Skin Deep Stories: How Tattoos Became My Symbol of Confidence

By Erik Reed

Growing up, I was never a big fan of tattoos. My apprehension stemmed from social constructs deeply embedded in my head from a young age. I was always groomed to believe that tattoos were unconventional, repugnant, and unattractive. I believed that anyone who had tattoos possessed an edgy personality but not one of an appealing nature. Part of me feared that getting a tattoo would stain my moral compass, my virtues, and who I was raised to be in my traditional family. Seeing tattoos on anyone in my immediate family was few and far between. It wasn’t until college that I became exceedingly interested in putting permanent ink on my skin. 

When I broke the news to my mom that I wanted to get a tattoo, she was speechless, dismayed by the idea of her son having one. I don’t resent those around me for their formal disapproval of tattoos; I know their sentiments will never change. I would be lying if I said her reaction didn’t make me hesitant to get a tattoo, but it soon hit me why I truly wanted to make this unforeseen decision. I wanted something to pay homage to the part of me I often neglect. Having a tattoo means being comfortable in my skin, telling my untold stories, and igniting a flame under me that spews confidence I’ve never seemed to have. I’ve always admired my close peers who have tattoos up and down their bodies. Their tattoos fit naturally on their bodies like it was meant to be there. This inspired me to find a form of art that would create the same effect for me.

Tattoos are important to me for all these reasons despite still being absent from my body. They are an empowering artistry people use to creatively express themselves, their values, and what they stand for. They are ubiquitous, visually striking, and special to someone in their unique way.  I’ve become deeply intrigued by this notion and its effortless ability to naturally complement one’s features.

There’s a common misconception that tattoos must have more than surface-level meaning, and while there is nothing wrong with this, I believe it’s a myth that must be debunked. Tattoos are about having something to represent who we are as people, but in some cases, people just like the visual appeal they carry, and that’s okay, too.

As I approach the end of my college career, I feel more eager to get a tattoo than ever before as I work diligently toward self-fulfillment. If I were to envision myself with a tattoo, it would embody the resilience, perseverance, and emotional turmoil I underwent to blossom into the person I am today. I know that deciding to get a tattoo will draw discernable criticism from my family, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m confident enough in my identity to block out their feelings. It would signify my adversities and highlight the parts of myself that make me who I am.  I don’t know what tattoo I’m going to get, but I know that when I take that leap, it will certainly be something special.  

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