How it Began
“My story starts in seventh grade, a time of insecurity and change in my life. You’re learning about yourself and your body that’s constantly changing. Growing up, I was used to seeing girls who were slim, had perfect clear skin, long beautiful hair, and seemed to have no flaws at all. That’s what I expected growing up because no one really taught me about the imperfect side of getting older or going through puberty. Sure, they might have told us in the fifth-grade ‘maturation program,’ but who really paid attention to that? The media or people I looked up to never told me about the downsides of getting older. I only pictured myself to look absolutely flawless like my role models, but then puberty hit me like a truck.
One day, I was an optimistic 12-year-old girl, and then the next, I was dealing with the drastic hormones that puberty gifts us all. Waking up to my first pimple was a shocking, yet cool, surprise because I felt like an actual teenager until they started to pop up one by one and then in multiple groups. That’s when the realization sunk in: Growing up isn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be.
As a clueless 13-year-old, I assumed washing my face would solve this pimply problem, and the next day, my face would be clear. The next day passed and even more popped up on my face. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I was constantly asking myself, ‘What more could I possibly do to fix myself?’ This was my first toxic thought that put me into a dark and insecure place. Not too long after getting acne on my face, it started to travel down to my chest and back.
Being an insecure young girl, this was the worst possible scenario. I joined All-Star Cheerleading (which is a competitive type of cheerleading) and I had to wear tank tops and sports bras, which I wasn’t comfortable in because of my insecurity in my own skin. I was surrounded by girls who had my ‘ideal’ body type and skin. Jealousy sunk deep within me and I was desperate to find any solution to get rid of my acne. In my head, I didn’t think I needed to see a dermatologist because I thought I could get rid of it on my own at home. So that’s when I pulled out my laptop and started searching for home remedies to get rid of my acne and other products that would help with my acne.
I remember the first ‘solution’ to acne was to put toothpaste on your spots overnight to make them disappear. I had a few friends tell me this worked for them so I immediately thought this was the solution for me. Right after brushing my teeth, I put on a bunch of toothpaste all over my face, chest, and back. I was a minty mess. I walked in my parents’ room to say goodnight and my mom asked, ‘Ryan, are you sure you don’t want to see a dermatologist?’ I responded with, ‘No, there’s other solutions without having to see a doctor.’ And as you guys probably guessed, the toothpaste didn’t work.
After that, I tried lemon juice, honey, a homemade oat mask, coffee grounds, etc. Things that just don’t belong on your face and yes, you guessed it again, they only made it worse. This was also the time when I started to notice one of the bumps on my chest staying the same. I popped the pimple there, but instead of the spot going down and flattening like the others, it just stayed the same size. I wasn’t in panic mode yet, I just thought, ‘Oh, this one is a little bit more stubborn.’ I ignored it and didn’t think anything bad about it. At the time, I had no idea that keloid scars even existed.
After a few weeks of noticing the spot making no change, I started trying products from the grocery store. I even tried proactive (the brand with all of the celebrities in their commercials claiming it was magic for them) and that turned out to be a hot mess. As the other spots were disappearing and new ones were popping up, that one spot on my chest stayed the same and that’s when I knew something was wrong.
I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I had never seen anyone’s acne do such a thing. I was confused and only pitied myself. I would constantly wonder why this would only happen to me. I didn’t tell my mom about the spot on my chest because I wanted to figure it out on my own. I started googling questions I had about the bump on my chest, ‘Why won’t my pimple go away?’ or ‘How to get rid of a pimple that is stubborn?’ So many ‘solutions’ popped up and I didn’t even know where to start. I put acne treatment on it, a band-aid on it, washed it three times a day, used so many products I can’t even recall, and even took a needle to try and pop it. Nothing worked. If anything, all of those ‘solutions’ or ‘treatments’ made it worse. I watched it grow and turn into an even deeper, red color. I felt defeated and sad.
Seeking Out Treatment
I was 14-years-old at the time and insecure about every part of me. I hid in high cut shirts and makeup. Anxiety soon became my best friend. I was terrified of people seeing the spot on my chest. I reached out to my mom to tell her what was going on with my chest and we both decided to ask my aunt, who is a surgical assistant that’s also worked with cosmetic surgery because she has seen keloid scars before. I felt very vulnerable having to show her the bump on the chest I was ashamed of. I pulled down my shirt enough to uncover the thing that had been making me insecure. She took a good look at it and said, ‘It could possibly be a keloid scar.’ When I heard that sentence come out of her mouth, I was confused.
What was a keloid? What does she mean it’s a scar and not a pimple? She told me it was best if I went to a dermatologist to get it treated and at that moment, I immediately thought this was treatable and something that would just go away on its own. Little did I know, I was completely wrong.
My mom scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist. I was nervous but excited. In my head, I was thinking they were gonna be gone for good. I wouldn’t have to wear clothes that covered up my scars, hide them with makeup, or worry about people staring at them. I was finally going to be free.
The day of my appointment, I was excited and very hopeful. I was looking forward to getting answers to the problem I was having on my chest. The doctor walked in and greeted my mom and I. She was very kind and welcoming, which made me feel comfortable. I told her about the spot on my chest and the acne I had been dealing with for the past year. She told me about how my acne had to do with my hormones and puberty and I could definitely try different things and medication for it. It was a trial and error case with my acne, which I was totally okay with and happy to start.
