Wear it Proud

William Teets

Keywords: Identity, Discrimination, Comfortability, Relationships


I believe almost everyone struggles with pragmatic questions such as, “Who am I?” or “Who will I be?”. One reason as to why individuals find it difficult to answer this question may be that the answer is so complex. Maybe we should start by answering the question; what is identity? Are you defined by the relationships you have, such as being a brother, mom, dad, athlete, or college graduate? Perhaps one’s identity involves external characteristics that a person has little or no control over, such as sex, race, ethnicity, or economic status. Or maybe an individual’s identity is formed through past experiences they have endeavored, which leads to obtaining certain characteristics such as strength, honor, or loyalty for example. Our actions shape our identity, and in turn, our identity shapes our actions. While I believe identity can encompass all these features, age, gender, or race is inapt, while they only affect how others identify you. I believe we each have various features to our identities that even we don’t even appreciate we have. At the very least, I can confidently say that this idea holds true for me, which I will later explain. Every exploit we encounter, can deliver meaning to other actions, which is why it’s imperative to be attentive about shaping our own identities. With this said, here’s the story that helped me form my own identity.


Though I was only five years old, I remember the day I asked my dad to take me to the barbershop.  I remember the black and white checkered floors and the shop smelling of mint. I remember the barber asking me what type of haircut I wanted, “I want to shave my head,” I said.  I had just watched the Little League World Series championship baseball game and the winners all shaved their heads – I wanted to be like them. Ten minutes later my head looked like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal. My skull was discolored and my scar zigzagged from ear to ear.  After that day, I kept a “buzz cut” until my sophomore year in high school, when I realized I needed hair to have a “hair style.”


When I was four months old, I was diagnosed with “sagittal synostosis” which is the premature fusion of the sagittal sutures, or the “soft spots” on the head, which restricts the skull’s growth. My head was growing in the shape of a football and my brain didn’t have enough room to grow.  Therefore, the neurosurgeons told my parents that I needed immediate surgery. At five months old, I had a long and scary six-hour surgery.  The surgeons cracked my skull open from ear to ear to give my brain space to develop. By the time the surgery was over, I had two bolts at the base of my skull, around 300 stitches, and over 100 staples. I was also left with a permanent zigzagged shaped scar across my head.


While I have no memory of the surgery, my scar became a central part of my identity. However, as I grew older, I became increasingly cognizant of strangers’ stares.  When I entered elementary school, it became clear that my scar made people uncomfortable. I tried growing out my hair, but the scar was still visible, and my hairline was even more awkward. I subconsciously started wearing hats and hoodies in attempt to hide my scar. Teachers and coaches would often ask my parents if I had any “issues” they needed to be aware of. My classmates wondered whether there was something wrong with me and others wondered if I was involved in some sort of accident.


Fast forward to when I was nine, my parents sat me down when they realized I was becoming increasingly insecure about my scar. They told me it should act as a reminder of how tough I was and how thankful I should be that I could run and play with other kids. My parents also shared that the reason they called me “Dub” was not because my name started with a “W,” but rather the nickname represented the shape of my scar and, just like my real name, it would always be a part of who I was. I don’t know if it was the talk that changed my way of thinking or if I was just relieved at having finally shared my feelings with my parents, but from that point forward I was never embarrassed about my scars – I wore my buzz proudly.  After our talk when I would receive questions from strangers, I began to confidently share my story, rather than shy away from explaining it. People were fascinated and some even told me they were inspired. My teachers, classmates and teammates even started calling me “Dub.”


While I am incredibly lucky to have been diagnosed with sagittal synostosis and treated so young, I am also uniquely fortunate to have my scars. I believe my scars helped me appreciate and shape various aspects of my own identity. Everyone has their own permanent “scars” – some physical, some emotional, some preventable and some innate. I believe these “scars” resemble each and everyone’s identity and that they too should “wear their scars” proud.


This was a life-changing experience for me as I was able to shape both my interpersonal identity and my physical identity. Interpersonal identity allows an individual to question and examine various personality elements, such as ideas, beliefs, and behaviors. Moreover, the actions or thoughts of others create social influences that change an individual. For me, I learned how to be tough while also sensitive to other people’s differences and perceived personal weaknesses. Moreover, physical identity represents the individual’s image about his/her own body and the representation of the body in relation to the environment. Personally, I changed a vast majority of my physical appearance. Rather than hiding my scar, I decided to embrace it as it is what makes me, me. Again, this can be taken in a literal sense as it is the reason as to why my peers call me “Dub.”


I have learned how soft, unintended discrimination can be hurtful and intended discrimination only reveals the character of others. It is because of my scars and my experience in dealing with them that I appreciate the importance of not judging people and the power of forgiveness. In today’s world, I believe we can all embrace such principles more fervently.  I think having an appreciation of personal and physical identity is extremely important as it allows me to relate and empathize with others. Moreover, my scars are indeed an important part of my identity and a constant reminder of how to treat others. No matter what form an individual’s scars may be in, it’s important to wear them proud as it too can help assist in answering one of the most difficult questions there is in this world – “Who am I?”


Works Cited


Hoffman, Reid. “Shape Your Identity or It Will Shape You.” LinkedIn, 23 Jan. 2019,



Jerbi, Souhir. “Does Culture Shape Our Identity?” WYA, 7 May 2012,



Poole, Carla. “Ages & Stages: Physical Identity.” Scholastic, 24 Sept. 2014,



Staff, APA. “APA Dictionary of Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American

Psychological Association, 13 Dec. 2021, https://dictionary.apa.org/identity.


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Feeling Rhetoric Copyright © 2022 by William Teets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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