I'll start by being completely honest: I'm that girl.

I'm the girl who spent months trying to hide the mistakes I've made and the pain I've caused for myself. I'm the girl who wore long sleeves in warm weather, made up bullshit excuses, and lied to her friends and family. I lied to myself, too. I'm the girl who told myself I was totally fine when I clearly was not. I refused to accept the help I was being given for the longest time because I couldn't get over my pride.

I used to walk around in shame, feeling that every new person I encountered was judging me right off the bat when they learned of what I'd been through. I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't a light, happy subject, and it made me want to retreat inside myself when people recoiled from me. Some days, I didn't even want to approach people or put myself out there in case people thought less of me. It made making friends a challenge and gave me far more anxiety than it should have.

However, whether I like it or not, the things I've been through are forever going to be a part of me. I can't put on a mask forever, plaster on a fake smile all the time, and pretend that everything is always okay. That's just not realistic, and if anything, it'll hurt my relationships in the long term. Avoiding acknowledging my experiences is equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. I don't want the people that matter to me to be getting to know a fake version of myself. I'd rather have friends who accept me, but I can't get there if I pretend to be something I'm not.

Now I've reached a place where I'm content with who I am. I'm not hiding myself or worrying constantly that people won't like me once they find out about my past. It's an incredible feeling that I never thought I would be able to make it to.

The past is the past and sometimes I genuinely believe there's no point in dwelling on it. I don't have a time machine, and I can't go back and erase the torment I put myself through at that time. With that being said, I also believe that learning from the past is one of the most important things a person can do for themselves. Reflecting has helped me accept who I am and realize that my scars don't define who I am as a person. Anyone who turns their nose up at me because of that isn't someone I want to spend my time and energy on, so I'm not concerned about risking being judged anymore.

It took me months to finally feel comfortable in my own skin, and I'm even okay with that. I don't feel like that time was wasted. I needed to live those lessons in order to be fulfilled, and it was beyond worth it. My scars don't define me, and I've finally learned how to live with that.