The hardest part of her recovery wasn't physical, it was mental.

Our scars make us who we are, but sometimes it can be hard to see it that way. That’s a lesson Michelle Elman had to learn—and now she’s sharing her story to help others do the same.

Elman calls herself “unlucky.” She’s had a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, a brain tumor, and more health issues that have resulted in 15 surgeries. Needless to say, finding the strength to embrace her scars has been a massive part of her journey.

“I used to be so scared of my own scars that I wouldn’t touch them. I thought they were more fragile than they were. I thought I was more fragile than I am,” she wrote in a recent Instagram post with a photo by Roundtable Journal that shows the scars on her stomach.

Elman, who’s from London, has had scars for as long as she can remember. That didn’t make it easier to embrace them growing up, she tells Health. In fact, she did everything she could to hide them and avoid conversation about her medical history. If someone saw her scars, they would ask her what happened, and she didn’t want to talk about it.

Ironically enough, Elman says as she got older, the one thing that really helped her accept her scars was finding the courage to talk about them. “What I eventually realized was that no one cared about my scars as much as I did, and the bigger deal I made out of it, the more awkward it was going to be,” she says.

These days, when people ask her how they can find the kind of self-love like she has, she advises them to have open and vulnerable conversations with loved ones. Everyone has a different perspective, she says, and speaking to others can help you get out of your own head and see your situation through another lens.

Elman has made it her mission to help others on their own body-positivity journeys. She’s written a book titled Am I Ugly? ($14; and has over 100K followers on Instagram who look to her as a role model.

Scars are reminders of where we’ve been in life and how far we’ve come. It’s not always easy to see them in a positive light, but when you do, you set yourself free of the pain of being at odds with a part of who you are.

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