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Anika Stewart Source: Azikiwe Aboagye / @_azikiwe_

I’ve never known myself without my scar. In late January, 1991, my mom, eight months pregnant with my brother, received a call saying I had been rushed to Kings County Hospital. Forty percent of my infant body had been scalded by a pot of hot water. By some miracle, she convinced the staff to transfer me to Weill Cornell Medical Center. Her quick thinking saved my right ear and arm from being amputated due to third degree burns. Thankfully, I remember none of it. All I had to remind me of that day was an intense fear of water and a skin graft on my neck and shoulder.

Growing up with this scar made me feel ashamed, ugly, tarnished. As a result, I didn’t feel worthy of love. I told myself I was less than, so I settled for less than, in every aspect of my life. I searched for love and validation in friends, men, relationships, and work, but I still felt empty. After a while my feelings of unworthiness descended into self hate which led me down a path of depression, self harm, sexual assault and an at-tempt to take my own life. Of course, I told myself, “I deserve this.”

I wished more than anything to be normal, to be considered beautiful. It didn’t help to be living in a world that feed my subconscious the same sentiment. A dark skin woman is not desirable, especially not one that was disfigured.

I learned to look for beauty in everything outside of myself. In high school I found respite in art. It quieted my mind enough to temporarily forget my pain. Shortly after college, I stumbled upon youtube makeup tutorials. I bought every product they’d recommend in an attempt to mask my self loathing. After a while, getting glammed up (to go absolutely nowhere!) helped me see the beauty in myself. I thought, if it helped me, it could help others too. So I embarked on a journey to become a makeup artist.

Six years into my career I had made significant progress in caring for myself on the outside, but much more work was needed to heal the internal scarring. These old festering wounds manifested in an on again, off again, toxic relationship. I had been repeating the same self sabotaging cycles for too long and chile, I was T I R E D. On November 16, 2018, I decided enough was enough. I chose to give myself the love and attention I craved for so long. The road to loving the skin you’re in is not a straight path. Some days are easier than others, and some days it feels impossible, but I consistently move towards un-conditional self love.

For me, self care prepared the soil to nurture seeds of self love. In the words of the late Mama Cax “The moment you allow your fear and insecurities to dictate how you exist, you will lose yourself.” Ive been told I’m beautiful my whole life and it turns out the only person I needed to hear it from was me.

Anika Stewart Source: Azikiwe Aboagye / @_azikiwe_

Now I know my scar is proof of God’s Grace and overwhelming Love. A love so powerful he placed it thoughtfully for all to see; you can transform your pain into beauty through the rebellious act of loving yourself.


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A Burn Victim’s Struggle To Find Beauty In Her Scars  was originally published on