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Episode 4: On Visibility and Showing Your Scars




[00:00:02] Parenting is hard enough on a good day — but when you're facing a huge change like divorce, moving, a health crisis, or even a pandemic, it can be downright overwhelming. My name is Sara Olsher and I'm the founder of Mighty + Bright, where I help your family cope with the uncertainty that comes from life's major upheavals. Together we can help your kids take this hard time and turn it into resilience that they'll be able to use for the rest of their lives. Join me for quick and easy 5 to 10 minute episodes that will leave you feeling 100% positive that you got this.

[00:00:40] I've been thinking a lot lately about visibility, and what it is to put yourself out in the public and say, "here I am, here's what I've gone through," or just sharing pieces of who you are. Traditionally I have been a private person on social media. In my 20s, I went through a time where I shared virtually everything. But when I went through my divorce, I got real quiet. I noticed that there are a lot of people who go through divorce or other traumatic things and they get real quiet. And for me, privacy was really important to me. I didn't want to put anything out on the Internet that I might regret having shared later.

And as many people who have been through a divorce know, a custody battle is no joke. It can be scary to share pieces of yourself, because you think they could be used against you in court and cost you your children. Now, the real truth is that's probably not going to happen, but you never know. And when you're in the middle of a very stressful experience, you start to think about what-ifs and cases that are not likely. But I digress.

[00:02:08] My belief is that when you were going through something difficult and you put yourself out there, you become a beacon of light to other people.

And that is why I'm trying to be more visible lately than I have been in the past. In 1976, a woman named Deena Metzger had breast cancer and chose to have one of her breasts removed. And she posed for what is now in the breast cancer community considered an iconic photo. It's black and white. She seems to be standing on a mountain. She has both of her arms raised in the air and triumph, and she is completely naked. And you can see her one remaining breast along with the scar that is left behind from the breast that was taken. I saw this image for the first time when I was in college and I was struck by it: it just seemed like such an incredibly empowering thing to have done. Now that I have been through my own breast cancer and a double mastectomy and my chest is . . . really unattractive. I am concave on one side and have extra skin on the other. I spend the majority of my time with prosthetics, meaning that I basically wear what looks like a sports bra with pads inside of it, so that when I walk around, people don't know what has happened to me.

[00:03:41] And part of that is because, you know, when you don't have any breasts and yet you are still in the hourglass shaped woman who has gained 20 pounds from chemo, your body is not really the proportions that you're used to, and clothes that fit well can be very difficult to find. And I guess I just felt like I didn't want to answer all of the questions or I didn't want to be stared at or I didn't want to feel unattractive.

But the more women that I see who have been through what I have been through and have chosen to go flat and have chosen to wear that proudly, the more normal it feels to me. Being in the breast cancer community means that it seems like more young people have breast cancer than actually do. And in reality, I don't know too many people in my actual world who have had it. The prosthetics make me feel more normal in a world where I'm anything but normal.

I talk about this today because I've been thinking a lot about what it means to put yourself out there, because you're really putting yourself in a position where people can judge you, but you're also putting yourself in a position where you can inspire people around you simply by being yourself, by making them feel a little bit more normal because you are wearing your scars proudly.

[00:05:26] And when I talk about scars, I don't necessarily mean the scars from having your breasts amputated. I mean the scars of having been through something difficult and sharing that — not necessarily publicly, but with the people that you decide are needing to hear it.

[00:05:47] For example, when we applied to rent the house that we live in now, I shared that I was a breast cancer survivor and my partner and I were moving in together, and that I saw this house as a place where we could start over, where I could start a new chapter after having gone through a year and a half of brutal treatment.

I did that because my instincts told me to do it, and it turned out that my landlord had been through a very similar experience in her 30s. She is a very private person, and yet she chose to share that with me. Her sharing that she was a 10 year breast cancer survivor was like a light to me — it made me feel so good to see another woman who had been through what I had been through and had lived and, you know, been able to put it behind her.

She was not a person that likes to share, but she shared that with me and it was a gift to me. So I just want to share that with you, that when you choose to share your scars, your story with someone, it is a gift.

You don't need to share with everyone, but consider sometimes opening yourself up a little bit. You don't necessarily have to put yourself on Instagram, but if you do, you'll find your people and your people will find you. Visibility can be a hard and scary thing. But it can also be what brings us together, what connects us and what makes us feel like we belong.