I’d always believed this at some level. However, it wasn’t until I was recovering from treatment for breast cancer that I really understood it at a deep level. I had been struggling with my scar. It wasn’t the tiny, beautiful scar I had imagined going in to surgery. I had some complications after surgery, plus radiation treatments. These contributed to a bit of a mess quite frankly.
I was working very hard to heal and move my life forward in a new direction. But I was feeling blocked. And exhausted. And not like myself.
I realized I was angry with my scar and was cringing every time I looked at it, and every time it pulled or was painful. I knew I had to find a way to make friends with it.
I started by writing my scar love letters. Here’s one such letter from my book One Loop at a Time, a story of rug hooking, healing and creativity:
Love letter to my scar #1
Thank you, I love you.
You will remind me of healing, of putting together.
You needed to happen to allow me this new life.
You did your best to mend in as beautiful way as possible after all the obstacles.
John will still love both me and you with this scar.
I will take care of you and see how you transform
I wrote my scar another letter (which is also in One Loop at a Time). I was trying to make friends and accept it, as I knew I couldn’t be unhappy with a part of my body and still move forward with my healing.
With the help of a friend I came up with the phrase “I let go of the pain of this scar and accept it lovingly into my body”. I tried to imagine what it would look like or how it would feel to accept something lovingly into my body. I pictured a mother’s embrace, a cradling and began to sketch. This sketch of an embrace became the center of my Love Letter mat and is pictured below. Once I had sketched the central embrace I kept sketching and the heart picture emerged.
The Love Letter mat was the first of my designs where I wrote a healing phrase on the linen around the edges of the mat. This has become my practice for all of my designs.
Writing the love letters and designing and hooking the Love Letter mat was a turning point in my healing and in rediscovering my purpose in life. Once the mat was complete, it was as if the floodgates opened. New designs for mats started to pour out of me. I was writing more and more. The more I wrote the more the designs flowed. It was as if my creativity was unblocked by making peace with my scar.
This experience has reminded me of the power of what we say and how we say it when we talk to ourselves. I believe that if we are angry or unhappy with our bodies, or a part of our body that this can have a negative effect on our healing.
If you have a habit of self-criticism or you are unhappy with your body my suggestion is this. Each time you notice an unkind thought about yourself, take that thought and let it go. Make a note to self like, that wasn’t a nice thing to say or there goes a negative thought. Then follow that thought with something positive like ‘actually, I’m a really great dancer!’ or ‘I’m getting better at deflecting negative self-talk’.
You could also try writing that part of yourself you are unhappy with a love letter. Thank it for what it has taught you, or acknowledge the strengths it has allowed you to develop.
I still occasionally write my scar a love letter when I notice it tightening up or when I’m feeling worried about it.
When I notice myself coming up with negative self talk I make note of it and try to write some thoughts about why this is coming up for me right now. Am I overtired? Am I worried about something? Usually there is something underlying the negative self talk. I find when I address this, the negative thoughts settle down and I return to my positive, encouraging self.
This shift in thinking doesn’t occur overnight. It really takes place one step (or loop) at a time.