When she got to the bump on my chest, she asked me a few questions and then came to the conclusion it was a keloid scar. She explained to me a keloid scar is, ‘An overgrowth of scar tissue and collagen that forms a tough or rubbery raised bump.’ And then continued by saying, ‘They are very stubborn and difficult to get rid of. Most of them never go away, but you can use different kinds of treatment to make them smaller and less tough.’ My heart sank to my stomach. I was really going to be stuck with this bump on my chest for who knows how long.
That’s when I started the treatments for my acne and keloid scar. The first thing I did for my acne was try a different face wash with other acne treatments. When it came to my keloid scar, it was a lot more complicated than that. I started with steroid injections, which are supposed to help the size and toughness of the scar. Still feeling hopeful, I thought maybe the scar would go down a lot. I went in every 2 to 3 weeks to get the steroid injection, which was very painful. The way I could describe the pain was a bunch of little needles stabbing my skin at once. Even while I was getting these injections, the bump was staying the same size. I also started to grow even more keloid bumps.
The doctor told me I was just more prone to getting them on my chest and I needed to be more careful when I get acne there. Popping them and constantly picking at them just made them more likely to become a scar. This made me more cautious and extra careful with the acne on my chest, but that still didn’t prevent them from forming.
Before I knew it, I had a total of four keloid scars on my chest and three on my back. At this point in my life, I was around 16-years-old and felt ugly in the body I was in. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and later on, depression. I was constantly trying to hide my scars. I didn’t even wear clothes I liked. There were moments though where my scars were exposed and I felt very vulnerable and scared, almost as if I was naked in public. I had many people point them out and ask, ‘What are those things on your chest?’ And my anxiety would go through the roof. I would clench my fist to distract myself from the question because I would get tears in my eyes from how embarrassed I was. Most of the time my answer would be, ‘They’re just scars.’ I didn’t want to go any further than that because I would be in tears.
As my scars were growing, it was getting more and more difficult to hide. That’s when I asked for a new treatment: Laser Therapy Removal. The only problem was my insurance didn’t cover it because it was considered ‘cosmetics,’ even though my scars cause me so much physical pain. For example, if they get pushed on, there’s an extreme sharp pain or they get super red and itchy. It was $500 per treatment, but my parents wanted to help me so they paid for it. When I got the laser treatment, it wasn’t guaranteed they would go away, but they would shrink and help the redness of the scars.
After the first treatment, the scars on my back shrunk a lot. One even almost disappeared, but the ones on my chest stayed the same. I was very hopeful and thought maybe one more treatment would help, but I was wrong. The ones on my chest stayed the same while the ones on my back grew even bigger than the original scar. My parents spent $1000 to help me and I felt so guilty and devastated. That was the moment I knew I had to begin my journey on accepting my scars.
Downfall of Self-esteem
At cheer practice, I started to get more stares and questions. It made me feel super self-conscious to the point where I didn’t even want to go to cheer practice anymore. I was constantly trying to buy and only wear sports bras that had a high neck to cover them up, but sometimes I couldn’t get away with it. In cheerleading, we had to wear these practice uniforms which were low cut so my scars were exposed. I tried to use makeup to cover them up, but it would eventually come off because of my sweat.
I distinctly remember this one day I was at cheer practice and this guy on my team happened to see them and made a very rude comment in front of my other teammates. He said, ‘Ew, what are those?’ And pointed right at my scars. I remember the feeling of heat traveling up my face and my cheeks turning bright red. I started tearing up and said, ‘Just scars.’ Everyone was looking at me and I had never felt so embarrassed and sad about my scars. That’s only one out of many rude experiences I’ve had with my scars. I’ve had questions and comments like, ‘Are those hickeys?’ ‘Those are some pretty bad mosquito bites.’ ‘Did you get hit with a paintball gun?’ Comment after comment, I felt my self-esteem getting weaker and weaker. I constantly asked myself, ‘Why me?’
Why was I chosen to have these scars? Why do I have to go through these experiences? How come I don’t have it easy like everyone else? I’ve had a lot of self-reflection these past few years because of my scars. I questioned my worth and beauty all the time. I didn’t understand why it had to be me. I pitied myself to no end. My journey to loving myself is still in progress. I wish I could say I love myself 100% and I’ve accepted my flaws, but that would be a lie. I’m only human and I still have days where I feel like I took a huge step back, and that’s okay.
Self-love isn’t just waking up one day and loving every part of you. It’s a slow and beautiful process. A quote that has helped me on my journey is, ‘We weren’t born to be the same as everyone else.’ We weren’t put on Earth to look like the beauty standards society set for us. We have a purpose here on Earth and in my journey, I learned my scars are a part of my purpose.
This year has been a big step in my journey towards self-love. I started posting pictures of myself with my scars out and it has been so freeing and beautiful. I was absolutely terrified when doing it, but it has been so worth it. Not only did I feel so happy doing it, but I had so many supportive people around me making me feel loved. I even helped other people going through the same exact situation as me and that felt amazing. Everyday, I’m trying to be the person I would’ve wished I saw growing up.
I don’t compare myself to influencers who don’t post the real sides of them, it’s not worth my time or yours. Everyone has their insecurities and flaws, but that’s what makes us human and real. I’ve learned your character and personality go a lot further than your looks. Having a good heart and soul is more valuable than being physically flawless. Don’t ever let anyone put you down for your flaws, because at the end of the day, they are the ones that are hurting deep down inside. My scars are my ‘beauty marks’ and I am so beyond proud to have them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ryan from Utah. You can follow their journey on Instagram and TikTok. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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