of the discomfort before my skin gets overly agitated. Oh, the myriad of time spent on my hands and knees in the bathtub praying desperately to God for healing as droplets made contact with my naked skin; the liquids streaming down my face, a mix from the shower head and my heart’s cries.
I am experiencing the symptoms of a real life butterfly effect.
I say that because I am constantly wondering if there was something that could have been done otherwise, if there was a precaution I could have taken which might have altered the existence of my physical conditions. But unlike Ashton Kutcher in the psycho-thriller, The Butterfly Effect, I can’t figure out what went incorrectly. I can’t time travel back. And, I can’t recreate my past in order to produce a different future outcome. Truthfully, it has been nothing but a frustratingly, physically tormenting experience. But it has also been mostly humbling; there is nothing more that screams “humbling” than when you’re in your mid-twenties and you need your grandmother to help bathe you. Because you just had some biopsies done, and you physically can’t wash yourself. It’s those instants where you realize, “I’m in need. I need help.” Something that has always been tough for me to admit.
That word though, “beautiful.”
It was like this domino effect where I started thinking about the scars, and how they’ve always brought about such negative connotation. Then that triggered self-proclaimed ugly opinions about my butterfly tattoo, and then all the insecurities came along shortly after. There were ones which I was blatantly aware of, and ones I didn’t even known existed—that I had kept subconsciously concealed because I was too scared to deal with them. And if they were to remain hidden, that must mean that they didn’t exist, right? Nope.
People often say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but the most frightening thing is realizing that you are the beholder.
It’s frightening because when it’s just you by yourself standing in front of the mirror having a staring contest with yourself, that’s when you realize how afraid you actually are. It’s those moments when you lift up your shirt with your back bared, and your only wish is for this monstrosity to supernaturally disappear so you can wear a real bikini and not have to choose outfits that cover up the damage. By yourself, with your own reflection—that’s when all the judgments start flowing like a roaring river, and there’s nothing you can do to make them stop. The truth is: A million people could tell you five million times that “you are beautiful.” They can tell you that your smile beams so brightly that it lights up every room you walk in, that they love the way the curls in your hair bounces with every step you take, and that your soul is kind. But you really aren’t beautiful until you, yourself, believes in that statement. You have to believe it, and you have to mean it.
I agonized for days as to whether I should write and publish this post or not. But then, here I am sitting at Starbucks with my one pump classic one pump hazelnut whole milk iced coffee, and a girl sitting at the table next to me in a beautiful white dress flipping through “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Not to mention, there is a table of people ten feet down conversing about their scars and how they came to be. I suppose I’ll take that as a sign.
I am afraid. I am very afraid.
Maybe I am afraid that if people see my scars, I won’t be accepted or liked as much as the girl next to me prancing around in her flowy white lace open back dress. Or perhaps, I’ve aimlessly deduced that revealing my scars will completely trash the image I’ve created for myself (whatever that even is) because I managed to fool the world into believing something otherwise by keeping my scars hidden. Or it could be that when people know about these scars, it will somehow change their perceptions of who I am, and thus make me unlovable. It may very well be all those reasons, or parts of those reasons. I’m not really sure. I do know though, that the feeling of being afraid is a very real thing. But despite being afraid, I am speaking out and sharing because I know I’m not the only one that struggles with the idea of beauty or some sort of “flaw” (physical or not)—male and female alike. And that is even more of a real thing. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s better to be afraid than to pretend that the insecurities and uncertainties aren’t an actuality. If we’re all honest with ourselves for a minute, we’re all afraid of something. We’re afraid because we’re human and there is darkness that sits in all of us.
I realize I am exposing myself in ways so deep, which may shift the way the world views me—where family, friends, and those who are closest to me will ask me, “why?” Let’s be real: I’m not sure why. I just know that I don’t want to sit by myself in silence with the blinds tightly shut, and the lights switched off. Just because we don’t give voice to the darkness doesn’t mean it isn’t a reality.
We have to speak about it. If we don’t talk about the dark places, then we allow it to whisper graver lies into our lives. We must not let it whisper those lies into our lives.
The scars. They’re there, and there is nothing in my power I can do about them. I don’t know if they’ll ever fade away or if we’ll ever figure out this crazy mystery so for now, they are a part of me. They are me, and I am learning to accept that. I am learning that it is all part of my story. Some days are easier, and I find myself more comfortable with them than on other days. It’s a challenge, but I am learning to see myself in a new light. And that is growth.
I’m sitting here writing, and I’m replacing the lies with these Truths: I am beautiful simply because I have been wondrously created by a perfect God, who makes no mistakes with what He has so thoughtfully created. I am beautiful because I am I, and there is no other person I know how to be other than me. I am beautiful because even in darkness, there is a light that shines so radiantly on me by a Love who is recklessly pursuing after my fragmented heart until I fall on my knees in wild abandonment.
I am beautiful because…
I have been found by LOVE.