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I love tattoos. I’ve always thought it was cool to decorate your body with images and words that you like or are special to you. But lately, I’ve noticed something else about my personal relationship with tattoos –  they make me more comfortable with my body.

I feel like everybody has a part of their body they aren’t crazy about, or a weird relationship with food, or body image issues that were forced upon us by society or our own parents. I’m happy for you if you have none of these feelings or experiences, but loving every aspect of your body is not an easy task.

My feelings about my own body, especially as a woman, vary day by day. One day I hate my stomach, another day it’s what my mom calls “saddle bags,” then it’s my hip dips, love handles, etc. I don’t want to act like I’m always hyper critical and ragging on my body, occasionally I have good days where I like – or just feel neutral – about those parts of my body. But, depending on my feelings for the day I’ll often dress to match. I highlight parts of my body I’m fine with being seen in order to distract from parts I don’t want people to notice. This changed a little bit back in April, when I got my most recent tattoo on a part of my body I’ve never been crazy about – my stomach.

OK technically it’s on my ribs, but it’s big enough that part of it touches my stomach. This tattoo is something I have had my eye on ever since I stumbled across @bad.badtattoos on TikTok and quickly went to his Instagram. He has four different highlights full of flash designs (pre drawn tattoos) ranging from abstract lines, to fountains, insects, buildings and the tattoo I immediately knew I had to have on my body – a garden.

When I got my first tattoo in 2016, I got a large floral bouquet. When I saw the stencil I was too scared to say that it wasn’t how I imagined it. Then, I let my body insecurities affect the placement of the tattoo. Now it’s on my upper thigh, instead of my hip because I didn’t want to “highlight my love handles.” 

22-year-old me has sort of figured out something that 18-year-old me didn’t know – your body shouldn’t prevent you from getting tattoos, nor should it affect the actual place you get the tattoo. In fact, if you love a tattoo enough and you place it on a part of your body you may not be crazy about, it might make you more comfortable with that part of your body and help you start to view your body differently.

Back to my rib tatt, once it healed (two weeks later) I slathered a good amount of sunscreen on it and went swimming. I’m a one piece girlie, but the excitement of having a new tattoo almost always makes you want to show it off. I wore a bikini. Instead of thinking about having areas of my body on display that aren’t my favorite, all I could think about was “I wonder how sick my tattoo looks,” “I bet people think it looks so cool,” “I know this tattoo looks so good.” This may not be the healthiest way of thinking or whatever, but I’m not a psychologist; it helps me.

Using and viewing my body as a canvas for art gives me a much healthier perception of myself than I had previously. It has actually been proven that people with tattoos (specifically women) have higher self esteem than those who don’t have tattoos.

Since I realized how I feel about myself after getting that tattoo, I have plans for stomach and hip tattoos, so I can essentially use my body as a canvas for art that I love, which in turn can help me love my body.

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