We live in a culture where women are generally told not to get tattoos. People will always say that they look too masculine, that having them will make it hard to get a job, that you’ll obviously regret having them on your wedding day. It’s also generally said that women that have tattoos are promiscuous, attention-seeking, do drugs, and aren’t attractive to men.
Obviously, all of these things are solely dependent on the person with the tattoos, not the tattoos themselves.
Tattoos have become much more accepted during the past decade. The procedures of finding artists and booking appointments have changed a lot in the age of Instagram. But the reasons why people get tattoos haven’t really changed. Some people are tattoo collectors, some people get tattoos that are super meaningful, and some people just get whatever tattoo they think looks cool. But what isn’t talked about super frequently is getting a tattoo as a form of mental wellness and self-love.
A beautiful tattoo can change a person’s perception of themselves completely. With culture and politics constantly telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, getting a tattoo can be a form of self-beautification, love, and recovery. Getting a tattoo can be deeply empowering. In this post, I want to talk about my experience with tattoos and what they have done for me.
My First Tattoo
I never really thought that I’d ever want to have a tattoo, let alone many tattoos. Growing up, I didn’t really have any feelings towards tattoos that were good or bad. I just thought they were whatever.
One of my friends got her first tattoo right after we finished high school. It is a Harry Potter reference on her inner wrist, and it covers some scars that she has. I was obsessed with the placement, and I decided that I pretty much needed to get a tattoo. Constantly, I was scrolling on Pinterest looking for inspiration (or “tattspiration”). My first tattoo came after one of the worst summers of my life in 2016, a few years after I started thinking about getting my first tattoo.
It’s a geometric arrow on my wrist. It doesn’t have much meaning to it. I just thought arrow tattoos looked cool, so I got one. After scrolling through Instagram, I booked an appointment with an artist I liked at a local shop. The process of getting this tattoo was extremely quick. And immediately, I loved it. It made me feel different about myself, more confident and, may I say, “edgy”. It was a part of my body that I just wanted to stare and stare at. I had never experienced something like that before. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to get more tattoos. And so I did.
My Second Tattoo
Shortly after getting the arrow tattoo, I started getting into watching tattoo-related Youtube videos by Qcknd and Treacle Tatts. The art behind tattoos really fascinated me, and I started learning more and more about different tattoo styles, the healing process, tattoo blow-outs, and other things that people without tattoos would never know exist. I started following tons of artists on Instagram. The work that I found blew my mind. I never knew that tattoos could be so good, that some tattoos could be hanging in art museums.
I was particularly taken by the work of artist Lilly Anchor (disclaimer: Lilly is a lovely artist and I am not trying to hate on her in any way!). The clean lines and delicate dots of her work was breathtaking. I saw that she was guesting at a shop in Chicago during a time I was on break from school in November 2016. I had to get tattooed by her.
My second tattoo is a delicate portrait of a cat. This one, I have an interesting relationship with. I chose to get this piece on the side of my calf. I’ve always loved my lower legs. They’re probably the only part of me that is muscular and slim; they’re my favorite part of my body. Naturally, I wanted to tattoo this area so that I would love it even more. This is interesting because that’s not really what happened.
Right after getting the tattoo, I began to pick out all of its flaws. There are a few lines that are a bit wonky, but they’re hardly noticeable. But for some reason, I was just really really bothered by it. On top of this, I had a really difficult time healing this tattoo. Weeks after it was done, it got red and swollen. Thankfully this wasn’t an infection, but it hurt my relationship with the tattoo.
When I look at this cat portrait, I think of the difficult healing process and the grief it gave me. Now, I never really see it since I wear long pants for most of the year living in the Midwest. But when I do see it, I continue to nitpick all the things I don’t like about it. It was a tattoo I looked forward to so, so much. While it is still beautiful, I’m just not a big fan.
My Third Tattoo
My most recent tattoo was done in Chicago by Julia Campione in November 2018. It is a “traditional” style tattoo of a coffee tree sprig.
I. Love. This. Tattoo. I love how it represents a daily ritual that is so comforting for me, although this may be the caffeine addiction talking…. I love the boldness, the smooth and bright colors (Julia is the color queen!). Literally everything about it I adore. I love how some of the leaves peak out when I wear 3/4 sleeve tops. I feel sexy when that happens, and I never feel sexy! Whenever I look at this tattoo, I’m just like “wow, this is a piece of art“. This gorgeous thing is on me, in my skin, on my body. And that’s liberating, empowering.
Tattoos Tell My Story
I used to question whether I was “qualified” to get tattoos. As an overweight person, I was questioning whether tattoos would look good on my body. What I used to do was google “plus size tattoos” to see how they looked on other women like me. I’ve always wanted a sternum tattoo and a thigh tattoo, but I never knew if these would look good on fat rolls and cellulite.
Now, I don’t think about that. I see people like Corissa Enneking, aka @fatgirlflow, on Instagram, who has an amazing sternum piece that looks bomb on her. Tattoos suit everyone and every body.
Tattoos have unsung power. The excitement behind booking an appointment and looking at the first sketch and then (after all the pain, yes tattoos really hurt!) seeing the finished product. It’s elating; it brings me so much confidence and joy. Why is something like this considered “taboo” to so many of us? It’s artwork. Tattoos are beautiful, the art of them is beautiful. And tattoos can make people feel more beautiful!
To me, getting a tattoo is self-love. It’s a treat to myself; a treat that makes me feel good and a treat that will last for my entire life. After having a tattoo for a while, it just begins to feel like a birthmark that you really really love. And I adore that feeling, I really do. My tattoos remind of where I was in life when I got them. They remind me of how far I have come since I got my little arrow tattoo, how different I am as a person today. They tell my story and my journey with self love and care, and I’ll always be so grateful for them.
Tattoo thoughts and experiences? Leave them below! Thank you so much for reading, xo.