When we change our hair or get a new outfit or finish a great workout, we feel good about ourselves. Self-esteem comes from many things, and of course can be tied to anything from other people’s opinions, what we’re wearing, what the media is saying, and more. But mostly, self-esteem comes from within. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more confident, and confidence is the best and sexiest accessory a person can wear.
In recent decades, tattooed women are becoming more and more common. Studies, such as this survey from Fox News, suggest women have grown rapidly more comfortable with tattoos in recent decades. According to their results, 47% of women under 35 are tattooed, while only 4% of women over 65 have tattoos, showing a rapid growth in the number of women who have adorned their bodies with art in the last few decades.
That’s what a tattoo is, art and the ultimate message for self-expression. When you choose to put something meaningful on your body forever, you are expressing yourself in yet another way. The same way some people carry specific purses or wear a type of shoes, tattoos are just an extension of ourselves. While some stigma of tattoos linger, the truth is that as tattoos have become more common on both men and women and they are also becoming more socially acceptable as well.
Tattoos and Self Esteem
According to an article in Psychology Today by Kirby Farrell, Ph.D, humans have been tattooing their skin, filing their teeth, and festooning themselves with ornaments since prehistoric times: sometimes to stand out, sometimes to blend into a group. Farrell explains that while reasons behind getting them are varied, all tattoos modify self-esteem as well as the bodies they’re on. Like cosmetics, tattoos are prosthetic, and like an artificial limb, they make up for something felt to be missing or inadequate. We’re always devising ways to enhance parts of our bodies, from diets and wigs to cosmetic surgeries and more.
“As a symbol and a behavior, the tattoo has power. The quest to be better than ordinary is an appetite for more life, more good feeling about yourself and more response from others. [sic] They counter anxiety about aging and death. Many symbols, including hearts and ancient Egyptian ankhs, are comforting. And this is no surprise, since terror management experiments in social psychology show that people unconsciously honor the potency of immortality symbols such as the cross and the flag.”
Tattoos often attract attention, which can also affect the wearer’s self esteem. We want to be original and interesting and not normal or ordinary. As a tattooed woman myself, every tattoo I have has a meaning to me. Even if that moment was 10 years ago, seeing the tattoo today brings back the feelings that the tattoo represents.
Each of my tattoos is a snapshot of a time in my life I need to remember, be it good or bad. The bad must be remembered so I can continue to learn and grow from it, and the good should always be remembered and commemorated. Tattoos are a personal self expression that we paint on our bodies not for the judgment of others, but for ourselves.
Tattoos and Empowerment
A recent study by Texas Tech University’s Jerome Koch, a sociology professor, found that college-aged women with multiple tattoos reported higher levels of self-esteem than anyone else in the study.
Koch discusses this saying, “I think women, especially, are more aware of their bodies through, among other things, fat shaming, the cosmetics and plastic surgery industry and hyper-sexualized imagery in media, what we may be seeing is women translating that awareness into empowerment. We know women sometimes replace a surgically removed breast, for example, with elegant body art. We wonder if more tattoos might be a way of reclaiming a sense of self in the wake of an emotional loss [sic].”
An article on YourTango eloquently stated “It’s empowering to turn something that pains you or that you feel is ugly (like a scar) into art, and even if you’re not someone with tattoos, they are indeed an art form. Some people use tattoos as a way of remembering a death; either of a relationship or a loved one, as tattoos can be a map of a person’s emotional life. They’re a coping mechanism — something that gives them strength.”
My tattoos are empowering to me. They are reminders, they are snapshots, they are a piece of who I am at every stage of my adult life. The outward symbol makes me feel empowered and happy, and since they are for me and not for anyone else, these are the only reasons I need.
Featured photo credit: Denise Krebs via flickr.com