When physical scars are discussed, so much of the time what is talked about is how to cover these scars up. Whether it’s under makeup or clothing, we tend to treat scars as something to hide. But what if we changed the conversation? What if a scar became a thing to celebrate—an emblem of adversity overcome, a trophy awarded for life experience?

Alanna Vagianos, an Associate Editor for HuffPo Women has a a scar from a childhood operation that she values for these exact reasons. Her father encouraged her to be brave during her surgery, and now, as Vagianos explains in a recent piece for The Huffington Post, “Every time I look down at my scar, I remember to be brave.”

So Vagianos teamed up with photographer Damon Dahlen to document other women’s stories regarding their own physical scars. Together, the two curated the images of 24 women and documented the relationships these women have with their scars.

“I was inspired to create this piece because of my relationship with my own scar and the story behind it,” Vagianos told Hello Giggles. “In a world where women are constantly told to adhere to a very strict beauty standard, seeing women love and embrace flaws that fall outside of that beauty standard is really badass. . .seeing so many other women embrace and celebrate their scars reminds me that there’s a lot more than just being beautiful for women. (Obviously.)”

Below, are five of the women and their stories featured in the photo series. To see the entire series, head on over to the Huffington Post.

I got my scars in a severe car accident 10 years ago where my liver, ribs and spine (vertebrae) were injured.
My scars tend to remind me that I am a warrior, when I start doubting in myself, and to remind me that everything that might seem as a problem today or situation that is bothering me, is nothing compared to what I’ve been through.
It reminds me daily to be grateful for life.

— Maja, 28

I love my scars, they are my breasts.
My surgeon honored my wish for a flat result and I feel blessed to connect with and love my body unconditionally, I am happy with the aesthetics of my choice. I embrace this change with body positivity and grace.
In a breast obsessed culture, deciding to be breastless without apology, without feeling the need to wear prosthesis, is a bravely beautiful and non-conforming choice. It has shown me that I am strong and centered, comfortable with my entire person.

— Melanie, 46

These scars are my evidence that I made it through the storm. For now.
They remind me that, today, I’m alright.
I’m very self-conscious of them, but behind closed doors when I see them in the mirror while I’m changing or in the shower, I really cherish them.
They define a whole part of who I am and what I’ve survived.

— Anonymous, 22

I’m a dark-skinned woman and I’ve thankfully never really had a complex about my skin tone. I love my deep complexion, but my scars are discouraging because even for dark skin the “beauty standard” really emphasizes especially flawless skin.
Every dark woman you see celebrated in the media has this almost poreless complexion with no marks (think Lupita Nyong’o, Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell), and I definitely don’t.
Accepting my scars has sort of been a way to accept myself.
Yes, sometimes I’ll see a cute dress and see that it reveals some of my shoulders or back or chest, and there will be a pause. But I always decide to get the dress if I like it and I want it. Nowadays the pauses are getting a lot briefer.

— Zeba, 26

I got my scars from a bad rash I had as a kid, exacerbated by psoriasis in my early teens.
I got them on my chest long before I knew my chest would become a sexual area, somehow tied up with overall desirability and feminine achievement. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really learned to embrace them for that reason.
They’re kind of my “fuck you” to the male gaze.
You want to look at my tits? You’ll have to look at these too.

—Amanda, 26


Images courtesy of Damon DahlenHuffington Post