The tattoo needle vibrates as fast and loud as my speeding, beating heart – at least that’s what it feels like. As the ink is slowly being pricked into my skin, point by penetrating point, I begin to wonder about the body cult – perhaps to distract myself from the pain. Can tattoos really help you to love yourself more?
“Color under your skin – you look like a rocker bride.”
Tattoos are now widely accepted by society. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that tattooed women are often deprived of their femininity by society. Women should probably have their breasts done or their lips injected in order to improve their appearance. The permanent body ornamentation, as an expression of love and acceptance of one’s own person, is emotional garbage – so the opinion of some critics. But more and more women are now choosing to get tattoos as an expression of self-love, and that’s a wonderful reason.
Your body – your canvas
Life often leaves scars: an accident, a life-changing event, or a careless fall from a skateboard as a teenager. Tattoos are a way of visualizing and framing these traces of life. In a literal sense, we get to carry our biography on the surface of our skin, a personalized language of text and image open for others to enquire the meaning of. The tattooed chooses to share certain information about him/herself – albeit not always verbally. People who have suffered the death of a loved one in particular often use tattoos as a means to communicate and process loss through recognizing and accepting bereavement as a part of life.
Remember: Everything’s alright!
Recently, a friend of mine tattooed the sentence ‘Everything’s alright’ on her underarm. She suffers from a chronic illness that frequently leaves her in severe pain. As soon as she feels its onset, she rubs her arm and repeats mantra-style ‘Everything’s alright’. She tells me that this ritual helps her to acknowledge that pain does not last forever. In the past, her body used to be her enemy because at times the pain was unbearable. Now, through her tattoos, she’s become committed to self-love and reminds herself of how valuable her body is – in spite of illness.
A movement: The ‘Self Love Club’
The work of Australian artist Frances Cannon, founder of the ‘Self Love Club’, highlights the connection between tattoos and self-love. Members are resolved to self-love and carry relevant tattoos to spread the message. The club doesn’t have any rules as such. Respect, love, forgiveness and understanding as well as a good relationship to one’s body and mental health are the core values which members adhere to. Across thousands of Instagram posts, people are now celebrating their membership of the ‘Self Love Club’.
Tattoos: self-love, aesthetics and note to self
Nine tattoos now adorn my body. Some carry a deeper meaning for me. For example, the mythical creature on my arm symbolizes the duality of things, yin and yang, male and female. Others, like the lemons, just have an aesthetic value for me. But each and every tattoo signifies the love, acceptance and appreciation I bring to my body. And on days when I may feel these values less, my tattoos serve as a useful reminder to dedicate myself to self-love.