Permanent body decorations, tattoos, and modifications have been a part of human culture since ancient times, when they had a place in ceremonial practices. Today, they can serve as symbols of inner recovery. Many people say who choose to get tattoos say that they represent overcoming and healing from difficult situations or circumstances. They are a reminder of a positive and empowering message to stay strong. They serve as a way to become more mentally healthy into the future.
Recent scientific inquiries can help us to better understand how tattoos relate to the human psyche and experience. A new Texas Tech University study suggests that women with multiple tattoos have higher self-esteem, but also more troubled pasts. The study tentatively concludes that tattoos basically serve as a coping mechanism that can successfully raise levels of self-esteem. The researcher hypothesizes that the tattoos are a way for women to reclaim their bodies after traumatic experiences, from forces that shaped or harmed them. (ScienceDaily).
Similarly, a Polish study of both men and women found that people with bodily modifications had higher self-esteem in their competence and leadership abilities than people without. They also display less social impairment and sleep disorders. The study concluded definitely that tattoos and piercings should not be considered as indicators of psychopathology (PubMed).
This research does not necessarily mean that you need to get tattoos to boost your self-confidence. There are many other ways to do that as well. It simply suggests how effective some well-intentioned body art can be for the mental health of people who choose to get it. Serious mental health issues do require you seek help immediately.
To get a better sense of how people can find strength and healing through tattoos, I talked to Sarah Starnes (pictured above), a creative and empowering yoga teacher based in Estacada, Ore. She has many beautiful artworks on her body and has chosen to share with us a little bit about her experience with her tattoos and their healing power in her life.
What does body art mean to you?
My body art is sacred armor and an artistic expression of my personal story. Every tattoo represents something important and symbolic, and I truly love each piece. I get more work done when I can, and I enjoy choosing a variety of artists.
What time in your life did you decide to get tattoos? Was there anything happening in your life?
I got one of my first tattoos, a mantra surrounded in lotus petals, circling my forearm, when I was 19 years old. Something traumatic happened in my life, a violation of sorts. I chose this tattoo as a way to energetically protect myself from further violation or harm.
What inspired you to get this particular tattoo?
I had received burns which turned to raised scars on my right forearm, which healed. I chose a mantra to place over where the scars used to be as a blessing of protection and healing.
What does this image represent to you?
The mantra “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” basically sends out a wish for all beings (everywhere) to experience sweet happiness, deep peace and ultimate freedom. I feel a deep connection to this message for myself and for all others.
How does this image as a symbol help you in your life today?
The blessing on my arm is a constant reminder of an important part of my mission in this lifetime: to serve others and help support their path to awakening, to bring them happiness, peace and freedom. Every time someone asks me what the mantra on my arm means, I have the opportunity to look them in the eyes — with a smile — and send them a blessing with the sharing of the mantra. My body ink is sacred. I love the depth of connection to the Divine and all things that can come through this unique and varying art form.
Find out more about Sarah and her work at www.sarahloveslife.com.
Pajor, A.J. ” Satisfaction with life, self-esteem and evaluation of mental health in people with tattoos or piercings.” PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2015. Web. 11 May 2016.
“Tattoos May Be a Coping Mechanism for Some College-age Women.” ScienceDaily. Texas Tech University, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 May 2016.
The featured image is courtesy of Sarah Starnes and is used with permission.