Change is inevitable.
Our perception of ourselves and the surrounding world is constantly changing; as the source of this perception is our body, it is natural that it may shift as time goes by.
As gravity tugs its pull, wrinkles, blotches, and freckles mark the passing of ages on our skin. Of course, tattoos are subject to these same effects of time: not only the physical ones but also the emotional and psychological changes as well.
With over 165 replies in 24 hours, we were able to gather enough stories to create a map of emotional responses to tattoos over time.
If you’re wondering about getting your first or your tenth one, unsure about how you’ll feel after maybe a decade or so, we can give you an idea of the potential joys and regrets a tattoo can elicit.
The Idea Excitement
For many, getting a tattoo is an exhilarating experience filled with anticipation and excitement.
Whether it’s a symbol of a significant life event, a tribute to a loved one, or simply a piece of art that resonates with the individual, the initial decision to get inked is usually accompanied by a sense of empowerment and self-discovery.
u/Spirited_Awareness7 told us:
I made a commitment to get a tattoo whenever I go to different countries or a famous tourist spot— like a souvenir.
For the first few months especially when doing aftercare, I feel nice seeing my tattoos but sometimes I think “maybe this (tattoo) should be placed elsewhere” or “maybe I should’ve asked for it to be bigger”
But now, I’m used to it. Just like scars, moles, and other marks on my body, my tattoos are a part of me.
They serve as a reminder that once upon a time, I went to amazing places, meet different people, and eat good food.
They inspire me to travel more and see the world!
A new tattoo takes courage, as it’s a lifetime commitment to an aesthetic decision.
Arriving at such a decision is a moment usually met with passion and commotion.
This is but the first step in a long journey, though!
The Adjustment Phase
In the days, weeks, and months following the tattooing process, individuals might often bask in what can be described as the “honeymoon phase.”
They proudly showcase their new body art, eagerly explaining its meaning to friends, family, and curious strangers.
During this period, the tattoo is usually a source of pride and confidence, symbolizing a unique aspect of the person’s identity.
However, as a new body mark, its novelty may strike as something to get used to.
As u/Byokkai says:
In the first days after a new tattoo I struggle a bit with accepting them on my body.
Not tattoo regret exactly, just a weird mindset that something new is there.
But after a while I just accept them as artpieces on my body and don’t regret them at all.
They’re part of what I love and part of me now as well.
There’s not love or hate for them, but acceptance and gratitude that I put them there.
Tattoos are essentially colorful scars deliberately etched into the skin.
Given that they are always a substantial change in our bodies, it might take some time getting used to them.
Incorporating the Ink
As time progresses, some individuals may find that the initial enthusiasm for their tattoos starts to change.
The once novel and exciting design may become a familiar part of their identity, losing a bit of its initial charm but shifting into something more intimate.
Changes in personal taste, lifestyle, or even shifts in societal norms can contribute to a sense of detachment from the tattoo.
Even so, as the ink starts to be a part of their daily life, new meanings can emerge with time.
I love them even more when they’re all healed & they have that sorta faded look to them, where they don’t stand out from your regular skin anymore.
They just become a part of me & I kinda forget they’re there until I look & see one. I love them. They make me more comfortable in my own skin.
I struggle with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) & I’m covering my legs in tattoos. currently, about halfway done. It really helps me with the way I see & feel about my body.
As tattoos become embodied, they are now part of the other changes life can be affected by.
They become part of the greater movement of life and begin to shift accordingly.
Regret and Reflection
It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience moments of regret or reflection about their tattoos.
Factors such as changes in personal beliefs, evolving interests, or even a shift in career paths can lead some to question the permanence of their ink.
In these moments, individuals may find themselves contemplating the significance of the tattoo and its alignment with their current sense of self.
I have three tattoos and I wish I did not. I was 18/19 when I got them, and researching artists via social media wasn’t really available at that time (2009-10).
I chose artists that were nearby and affordable. I chose tacky clip art for my first tattoo, which was given to me by an apprentice artist. I can chalk that one up to “young and dumb,” even though I wish it wasn’t the experience I had.
My second tattoo was riding the high of feeling like a very cool teenager – it’s been touched up by a different artist over the years, and I don’t love it, but I can deal with it.
My third tattoo was a result of being in a bad place mentally at the time. It’s the highest quality of the three, but my most regretted.
It’s on my ribs so I often do not see it, but when I do, I am ashamed. Not because of the art, but because of the depressing circumstances surrounding its existence.
I settled for artwork that wasn’t exactly what I asked for and I was too shy/naive to walk away from it once the artist placed the stencil. I will most likely have this one laser removed some day.
I really appreciate high quality tattoos! I love admiring them and dreaming of what I “should have” done.
When I was younger, I thought I’d have many tattoos and these “starter” pieces would just blend in and I wouldn’t mind them being part of my body’s story.
However, these less than perfect experiences have made me incredibly hesitant to commit to a new tattoo, even though I would have the correct resources to pick the best experience, artist, and art properly.
