I have a scar on my chin.  When I was very small, I was jumping on the living couch, and I fell into our wooden coffee table.  My top teeth went through my bottom lip the wrong way, and the scar I have is the reminder of the stitches that patched me back together.

It took my husband two years to notice the scar.  It’s hidden, and it’s light.  Kids notice it almost immediately, but I would venture to say that most adults don’t know that I have it.

It’s just sitting there, inconspicuously reminding me not to jump on couches.  I don’t think I have jumped on a single couch ever since.

I think we all have physical scars somewhere on our bodies – reminders of broken limbs or bad falls, car crashes, or child births.  They remind us of where we have been.  But for the most part, I don’t think we let them define who we are.

After all, it would be silly to say I have a scar with a face attached.  It’s the other way around.  I have a face that happens to have a scar.  And if anything, it gives it character.  It tells me of where I have been, the roads I have traveled, and the tables I have taken dents out of.

But possibly even more widespread than physical scars are emotional scars.  The remnants of relationships endured, mistakes made, opinions suffered through.

Our emotional scars are often the result of encounters with other people rather than foreign objects.  These scars often remind us of the battles we have fought.  Ones we have won, ones we have lost.

And more than anything, they often tell us of other’s estimations of our worth.  They tell us of how others deemed they could treat us.  They remind us of another’s opinion of us.  How they felt they could use us or abuse us or toss us away with the trash.

The problem with emotional scars is that we all too often let them define us.

We let the harsh words of a critical person define us.

We let the hatred of groups determine our worth.

We let the disrespect tell us who we are.

The problem with this, obviously, is that we are giving our self and our self worth to those who least deserve it.  We are giving ourselves to the most dangerous among us.  Years or even decades after severing ties, we still feel the pull towards those who want to bring us down, who want to tell us we are less than, who want to take away our worth.

But I am here to tell us all that we are worth more than that.  We are not the sum of all the negative opinions others have formed of us.  We are more than a one-dimensional object that others may want to make us out to be.

We are full and round and complex.  We are wonderful and terrible.  We are strengths and weaknesses.  We are mistakes and victories.

Our scars live with us.  But they don’t necessarily have to haunt us.  We can use them as reminders of where we have been and who we have been and how very much we have overcome.

Our scars make us human, and as such, they make us beautiful.

Just be careful not to listen to them too closely.

When the urge comes on, close your eyes, imagine light.  Imagine all the love that you pour out into the world.  Imagine all the love that flows back to you, even when you cannot feel it.

Embrace your complexity.  Embrace your heartbreaks.  But embrace them as part of your whole.

And then open your eyes and then go into the world and spread your pain and your beauty around.  Use it to fuel your compassion and your empathy.  Use it to help others in need, to pull others up, to make the world a less dangerous place.

Without scars, we can’t grow.  But if we stay stuck in them, we can never move forward.

We are a sum of it all, and when we learn to embrace it all, the pain can dissipate and compassion can win.

We don’t get through life without some scars.  The trick is to love ourselves and the world through them.

Scar photo available from Shutterstock