This past Sunday, I tuned in to the 60th annual Grammy Awards; always curious to see the next greatest performance or publicity stunt.  I was pleasantly surprised when the singer, Alessia Cara, won the award for Best New Artist.  The competition was steep, and she was not as well-known as some of her fellow nominees.  And of course, because the internet can be a breeding ground for disparaging comments, Cara was faced with inevitable backlash.  What many of her critics fail to realize is that she won, in part, because of the positive messages of her songs.  One of her songs, titled “Scars to your Beautiful,” really spoke to me during the height of my medical struggle.

For those who are unfamiliar with the song, its theme is that everyone is beautiful as they are.  Something that I really struggled with before my major surgery was the thought of having a six inch scar running from the top of my rib cage to my belly button.  Although scars may seem superficial to outsiders; they penetrate farther than skin-deep for those who possess them.  The reason why having a scar bothered me so much was not because of appearances;, it was because of the permanent reminder of my condition.

The morning of my surgery, I took a photo of my undisturbed abdomen to commemorate the old normal.  I didn’t look at my scar until the day after my surgery, and I was extremely reluctant to let anyone see…in fact, I was reluctant to see.  The whole thought of it freaked me out because it reminded me of how delicate human life is.  When I finally took a peak, it was very emotional for me, and not in the way I thought it would be.  I became so grateful for that scar, for everything it represented.  It was so much more than a laceration on my skin, it was the benefit of what all the doctors and nurses worked so hard to provide; it was a representation of a struggle well fought, and healing to come.

A year later I came across the photo from the morning of my surgery, and I deleted it.  I no longer felt the need to keep that memory alive because that is not the person I am anymore.  Everything I have been through is what makes me who I am, and I am so proud of that.  The scar has become a part of me, a metaphorical tattoo that reminds me of my strength and the endless possibilities that life has to offer.

Now, when I look at myself, I don’t even even notice “the scar” anymore; it is just me.  My favorite line of Cara’s song says “no scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful.”  Beauty, to me, spans far beyond a pretty face; it is everything good about life.  Beauty is every day that we get to live, every smile, and every laugh.  Beauty is the ability to look beyond the outside, and share our stories with one another.  Beauty is being able to look at ourselves in the mirror and not see our scars; just to see the amazing, and ever-evolving people we all are.

Nicole Gustafson
Nicole Gustafson received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She recently moved from Connecticut to Menlo Park, California and is attending graduate school at Santa Clara University. Nicole is studying Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Correctional Psychology.