I was in a really bad place mentally when I got my huge back piece.
Struggled with war related PTSD and the anxiety and depression that came with it. I can’t remember whether I was on meds or not when I had it done.
Fast forward to over a decade later, I overcame my mental health issues.
Finished a certificate program to start a good career, got a cushy white collar job, resumed school to get a bachelors degree and found that my life really changed.
My huge tattoo no longer represents who I am at all and I’m embarrassed by it and was constantly doing everything I can to hide it.
I am heading into my second session in just two hours and despite the awful pain, I’m excited to see it disappear a bit more.
It’s always difficult to anticipate change in our lives.
Even when we’re just embracing the mark of a memory, it’s hard to be sure if that will be a memory we want to keep.
Sometimes tattoos might be a permanent reminder of things we would prefer to surrender to impermanence.
Transformation and Growth
Interestingly, many people find that their tattoos become intertwined with their personal journey of growth and transformation.
What may have once been a source of regret can evolve into a symbol of resilience, learning, and self-acceptance.
As individuals navigate life’s challenges and triumphs, their tattoos may take on new meanings, mirroring the ever-changing landscape of their experiences.
u/Zerovoidnone aka @jordtattooer says:
For me my tattoos are like my diary entries.
I don’t regret any of my stories, but not all of them are pretty.
Some of my tattoos are done by friends who never tattooed before, others are done by top notch artists.
But all of them have a place in my memory, of the people I met and the places I visited.
Going through my tattoos is like flipping through a photo album of my life, except I don’t own much photo albums.
When it’s possible to appreciate the different memories that are woven as marks on the skin, tattoos then become part of the greater flow of life.
Through good and bad, they become reminders of our own history.
Embracing the Story
Ultimately, the evolution of feelings toward tattoos often leads individuals to embrace the story behind the ink.
Instead of viewing tattoos as static symbols, people come to appreciate them as chapters in their life narratives.
Each mark becomes a tangible reminder of the person they were and the person they have become, forming a unique and ever-evolving mosaic of identity.
I think it’s a beautiful part of my life that I find a lot of happiness in.
Each time I see my tattoos, glancing down at my arms and legs or in the mirror, I feel a sense of joy and satisfaction that I have formed myself to look the way I have always wanted.
When I would see heavily tattooed people as a kid I always thought, from as early as I can remember, “I want to look like that!” I was drawing on myself constantly.
Tattooing is as old as humanity and intrinsically linked to a sense of personhood and expression for some people.
I’m lucky to live in a tattoo renaissance and grateful to be able to make my dreams come true.
Even though some level of regret might sometimes accompany the decision to get a tattoo, in several cases they become an aesthetic improvement that welcomes change over time.
Through deliberation, they can be a possibility of falling in love over and over again for rediscovered parts of our own bodies.
Inking For the Ages
In short, the relationship people have with their tattoos is a dynamic and multifaceted journey that unfolds over time.
From the initial excitement to moments of reflection and, ultimately, embracing the evolving narrative, tattoos serve as a visual autobiography of a person’s life.
As individuals grow and transform, so too do their feelings toward the ink that adorns their skin, creating a fascinating tapestry of personal history and self-discovery.
u/Rakursie aka @Rivateus tells us an interesting story on how relationships with tattoos can change over time:
As for stories go, I keep close contact with clients (if I can), so maybe I can give some feedback on that to you.
Some people feel regret (it’s almost like a buyers remorse) / are scared (from others’ judgement most likely) because of their fresh tattoos at first but after some time these people are the ones who bond with their tattoos most.
I see them going through a process that is similar to grief, always found this topic interesting to talk about, pretty sure tattoos end up improving their character & perspective of the world.
Regulars don’t dwell on it much, the dopamine hit of the fresh tattoo gets them by for a month, and then they start looking for more!
Now cover-ups, this is where things get interesting because there is always a story here,
There was this one guy who came to my studio because he had a small tattoo on his throat, it was a gimmicky “f*** you” text, nothing fancy, but he asked if I could cover it up, and said he was in the process of getting married and the father in law said either he gets that covered up / removed or he will not be seen with him in public.
I accepted, he asked if we could keep it simple, so I simply blacked out the small text (father-in-law was putting in the pressure on the poor guy haha), then started working on a design.
Now between now and then I’m not sure what happened, but I think this dude had enough of his father in laws bullshit so he asked for a neck and a face, and head tattoos as well, what started as a small cover-up ended as me tattooing half of his face, entire throat and back of his head.
Even if this is completely not my style, I love crazy projects like these and they are rare, so I ended up working on him for like a month straight! He had an amazing pain tolerance for a guy.
The dude ended up not marrying the girl and instead stole one of my designs from my studio’s wall, went to another tattoo artist, tricked him about the design, and got it tattooed on his calf!
Tattoos become part of the inevitable change we go through in our lives.
It’s possible to both appreciate such movement or to wish we could forget about it.
In either case, this very perception also changes with time, so it’s best to just go with the flow and understand that inked memories also help make us who we are.