I was only 6 years old when doctors sliced me open and removed my left kidney.
At the time, I didn't really understand what the fuss was all about. The gravity of the situation didn't hit me until my dad had to say goodbye in the surgery room. He picked me up and placed me on the cold operating table. That's when I realized he wasn't staying. The look on his face told me to be brave as he held my little hand.
Eighteen years later I still remember that look. And every time I look down at my scar, I remember to be brave.
That's what scars do. They tell a story. They remind us to keep going or to take a deep breath and rest. Scars remind us of a funny moment or a battle survived.
Women can have complex relationships with these scars and their origin stories, whether it's from falling in heels to getting a C-section and even undergoing a mastectomy.
To highlight these stories and the women who have lived them, The Huffington Post photographed 24 women and their scars. Some of the scars were nothing more than a clumsy moment, while others are life-changing experiences that turned women into warriors.
Below are 24 women, their scars and the stories behind them. Each woman proves that imperfections can truly be beautiful, but even more than being beautiful -- these scars remind us just how resilient, adaptable and strong women are.
“The doctors told me I couldn't play sports with only one kidney.”
The doctors told me I couldn't play sports with only one kidney. My parents decided I would sustain more damage if they treated me differently. It was a good thing because I've always been the most competitive tomboy. My scar reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to -- even when everyone says I can't. --Alanna, 24 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“They're kind of my "f**k you" to the male gaze.”
I got my scars from a bad rash I had as a kid, exacerbated by psoriasis in my early teens. I got them on my chest long before I knew my chest would become a sexual area, somehow tied up with overall desirability and feminine achievement. As I've gotten older, I've really learned to embrace them for that reason. They're kind of my "fuck you" to the male gaze. You want to look at my tits? You'll have to look at these too. --Amanda, 26 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I love my scars, they are my breasts.”
I love my scars, they are my breasts. My surgeon honored my wish for a flat result and I feel blessed to connect with and love my body unconditionally, I am happy with the aesthetics of my choice. I embrace this change with body positivity and grace. In a breast obsessed culture, deciding to be breastless without apology, without feeling the need to wear prosthesis, is a bravely beautiful and non-conforming choice. It has shown me that I am strong and centered, comfortable with my entire person. -- Melanie, 46 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I love my deep complexion, but my scars are discouraging because even for dark skin the "beauty standard" really emphasizes especially flawless skin.”
I'm a dark-skinned woman and I've thankfully never really had a complex about my skin tone. I love my deep complexion, but my scars are discouraging because even for dark skin the "beauty standard" really emphasizes especially flawless skin. Every dark woman you see celebrated in the media has this almost poreless complexion with no marks (think Lupita Nyong'o, Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell), and I definitely don't. Accepting my scars has sort of been a way to accept myself. Yes, sometimes I'll see a cute dress and see that it reveals some of my shoulders or back or chest, and there will be a pause. But I always decide to get the dress if I like it and I want it. Nowadays the pauses are getting a lot briefer. -- Zeba, 26 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“They always remind me to take agency of my health.”
My dermatologist did a biopsy on these two moles when I was 15 or so, deemed them "suspicious" and told me I should get them removed. My brother, who I wasn't too close with at the time, has the same exact moles in the same place on the opposite side of his body so we'd always laugh that they were our only proof we were actually related. I'm proud of them and they always remind me to take agency of my health. To go to the doctor, to get those yearly checkups, to listen to my instinct. To be kind to myself and my body. There is so much of our health that is in our control. -- Anonymous, 24 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“It reminds me daily to be grateful for life.”
I got my scars in a severe car accident 10 years ago where my liver, ribs and spine (vertebrae) were injured. My scars tend to remind me that I am a warrior, when I start doubting in myself, and to remind me that everything that might seem as a problem today or situation that is bothering me, is nothing compared to what I've been through. It reminds me daily to be grateful for life. -- Maja, 28 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“Mostly I'm glad that this is the worst scar I have.”
