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The Importance of Tattoos as a form of Self-expression

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Original ink

The word tattoo is derived from the Samoan word “tatau” which describes the tapping
sound of tools during the tattoo making process. Tattoos date back thousands of years BC!
In ancient Egypt, tattoos were used symbolically on kings and queens to commemorate
great deities or represent wealth, prosperity and beauty. Tattoos that were done by women
on other women were thought to symbolize fertility and regeneration.

In Polynesia, tattoos were used as a way of representing a rite of passage, and enhanced
one’s desirability and status. This is quite ironic in the sense that tattoos have gone through
a period of stigma and taboo commonly being linked to criminal figures and activity,
irresponsibility, and impulsivity, especially in younger age groups. The good thing is that this
perception is changing dramatically, as tattoos are now being embraced as a form of
positive self-expression and freedom.

personal expression

Tattoos may be seen as “reckless, thoughtless and impulsive”. However, most often the
planning behind getting a tattoo, figuring out the design, putting funds together and finding
the right artist actually requires a heap of commitment, motivation and open-mindedness.
Most tattoos have meaning for the person; however, the depth of the meaning is subjective.
A person may get a tattoo for numerous reasons, which may vary from the aesthetic appeal
of the design and placement or in remembrance of someone or something they admire.

Self-expression is a common underlying motivation for getting a tattoo. There are many
ways in which people express themselves, whether it is through music, clothing, food and
now- tattoos! Tattoos offer an imprinted form of self-expression and is a permanent
commitment to allowing aspects of yourself to be seen. There are numerous styles of tattoo
designs and techniques that can be used to represent different parts of ourselves, and often
the artistry evolves from our own capacity to combine different styles or create our own
desired designs.

tools to expression

Tattoos are conduits of the flow from our inner selves to our outer world (a fancier
definition of self-expression). They are common conversation-starters as they may catch the
eyes of people around you. What, you may ask, can come from the common exclamations
of “I love your tattoo!” or “Where did you get that”? Depending on the person, this may
spark a chance for the individual to tell the story behind the meaning of the tattoo and how
it relates to them. Another form of self-expression that tattoos encourage is storytelling!
Being able to verbally share ourselves with people who are interested is a major confidence
builder and often cements who we are into our being.

Self-expression can be found under themes of body reclamation, body affirmation and
positivity, encouraging mental health and wellness, and even healing certain types of
trauma. (Yes! Tattoos can be healing.) Once we are comfortable enough to express
ourselves through this art, there are certain insecurities and doubts about ourselves that
may shrink in comparison to our commitment to solidifying who we really are!

The art of tattooing and self-expression complement each other well because of how varied
they can be. If you have been thinking about getting a tattoo, don’t shy away from how you
want it to express a part of yourself that you’ve been wanting to show the world or reaffirm who you are!


Tattoos can be tools of self-expression!

"But worry not. She will find happiness in the end."