Self-love: Tattoos and Body Image

Self-love: Tattoos and Body Image

horse and warrior tattoo
By Marius from Vivid Ink Birmingham

While Valentine’s Day may be over for this year, it is never a bad time to talk about the most important relationship in our lives; the one we have with ourselves and our own body. As many tattooed people will tell you, having a unique and beautiful piece of artwork that you carry with you at all times and is of your choice, can be a very therapeutic experience. 

People with tattoos report time and time again that body art has, either directly or through the message it conveys, raised their feelings of positivity towards their own bodies. However, the evidence for tattoos as a form of self-care is not merely anecdotal. 

More self-confidence from body art

Once attributed to brutish masculinity traits, sailors and criminals, tattooing has come a very long way out into the light and society’s acceptance. Today, women are actually slightly more likely than men to get tattooed. Of course, body image is not an exclusive issue for any gender, biological or not.

As tattoos have become more prevalent (dare we even say mainstream?), interest in tattooing’s psychological perspectives has grown. Several studies have been conducted on how getting tattooed effects a person’s body image. These have found that both men and women report lower levels of appearance anxiety, and significantly higher body appreciation and self-esteem after getting tattooed.

The re-embodying practice of tattooing

Mandala tattoo
By Laura from Sutton Coldfield.

More than aesthetics, getting a tattoo is also about control of emotions, and a way of connecting to the body. Today’s Western society has gotten lost in its head, always trying to reason its way out of psychological conundrums or dealing with depression through a pharmacological intervention that regulates the brain’s output.

We have become, in a sense, disembodied. Meanwhile, trauma has been shown to be stored in the body, not the brain. Receiving a tattoo that represents one’s own beliefs or interests (it is ok if they change over time, that is part of life) and that we have chosen for ourselves can be a way of reclaiming our own physicality.

The process itself, while painful, can also reconnect us to our physical experience of being alive, and become part of a re-embodying, grounding us through the sensation.

Uniqueness a rebellious form of self-love

Vendetta mask tattoo
By Denis from Vivid Ink Wolverhampton

The unique quality of the art also matters. This one-of-a-kind form of self-expression and identification can generate a newfound self-confidence. There can even be a discovery of a new level of self-control, not experienced before getting tattooed. 

From young ages, we are bombarded with marketing forces that want to persuade us we need to fit a certain mould to be sexy, beautiful, or even loved. To choose differently, to choose to express our own inherent uniqueness is to say that we love ourselves no matter if that does not generate more money for big corporations.

In that way, getting tattooed is still very much a rebellious expression – the radical act of loving and accepting ourselves, when so much in society hopes to profit from that we should not. 


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