I crushed my finger with a 12lb bowling ball, probably 15 years ago. My finger doesn't quite straighten, and it also stopped growing after it was crushed, which makes for a very minor point of conversation. It hasn't profoundly changed the way I feel about myself, because you can't see the scar unless I specifically point it out. Mostly I'm glad that this is the worst scar I have -- clearly, I've been lucky thus far! --Nina, 25 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“Every time I look at them they give me strength.”
They are my badge of honor. Every time I look at them they give me strength. I feel lucky to be alive! In the beginning, I thought the scars were going to bother me but I have come to embrace them. -- Shanna, 35 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“They remind me that, today, I'm alright.”
These scars are my evidence that I made it through the storm. For now. They remind me that, today, I'm alright. I'm very self-conscious of them, but behind closed doors when I see them in the mirror while I'm changing or in the shower, I really cherish them. They define a whole part of who I am and what I've survived. -- Anonymous, 22 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I think they're totally badass and even kind of endearing.”
I had two separate foot surgeries -- basically to remove additional bone growth and "normalize" my feet. When they were more pronounced post-operation, it was a reminder that something about me had needed correction, and even just that tiny differentiation in bone structure rendered me deformed. Extreme? Yes. But young women are upheld to a certain beauty ideal, and deviating from that standard even slightly can result in some serious self-doubt. Now, on the off-chance that they come to my attention at all, I think they're totally badass and even kind of endearing. -- April, 27 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I still remember how matter of fact he was, and how traumatized I was by the idea of losing my finger tip.”
When I was 13 I was opening a pull top can, and the edge of the can slid through my index finger. The cut was so deep, the doctor didn't know if the 10 stitches used would work! When we were in the ER he told my mother "I'll try and sew it up, but if it starts to turn black, bring her in and we'll have to take off the top of her finger." I still remember how matter of fact he was, and how traumatized I was by the idea of losing my finger tip. --Kirsten, 33 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I am proud of my body... she did such a great job getting through the cancer treatment.”
My scars make me feel like a Rockstar, and this quote sums it up; "She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings." Scars are of old news past. The healthy healed skin reminds me that I am beautiful and strong. I am proud of my body, and not the proud that one needs to show off, but of the relationship I have with my own body -- she did such a great job getting through the cancer treatment. -- Laura, 36 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I guess my ambitions (and heels) were way too high that day.”
I fell on the ground getting out of my dad's car on the way to my grad school graduation. I guess my ambitions (and heels) were way too high that day. Of course, I didn't lower either. The scars remind me to stay fabulous and resilient in the worst situations. Every time I look at my scars, I hear Kanye West's voice in my head saying, "You can get through anything if Magic made it." My scars are proof of this. --Taryn, 23 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“It's a battle scar that represents a time in my life when I was doing something I really loved.”
I was hit by a car while riding my bike in the North Carolina countryside. I used to be really worried and self-conscious about it. I tried using some scar treatment cream to make it go away, and briefly obsessed about it, but eventually it really grew on me. It's a battle scar that represents a time in my life when I was doing something I really loved, cycling. -- Anonymous, 25 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“It was my reward for my beautiful daughter and son.”
My scars are badges of honor. My c-section scar looks like a smiley face. It was my reward for my beautiful daughter and son. -- Mary Ann, 58 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“My scars don't affect the way I feel about myself at all.”
My scars don't affect the way I feel about myself at all. Our bodies are just vessels that carry our spirit and is a channel for us to express ourselves in this physical world. I am blessed. -- Mary Ann, 58 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“It's a great reminder that imperfections are awesome.”
I tripped over a piece of a bed frame that was sticking out in my guest room when I was 10 years old. I often forget about my scar, but when I do notice it, I love it because it's in the shape of a heart. It's a great reminder that imperfections are awesome. -- Jessica, 25 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I have a love-hate relationship with my scars.”
