How My Tattoo Changed my Life

(c) Mbragion, pixabay.comOne thing that I wrote about way back in August is being body positive. At the time, I had just read a really good piece by Dot over on the blog Fierce Fat Firefly (yes, the blog is just as awesome as it sounds), and started a “motivation to love yourself” board over on Pinterest because of the August fitness challenge I was doing.

The piece is called “My Body Positive Tattoo.” Dot writes about how having a tattoo changed the way she felt about her body.

I loved reading this, because I had such a similar experience.

I got my tattoo on May 17, 2014 (I remember the exact date because, coincidentally, it’s also one of my friend’s birthdays). I was in the middle of probably the worst experience of my life – my doctor thought I might have a very, very small, benign brain tumor that would have required surgery followed by radiation.

Basically, I was losing my shit. Even though it wasn’t cancerous, it was absolutely terrifying. I went through two months of tests to find out if my doctor was right, from mid-April through mid-June.

It turned out that I didn’t have the tumor after all, thank God. It was smack  dab in the middle of all that that I took the plunge and got my tattoo.

To rewind a bit, I had been thinking about getting one for two or three years. At first, I wanted a semi-colon. It served a dual purpose – representing the whole semi-colon movement and the fact that I was an English teacher.

I remember the first time I saw the semi-colon thing on Tumblr, I actually said, “If I were the tattoo type, I would definitely get that.” I could relate to the whole message really strongly, but at the time I would never have ever gotten a tattoo.

Things changed. My life changed. I had a friend from grad school that I worked with years later, and she had incredibly awesome sleeves (even a Moby Dick section!), plus her fiance is a tattoo artist. She and I started talking about tattoos, and she was very encouraging, naturally.

As time went on, and I continued pondering, I started to feel that the semi-colon was becoming a bit too pop culture. I still love the movement and what it stands for – but I felt that everyone knowing what the image stands for sort of defeated the purpose of a tattoo that would help me and inspire me. It would broadcast everything to everyone, instead of being for me.

What I eventually decided on was a Scottish thistle. I have Scottish blood and love Scotland, so it could be completely innocuous, which appealed to me. And because of what I was going through at the time, I felt that I wanted something on my body that would encourage me to keep going, even when things seemed hopeless. The thistle works for this, too.

It is possibly the most badass flower ever. First, it can grow anywhere – in a swamp, among weeds, in a drought, in the middle of concrete, even! They also have a ton of spines on them – so if you step on one or an animal tries to eat it, it will mess you up.

If you look at these things symbolically, the thistle is everything I wanted to be in May of 2014 (and still, actually).

Every time I look at the thistle on my wrist, it reminds me to be strong, no matter what is happening; that I can thrive anywhere; that no one can mess with me.


(c) HealthyEmily

My tattoo, in my opinion, is beautiful. I love it. Every time I look at it, I feel happy. When I’m having a bad day and think nothing about my body is good, guess what?

My tattoo is good. And unlike everything else about my body (health-wise), it’s under my control. I chose to put it there. I chose the image and the colors and the location. It’s something I was in charge of, not something my body is in charge of.

I had already thought about all this before and after I got the tattoo, of course. But when I read Dot’s piece, I was reminded of another aspect of this whole thing. She writes about it very beautifully – seriously, her post is awesome, please go read it – and so I don’t want to try to rewrite what she says. But here are my brief thoughts.

Having a tattoo, especially a new one, means you have to be kind to your body. Even if you’re not in the habit of doing so, you have to clean a new tattoo, and regularly. You have to put lotion or cream on it when it gets dry. You have to treat that part of your body with kindness and respect. Even when its healed, you still should take care of it – for example, putting sunscreen on it when you go outside.

I was not in the habit at the time of loving my body or respecting it. To me (and sometimes this is still true) my body is my enemy. But getting a tattoo, I now believe, was the first step in forging a new relationship.

And now, guess what? I want more! 😉

Do you have any tattoos? Did getting it affect the way you see yourself?

2 thoughts on “How My Tattoo Changed my Life

  1. Hey Emily, I’m so honored! Thank you thank you thank you!!! This post has inspired me to write something about the healing properties of tattoos in body-positive contexts. And just as I was about to begin, I discovered that Demeter Press is calling for papers I absolutely urge you to apply too! Also, may I quote you for the paper if my abstract, which is due on november 15th so we still have time, is accepted? Lots of love from Germany and have a FATabulous day :-* Dot

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dot, you are very welcome – it all true 😊 Your post really inspired me. I will definitely check out that link – and definitely feel free to quote me!! Let me know how you do!

      Liked by 1 person

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