By Michelle Elman
In the last week, a video I made for my campaign called Scarred Not Scared went viral, receiving over 20,000 views and appearing in Fox News, Buzzfeed, People, The Sun, Daily Mail and The Independent. After my initial photo that launched, the campaign went viral and I got all these messages from people sharing their story with me for the first time. I felt so honoured that they had opened up to me — and that’s when it really hit me that so many people are going through very similar issues each day. So I decided to make a video sharing some of their stories.
Since that post last summer, I had been volunteering in Great Ormond Street Hospital. Walking around the ward, I couldn’t help but wonder if all these children who, like me, would walk out of here with scars, would be plagued by insecurities. Through the first post and the campaign #scarrednotscared, I had created this incredible community of almost 11k people on Instagram, and I started sharing these stories.
With each message I received, what was at it’s core was the person’s individual story and in sharing the stories behind each scars, I believe it’s creating a broader conversation — what the individual has gone through to acquire the scar is usually emotionally traumatic, and the physical manifestation of this trauma in a scar usually means it’s a reminder of a hard time in their life. This is what I tried to show in the video, as well as diversity. From cancer to acne, we all had different journeys and our own experiences that affected us in different ways.
Someone once shared a quote with me, which said, ‘Suffering only exists in silence,’ and that’s exactly what I conveyed in my initial post – that I hated my scars and this was allowed to be the case because no one spoke about it. When a conversation is avoided to such an extent, you often assume that you should be embarrassed or be ashamed, when, often, that’s not the case, and sometimes it could be as simple as someone not wanting to make you feel awkward. Now that I am speaking about it, I like to think that there’s a 15 year old out there, just like I was, googling for advice on how to tell people about their scars. But now, the difference between her experience and mine is that something will come up.
The messages I have received in the last week have been overwhelming, with even more people coming forward and being proud of their bodies and declaring their stories in the comment sections. One girl told me about how she showed her scars for the first time in 10 years, another 45 year old woman said for the first time in her life she has actually contemplated a bikini– something she never considered because of her 40 surgeries.
The brilliant thing about Instagram is the capacity to interact on an individual basis. I have multiple conversations on there about anything and everything, and I believe it helps them feel less alone. Over time, we get to build a connection with many usernames, ones I talk to and connect with on a regular basis. The entire community means so much to me because it doesn’t just involve those with scars, but also those simply with body-confidence issues. It’s not just the people with scars that need to be involved in this conversation, but the people who react to them as well.
It humbles me that my journey could help anyone else in the slightest, and it touches my heart so personally because it wasn’t long ago that I was that person who was in need of help. At 15 years old, I was desperate to get some advice from someone who understood and I am thankful that now I have reached a place of acceptance where I can put my message out there and be a voice for people who aren’t able to speak up.