How Tattoos Can Empower You

Manhattan, New York
United States

Getting my first tattoo was an empowering experience. I’d wanted to get one since middle school because I’m a super sentimental person who has a lot of values that I want to stay with me forever. I have a lot of tattoo ideas of art and symbols that mean something to me which I want to be lifelong reminders. No, it’s not for everyone, but it was what I wanted. Of course, my parents hate tattoos and didn’t want me to get one, but on the day I turned 18, November 19, 2017, I got my first tattoo.

I was terrified beforehand because I was always the kid who freaked out before getting a shot or going to the doctor or dentist for anything potentially painful. I had no idea what it would feel like. I feared it would be terribly painful or I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I settled on a place in Chicago and went with my friends. I wanted to get a small cross on my inner left arm above the inside of my elbow. It took like an hour of waiting, because we were a walk-in appointment, so I had time to freak out. When I finally started getting the tattoo, the feeling of the needle was like an insistent light cat scratch that started shallow and then got deeper over time, then stopped and started over again. It was so much better than I thought it would be. I was relieved, and it only took like 15 minutes.

It is one of my happiest memories because I got to take possession and ownership of my body by sealing it with a tattoo that meant something to me. After you get a tattoo, especially if it’s on a place that you see constantly, it’s the greatest feeling. It’s a reminder that you went out of your comfort zone and you put something you care about, believe in, or like on your body. You have made it yours by choosing to put a part of who you are on it. So, your body will be different from everyone else’s because the skin has something from you. It’s such an amazing feeling.

Every time you see the tattoo, you get a rush of dopamine and excitement for the first few weeks through the healing process, which is super easy to deal with. After the first few weeks, you start to get used to it and it becomes a part of your skin.

A few months after the first one, I got a rose tattoo on my right wrist. It hurt more since the wrist is much closer to the sensitive nerves on your hand. But I absolutely love it especially because it is more noticeable, and I see it very often.

Then later that year, after going to Malawi and meeting dozens of amazing girls that are trying to build a life for themselves in a sexist, patriarchal society without pads or sanitary products, I promised to myself that I would go back one day. When I make enough money, I will bring them pads and money and whatever they need. I promised to myself that I would come back and meet these girls again to make sure they became nurses, doctors and teachers like they said they wanted to. So, my third tattoo was the continent of Africa on my ankle as a reminder of this promise that I would one day walk in Africa again.

Now my body has three symbols and reminders that will never leave me. Getting a tattoo is daunting and not for everyone. For me and many others, I think that choosing what you want your body to look like by putting something important on it is empowering. It makes you feel in control and confident in yourself and your choices. I don’t foresee myself ever regretting my tattoos, and I plan on many more. So, I encourage everyone to consider getting a tattoo because it is a powerful experience that has changed me for the better.