“I’m Self-Conscious of My Chicken Pox Scars”

I’m 28 and have had chicken pox scars my whole life that cover my entire body. Some are big. All these years I haven’t had an issue opening up about my scars to guys whom I have dated, but lately I feel so self-conscious about my scars. There’s a guy I like and we have been talking for months, but we haven’t been intimate yet. How do I show him my scars without turning him off? How do I handle rejection if he starts to pull away? I don’t wear shorts or loose clothes because it’s that bad. — Chicken to Show My Scars

I know people might comment that chicken pox scars aren’t a big deal – most of us over the age of 30 have them – they’re not anything to worry about. And that may be true, but I know it won’t be helpful for you to hear that. And maybe it won’t be helpful for you to hear that I, too, have scars that I’m a little insecure about. I want you to know that I get it – when there’s something on our bodies that makes us uncomfortable, it doesn’t really matter if other people say we shouldn’t worry, that it’s not a big deal, that no one would care. We care, we have an issue.

My question to you is: What made you care? Why, after all these years do you suddenly feel so self-conscious about scars that you didn’t have a problem with opening up about before? There must have been an inciting incident, and THAT is the issue here. The insecurity around your scars is a projection of something psychological going on. That you suddenly feel concerned about turning men off and feeling rejected, I suspect the issue is related to some recent form of rejection – one that almost certainly had nothing at all to do with your scars (or anything you did or didn’t do).

While I don’t believe your letter, or your issue, is about your chicken pox scars at all, I do think that this question you have about how you can show your scars, in the metaphorical sense, without turning someone off is a pretty universal concern. Your question about how to handle rejection if someone pulls away after you show them the parts of you that you find less than perfect or less than beautiful is so human and so real that I wonder who among us hasn’t had that concern at some point in our lives. And I wish I had a great answer for you. I wish there was some wise tip or insight I could share that would make rejection an easier pill to swallow, but the truth is: Rejection sucks, it’s a really hard thing to get used to, and when it comes from someone or something we care about or that’s important to us? Boy, does that hurt.

What I can offer you is this: Anyone who would reject you based on qualities that are a part of you is not your right match and does not represent a relationship that would have been fulfilling or successful or happy. The rejection is, in a sense, a gift. Instead of longer-term, drawn-out pain, you experience what is hopefully a short burst of hurt and you move on, closer now, and more available, to whatever is the better match for you. The rejection can strengthen your capacity for empathy and toughen your skin for the next time you might feel rejected. These are gifts, too, and can ultimately help you attract better matches.

If you’re finding that your insecurity and your fear of rejection are keeping you from pursuing relationships and activities, and are changing your routines and behavior (like the way you dress) in a negative way, I would urge you to consider counseling. The thing about fear is that it can be a gift when we let it strengthen us – when we face our fears and do the things that scare us anyway. But when we let fear overwhelm us to the point that it affects our quality of life, it’s ok – it’s crucial, even – to seek help.

Recently, I went through a tough break-up with my girlfriend. We lived together. Her family and I had a falling out due to her narcissist brother-in-law. She knows he lied and can’t confront her family about it. We’re both older, so dating isn’t a game. This is the fourth time we’ve broken up, and I’ve always been the one to run back and make things work. We got into a fight Saturday night out of the blue. She said she doesn’t see a future and said some hurtful things. We both were drinking.

The next day I came home and said, “Do you want me in your life – yes or no?”
She said, “I don’t want to do this today.”
I said, “It’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
She said, “I don’t see a future.”
So I packed some things and left.

While she was down the beach, I came back to grab a few things and saw all my son’s and my stuff all packed up. All the things I got her that she used to display around the house were put away. I noticed she saved every note I wrote her, every card I gave her, and all the little things in a folder, put away. I figured I would give her her space. She reached out asking for the key. She never mentioned the letter I left her or anything.

She’s never acted this cold, and I gave her no reason to be this way. She’s my soulmate and we have been through so much together in life over the past year and a half and always overcame them all. I’m not sure what to do now because I feel there was no effort in fixing these things. She said she thought they would fix themselves. I don’t want to lose my best friend. My son absolutely loved her. She also told me during the fight that she never wanted to be a stepmom, which I never asked her to be. I’m lost, depressed, and don’t know what to do. — Lost and Depressed

I don’t think a year-and-a-half of break-ups is the soulmate-making experience you believe it us. Your ex doesn’t want to be with you. She has no interest in being in a serious relationship with a partner who has a child. Please, for your son’s sake and for your sake, move on already. The dynamic you’ve described here is a really unhealthy one for a child to be part of, and has little to no potential for long-term happiness.


  1. LW1 — Have you seen a dermatologist? They have all kinds of amazing treatments now.

    LW2 — So while she was at the beach, you went through her things? How else would you know she had a folder with mementos in it? You are crossing a line, dude. She told you flat-out that she doesn’t see a future with you and doesn’t want to be a stepmother. (You can say you never asked her to, but c’mon. If you have a minor child, that’s part of the package.) Maybe seek some therapy because you sound codependent, at best.

  2. PassingBy says:

    “She’s never acted this cold and I gave her no reason to be this way. ”


  3. Agree with Wendy as usual!

    To LW 1 I would just add, if you want to be intimate physically it is also okay (and great) to be emotionally intimate and say “I have these scars and I am insecure about them.” If you felt comfortable saying that outloud it might really help to diffuse some of your anxiety at least.

    LW 2 — I mean. If you think you guys are soulmates in this kind of crazy relationship I think you need to rethink / learn what a healthy relationship is so you can model them for your son and experience them for yourself. Yikes.

  4. I agree with Wendy but did you consider a laser treatment? On some of the scars that disturb you most? It could be uplifting for you. This is between you and yourself anyway.
    LW2: why did you get enmeshed in HER family drama? That was a mistake. You probably forced something she feels defensive about. Anyway it didn’t work, your relationship. I know it sucks, a breakup, but go through it and develop your autonomy. Focus on your relationship with your son for now. You can be happy by yourself. Once you get that feeling you are much more ready for love. Good luck, it is always upsetting to face a breakup.

  5. LW1 – Agree on seeing if there are options for laser or other treatments that might minimize any scarring. But those treatments will soften scarring, not remove them 100%. It’s ok to have insecurities, but you have to decide if you are willing to deny yourself things you want out of self protection.

    I can guarantee that there are some people for whom scarring will be a dealbreaker. And I can also guarantee that there are people for whom scarring is no issue whatsoever. Watch a few episodes of “botched” – the number of people who started dating someone after their botched surgery and they are now engaged, married, whatever proves that people fall in love with the person, not their wrapper.

    LW2 – this is not your soulmate. You’ve broken up four times. Has anything changed in any of those times? You don’t trust her. The language you use – I’d say you barely respect her. Passion and drama is NOT love. Time for you to move on.

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