Tomorrow I start a new job. I feel happy, excited, anxious amongst a mix of emotions. I’m currently questioning what I’m going to wear, how much of myself I’m willing to expose on the first day. I am not referring to the length of my skirt, or whether or not I hide my cleavage under a collared shirt, I’m talking about whether or not I allow my true self to be revealed, scars and all. Do I wear long sleeves and jackets in the middle of an Australian Summer, or do I open myself up to vulnerability and the possibility of being judged by my past and the interpretation from my new colleagues of what they misguidedly believe it may mean?
For my friends on Facebook I’ve not kept my past history of self-harm a secret, I’ve not hidden it, because whilst I’m not particularly proud of the scars, I have come to accept that I did the best I could with the skills I had at the time. I know each individual scar holds a memory of a time when life was more difficult for me than it was for most, each scar reminds me that even though the emotional pain at that time was overbearing, I still somehow found a way to make it through. Each scar tells a story of hopelessness, of anger, or despair, of numbness that I never thought I’d get through, yet here I am.
My self-harm history is something I don’t give much thought to these days, because the scars have healed and all that I see when I look at them are victories and lessons learnt which have given me the skills of empathy, understanding, kindness, and an ability to express compassion to others without making impetuous judgements. However, in times like this where people have not had the chance to get to know me and what I am capable of, I am weary that others don’t have the same life experience as myself, many others do not express the same understanding and empathy that I do, and I am mindful that the appearance of these scars can sometimes lead to others judging me and my abilities prematurely.
I guess as unjust as it may seem, am I willing and open to the possibility of having to work three times as hard as anyone else to prove my worth to the workplace, by allowing them to see the scars of my past before they see who I am and what I’m capable of, or will I be the crazy, uncomfortable colleague who sits in the office in long-sleeves and jackets, sweating profusely, trying to hide the scars that have shaped me into the positive, hard-working, friendly person I know I am?