“Not all wounds need healing and not all scars are ugly” (The Lonely City, Olivia Laing)
We live in an age that kneels at the altar of image, where the populace at large prostrates itself before beauty, coveting the projections of perfection that infiltrate our lives minute by minute, moment by moment. And all the while we feed an illusion; that the flawless is real, that image is reality, that happiness resides in the perfect selfie.
And we know that it’s bullshit. We know that where we actually live is the world of filters and fillers, of botox and airbrush, of veneers that coat with a thin film the reality of doubts, insecurity, and self-flagellation.
In a week where another perfect coupling disintegrates on the stage of global media we are again exposed to the dismantling of the carefully crafted illusion that is sold as truth.
The illusion is powerful; so powerful that people are held to the standards of the illusion, forever running from the embrace of reality.
But what if we could create an alternative reality? One in which our scars bear our beauty, our flaws reveal the content of our character and our blemishes are worn as boldly as our masks.
Maybe I’m weird – ok, I’ll dispense with the ‘maybe’, I’m clearly out of step with modern life – but I’ve never understood the obsession with apparent perfection and the endless quest for a beauty which to these eyes, shadowed as they might be beneath a single heavy eyebrow, hides the uniqueness within which resides true beauty.
To this restless – and sometime bruised and battered mind – what intrigues, what attracts, and ultimately what inspires is the reality behind the mask, the scars that when exposed reveal the truth of life’s hard-fought battles, and the wrinkles that trace the accrued wisdom of our years.
In chasing the modern myth of beauty and perfection I fear that we are merely replacing one form of damage with another – paralysing facial muscles and swelling lips in an attempt to evade the gnarled grasp of our ageing; attempting to outrun our inevitable decay. And in doing so we present a fabricated world of Hello-esque bliss that bears little relation to the messy reality of life for all of us; even the chosen few that grace those glossy magazine pages.
What if our beauty lies in our scars, in our decay? In the imperfections and wounds – both physical and emotional – that reveal the truth of our struggles and the contents of our character? None of us can outwit nature and unless we can embrace and acknowledge all of ourselves, in all of our perfect imperfection, we will be forced to wear a mask that hides what makes us truly unique, obscuring the beauty that is ours regardless of some created cultural ideal.
Why am I banging on about this? Well, the more that time goes on the more that I realise that maybe ‘healing’ isn’t the answer when tending to our wounds. Painful life experiences shape us and the scars often persist. Maybe the answer lies not in seeking to eradicate our hurts and imperfections, nor in hiding them away within the deepest recesses of our imperfect selves.
Maybe it lies in accepting and finding a way to live harmoniously with them; a way to embrace them fully within the package of our best selves, without contradiction, and without feeling that in doing so we are falling short of all that we could be.
I, like many others, wear tattoos that symbolise my struggles. To me they are works of art that will forever represent important lessons that life has taught me; when I age and the images fade and distort what they symbolise will remain. These are my self-inflicted scars, a permanent representation of the wounds within that they catalogue. I wear them with pride, knowing the pain and hardship that went into their creation, long before the needles pierced my skin.
Wear your scars with pride, embody fully what it is to be what only you can be, and be proud of the imperfections that make you YOU. For it is only there that truth and happiness will be found.
Imperfections – The Tears