How My Tattoos Helped Me Love My Body

The day I turned 18, I got a tattoo. It was a single poppy, my favorite flower, on my ribs and it hurt like hell. I was underweight at the time, probably only eating one or two meals a day, and my perception of my own body was skewed, but getting that tattoo made me feel powerful. It was something I wanted to do with my body, and taking that ownership made me unbelievably happy.

Getting the poppy is something that made me feel in control, which has always been a sort of root for my disordered eating. In the months after that first tattoo, I started feeling like I had the ownership I’d once lost, and I didn’t need to go to the lengths I used to in order to feel better. Although it wasn’t the only factor, getting a tattoo helped a lot with that. I’m not going to say that tattoos will fix all your problems—they most certainly won’t. I had about 10 other things I was doing that helped me get to a healthy relationship with food and my body again, but that first step, the owning of my body and my choices, was an incredibly important one.

My third tattoo was a sunflower, another one of my favorite flowers, and my first super visible one, as it’s on my arm. That and my fourth, a bitterroot flower, really helped me start to feel like a work of art. Both flowers carry meaning for me, and both were done by female tattoo artists that I really admire. Even the process of getting them done helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin because I trusted the artists, and I was in a welcoming environment.

Even before I got the first tattoo, I knew that I wanted every tattoo I got to be some sort of flower. The idea of turning my body into a garden is really beautiful to me, and it’s a theme I don’t see myself regretting. Aside from the stick-and-poke mountains on my hipbone, (sorry mom! Should’ve told you about that one about a year and a half ago) I’ve stuck to it. My most recent tattoo, however, is the one that solidified both my feeling of being a garden and feeling, for lack of a better word, like a work of art.

Violets have long been used by queer women to send messages of love and admiration to one another, so in June of last year, I commissioned a friend (a queer woman, like myself) to draw violets to put under my ribs. Last week, I finally got the tattoo done, and I feel like I’ve been on a self-love high ever since. There’s something to me about knowing all the hands that art has passed through, all the history behind the idea, that makes me feel strong and beautiful in a way that nothing but my tattoos ever have.

My tattoos have been a central part of learning to love my body, and with each addition that only grows.


All photos in this article are by me. Sunflower tattoo by @alliebeetattoo on Instagram and bitterroot and violet tattoos are by @dawn.tattoos. Original violet art by Talia Tacy.