Because it can get really grating to constantly hear people bash tattoos and generalize the millions of beautiful human stories behind countless works of skin art, let’s take the time to re-frame the topic and figure out why getting a tattoo is a great thing.
01. Because You Really Want To
It’s your body, and there’s no clearer unspoken demonstration of individuality than a unique tattoo that you’ve really, really, really wanted to get on your skin for a long time.
People often sit on a tattoo idea for months and years, worried about the implications behind getting a tattoo, worried about outdated or uptight and narrow-minded interpretations of what it means to get skin art, and worried about the permanence of a tattoo.
Yes, some people will judge you. Let them. They’re probably angry at strangers for countless other reasons, empowering their hypertension.
Yes, tattoos are “forever”. But they’re really not. They fade, and when we’re dead, they decay. Would you rather waste years worrying about what a tattoo will look like when you’re 70 and not remotely physically attractive anyway, or would you rather get it now and savor it for as many years as you can while we’re all still alive and not lying around in a morgue or buried six feet under?
And yes, having a tattoo might make it harder to go through with certain career options. Just avoid the neck, face, wrists, and hands, and you should be fine.
When you’re still considering getting a specific tattoo after grappling with these ideas for months and years, and hadn’t immediately written the idea off as stupid, then you probably really want it.
02. To Make the Best of Unfortunate Circumstances
Life gives us scars we don’t really want. They can be physical or emotional. Some of them are small, some of them are big. And a tattoo can be a beautiful way to rewrite the narrative and embrace something that has happened, but in a way that shows that you’ve overcome it and have grown in spite of it.
Tattoos to cover surgery scars, from open heart surgery to a mastectomy, can tell a tale of survivor ship and great strength. And if you don’t like the idea of “covering” them up, why not make them the focal point of the tattoo?
Not all scars are physical. But sometimes, a physical act like getting a tattoo can help put an end to a chapter of grief and pain after a tremendous loss or trauma and give us something beautiful to remind us of the path we walked.
03. Because It’s No Longer a Taboo
Not everyone is a rebel. Some of us might want something forbidden, but struggle deeply with going against ancestral rules, or are worried about disappointing our figures of authority.
While many religions have strict rules about tattooing, they are often also up to interpretation. There is much historical precedence for tattooing, even among Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and other denominations and types of faith. While one interpretation of scripture might declare it a sin to mark the body, another would argue that it’s a display of faith and reverence, and a lifelong, permanent dedication to something greater.
On a societal level, we’ve moved past fearing or ridiculing those with tattoos, and tattoos have gone from being associated with criminal gangs, to trashy youth, to everyday professionals and average Joes and Janes. Executives and CEOs can have tattoos, entrepreneurs and heads of marketing can display their ink, and a tattoo no longer automatically labels you as an outlaw.
04. Because You’re Committed
Tattoos aren’t really forever, but they do leave their mark for the rest of your human life. While the technology behind temporary tattoos has improved drastically and we are quickly approaching an era where quality tattoo art can be displayed proudly for a limited time, one of the charms of a tattoo is that it really does stay on your skin until your skin itself crumbles to dust.
And while that’s something to shy away from for many – because let’s face it, tastes change and we do evolve even after our 20s – there’s still a certain beauty in making a lifelong commitment, one with true consequence and a mark that will never be properly undone.
It reminds us of a time and place where life was short, and death was an everyday affair, and many cultures came to terms with impermanence and the importance of honoring commitments through concepts like the dance macabre and the seppuku. You cannot take a tattoo back. And if there’s anything you’re willing to dedicate the rest of your life to, a tattoo can be a beautiful marker of that.
05. Because an Image Can Tell a Story
Tattoos are a largely visual medium, and sometimes, it’s better to tell a story through visuals than words.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to express ourselves or our experiences in a way that does them justice – but a tattoo acts as permanent as well as flexible visual representation, and can be interpreted in any number of ways to help us cope with something that we are still trying to understand and narratively convey to others.
Unlike a book or a memoir, a tattoo is always at least partially open to interpretation, and can ultimately do a much better job at telling a story, if we want it told.
06. Because You Want the Attention
There’s honestly nothing wrong with loving a little attention. Some of us like it more than others, and a tattoo can be a great way to highlight parts of yourself that you find great or attractive or draw attention to yourself in an interesting way.
While there will always be people who think this is an obnoxious reason to get inked, we’re ultimately still living in a world where we are allowed to make choices for ourselves, and if you feel very strongly about a certain statement or piece of art and would love to incorporate it into who you are on a fundamental and physical level, then go ahead. This is your body!
07. Because It’s an Ancient Human Tradition
Human beings have been getting tattoos for thousands of years. Some of them were medicinal. Some of them were spiritual. Many of them were because they thought it looked really cool. For some, it was a measure of wealth and power, and for others, a way of rebelling against society and hankering to a romanticized culture of outlaws and bandits.
The reasons and histories behind tattoos are complex and multifaceted, and nearly every people on the planet has some sort of history with the tattoo. If you’re worried that tattoos are just a temporary trend and will be out of style again – don’t be worried. Tattooing isn’t just a trend. It’s as much a part of human history as weaving, carving, and painting.
08. To Mark an Occasion
Some dates and events are far more meaningful than others. They’re life changing. We have a natural human tendency to mark and commemorate these moments in our lives or celebrate one’s life every year.
The birth of your child, the death of a loved one, the passing of a dear pet, the day you met your partner. If there’s any day or moment in particular that you wish to capture and commemorate for the rest of your life, there’s no more meaningful and permanent way of doing so than through a tattoo.
09. To Tribute an Amazing Piece of Art
Have you ever seen a work of art that left you legitimately speechless? Or something that you felt embody a feeling you’ve had inside you that you could never accurately express or represent before? An emotion or a concept given shape and form in a way you never thought possible?
Sometimes, we don’t necessarily pick out art for a tattoo – we just find art and think to ourselves, that’s my tattoo. Even when the art doesn’t fully translate onto skin, we can tribute an amazing piece of art by taking what made it so magical and trying to emphasize it on our body.
10. Because You Love Getting Tattoos
The thrill of getting a tattoo can be exhilarating. Some argue getting a tattoo is more painful than others, and it’s definitely a purely subjective experience, but regardless of whether your pain threshold is sky high or incredibly low, getting a tattoo comes along with a rush of endorphins and a very involved, almost ritualistic recovery and healing process. It can be a journey, and it’s well worth what’s on the other side of the rainbow.
And most people, after their first tattoo, will go ahead and get a second tattoo. And it’s estimated that about one in five people who have tattoos get more than five. While I’d be loath to call anything that isn’t a serious problem an “addiction”, there is likely an attractive rush to the whole tattoo thing, and there’s no shame in embracing that.
There are plenty of other great, much more personal reasons to get a tattoo. And if you’re reading this looking for ways to soothe your fears and worries about getting one, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that no one can unequivocally tell you to do it or not to do it. At the end of the day it’s entirely up to you and always has been.