I got my scars freshman year of college. I fell to my knees while giving someone a piggy-back ride -- and that someone happened to weigh over 200 pounds. I didn't even put my hands out, just knelt on concrete. I have a love-hate relationship with my scars. The story of getting them honestly makes me laugh, but I do feel a little silly having something so permanent that arose from something so stupid. -- Anonymous, 22 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I'm not even 30 and have two joints made of metal.”
I broke my left elbow twice doing gymnastics, first when I was nine, then again when I was 10. I feel lucky that my injuries weren't worse and that they are the result of privileges like having a healthy body and the resources to play sports. I'm proud of my scars because they are an external reflection of my grit as an athlete. My scars affirm my identity as a life long athlete and member of the "heavy metal club," however, they also make me wonder if I've been too rough on my body without considering the long term consequences. I'm not even 30 and have two joints made of metal. -- Alex, 28 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I embrace my burn fully now and think she's beautiful and intriguing and mysterious.”
I was burnt with boiling water when I was 18 months old. I've always been curious because it feels so distant to me, like something that happened to someone else, but I see the pain it caused everyone, and now as a parent to an 18 month old myself, I acutely feel how hard that must have been for them. I hated my scar most of my life. It was big when I was little and covered most of my chest. Bathing suits and leotards were a nightmare for me. Kids called me "moon crater chest" and always made fun of me. I hid it until I was 22 years old. I could finally see my scar was small. I could see I wasn't hideous anymore. I could see it was just another beautiful part of me. Slowly I built a wardrobe that showed off my burn. I was finally proud. I embrace my burn fully now and think she's beautiful and intriguing and mysterious. -- Elise, 37 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“They remind me that adventures are not without risk and that risks are not without adventure.”
This scar was from my first ATV accident in Mexico about a decade ago. I love all my scars. They remind me that adventures are not without risk and that risks are not without adventure. -- Logan, 24 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“I feel as if they are visible reminders of my life long physical and emotional challenges.”
My scars are a part of me -- something that I have lived with over for many years. I feel as if they are visible reminders of my life long physical and emotional challenges. When I was young my scars defined me. As an adolescent, it was difficult to deal with all the emotions and restrictions that came with my illness. My scarred body was part of that package. As I started dating, I would use the person's reaction to my scars and my medical history as a reflection of his character, but I was also very self-conscious. As I've grown older, my scars are the least of my problems. --Robin, 55 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“My scar represents a wound that is emotional as well as physical.”
My back was broken in a car accident. The scar is from a resulting thoracic spinal fusion. Before the accident I was a ballet dancer, afterwards I was lost and heartbroken. My scar represents a wound that is emotional as well as physical. I know that I am a survivor, that I am adaptive and that I can bend my will to accommodate the path put in front of me. -- Mara, 40 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“It was hard not to focus on it when I looked in the mirror.”
When I was thirteen, I moved from Australia to the U.S. and immediately got sick. A blistery rash broke out all over my body, which doctors later diagnosed as shingles. When it was gone, I was left with one deep scar in the center of my forehead. As a teen, I felt like my scar took away some of my "prettiness." It was hard not to focus on it when I looked in the mirror. One day in high school, a boy disgustedly told me I should "put some makeup on it" to cover it up. I think I cried at the time. It's faded over the years, and now I hardly notice it. It's become a part of my face. I like that it's shaped like a lightning bolt. My mum says it opens my third eye. -- Melissa, 31 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
“It's a reminder that we can heal no matter what happens to us.”
I think we are reared to believe that unblemished, unscarred things are most desired and beautiful, but having this scar helped me realize that my experience of getting two knee surgeries, and having to rehabilitate my leg twice, is highly valuable to me. It's a reminder that we can heal no matter what happens to us. It challenges our idea of beauty when we unpack the story and meaning of a scar. --Gina, 28 Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post Women's Tattoos -- And The Meaning Behind Each See Gallery