'You'll regret them when you're older' — how I grew to love my tattooed body

Having tattoos at a young age means leaving yourself open to plenty of criticism from anti-inkers. But my artwork has led me to embrace my body as beautiful


I love my body with ink.

I love the process of picking out a new tattoo. I get inspiration from illustrators I follow on social media, tattoo artists I support and, ashamedly enough, Pinterest.

I love that feeling of satisfaction when I see my collection of ideas morphed into the design the artist created. I’ve even wept in awe over some.

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And then there’s seeing the stencil turn into a permanent marking on my body. Taking that first glance at the beautiful piece of art that has become a piece of me, something that I will forever claim as part of my identity — that is a beautiful feeling.

"What do they mean?"

Until recently, I didn’t really think my tattoos had meaning.

Everyone with a tattoo knows that one of the first questions you’re asked by others is “What do your tattoos mean?”

I cannot tell you how many disappointed, unamused or even disgusted looks I’ve been given when I don’t have a real response. From people I know and people I don’t — all I can offer is a silent nod when they try to give me a chance to redeem myself, after they ask once more, “You just got them to get them?”

I’ve heard the concerns people have. The confusion and doubt they feel the need to share because 'I’m just a girl in her twenties'. “You’ll regret it later,” I’m told. According to literally everyone against ink, I won’t like them once I’ve matured — they will get ugly; I won’t get a job; I could’ve spent my money in better ways; they look tacky — the list could go on.

The only thing that could possibly stop the constant complaints of what’s on my body is if I could counter-argue with a meaningful proposition as to why I needed the ink.

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So, until recently, the best I came up with is, “they’re beautiful pieces of art and I just wanted them.”

Which, of course, is valid, but wasn’t good enough for the judgemental.

Move into the sun

A couple of months ago, I headed out into South Carolina’s August heat. It’s the worst kind of heat that isn’t only 37 degrees in the blazing sun but also offers little to no chance to catch your breath in the sticky humid air.

I’ve always found shame in my body. When I was younger, I would wear clothes that hid all of the parts of it that I hated — my stomach, my legs, my arms. I think it’s something I instilled into my brain so much that I will never completely be comfortable with more revealing clothes.

But on this hot summer day, I didn’t want to cover up. I remember thinking to myself, “It’s one hundred degrees out, put on the tank top and move on with your life. This isn’t difficult.” And as I was staring at my bare arms in the mirror, begging myself to just walk out wearing a shirt that no one else would have an issue wearing, I offered myself the pros of this choice of fashion.

The first pro? “You have your beautiful tattoos that everyone will get to see.”

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My body is beautiful

I still don’t wear tank tops frequently. I’m not cured of my poor body image. But that day, I was so comforted in my ink that I walked out feeling beautiful with my stained arms out for the world to see.

My tattoos may not have the meaning others eagerly await to hear, and to some, they may just seem like regrettable markings on my body. But I’ve gained confidence in myself with them.

I love looking in the mirror and seeing the beautiful conglomeration of art I am.


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