Stay alive. This simple phrase reads between the lines of self-harm scars, reminding the owner to cherish life. Intricate floral details cover scars to remind us that life is precious and fleeting. A bold phoenix turns burn scars from a physical representation of a painful memory into a symbol of strength and survival. Tattoos make us feel strong, bold, and beautiful, and consequently, they can help people to heal from painful memories.
Getting tattooed can often feel like an empowering experience. We endure significant pain and an often lengthy and uncomfortable healing process for the purpose of adorning our bodies with art. Some use tattoos to immortalize important memories as body art, and others treat their body like a canvas upon which to display whatever art they appreciate. Whether the art we choose holds a deeply personal meaning for us or simply displays a piece of art we find beautiful, the process to achieve the end result remains the same, and because the process is painful, it shows a significant dedication to the art itself. Though sitting under the tattooer’s machine can sometimes feel agonizing and neverending, once the artwork is complete we can feel strong, beautiful, and quite often, ready for another piece. That feeling of empowerment that comes with a new tattoo is multiplied when the piece is used specifically to cover marks on our bodies that remind us of painful experiences. When we turn scars into body art, we replace a difficult memory with beautiful artwork that boosts our confidence and reminds us that although painful memories will always be a part of life, they do not have to define us.
Regardless of their unique personal significance, tattoos will always be particularly meaningful due to their permanence. Like tattoos, scars permanently mark the skin, but while we choose the tattoos we live with, we can’t choose our scars. Though some people wear their scars with pride, for others they may be a source of insecurity and pain. Whether we appreciate our scars or they cause us pain tends to depend on what experiences left our skin permanently marked.
Tattoos are a popular way to deal with unwanted scars, especially for women recovering from mastectomies. Post-mastectomy tattoos take many forms, but typically they cover the majority of the breast with pretty, often feminine designs. Women recovering from mastectomies have many options. They can choose to have reconstructive surgery and breastfeeding implants to achieve a similar look and feel for their body pre-surgery. Some may choose to own their scars, and others may take the route of tattooing their breasts. Tattoos both obscure scarring and give women body art to wear with pride. Post-mastectomy tattoos can even help to recreate the look of a pre-surgical breast, as some artists recreate the appearance of anatomical nipples with tattoos.
When we control our own choices, we feel freer and more confident. Tattoos therefore boost confidence because we control the design, the size, and the placement and because they can be used to cover parts of ourselves that are a source of insecurity, like scars. Tattoos are frequently used to obscure self-harm, burn, and mastectomy scars. These cover ups can act simply to obscure the scars, or they may serve to remind us of the possibly painful memories associated with the scars, turning those emotional experiences into works of art.
Tattoos are empowering not only because they necessitate that we endure great pain, but also because they offer an incomparable medium through which we can achieve catharsis for painful experiences.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.