My tattoo is beautiful… so why am I regretting it?

Guest post by Emma

By: Lorena CupcakeCC BY 2.0
Earlier this year, I decided to go ahead with my plans for a half-sleeve tattoo, dedicated to my parents. I have a tattoo artist friend, and she’s very good. The tattoo itself is beautiful, and for a very long time I was happy with it, but now I’m feeling some regrets.

It’s not the typical case of “I got a horrible tattoo, and now I can’t stand it. Help!” I’m self-conscious about disliking it because it is absolutely beautiful. There are some days when I love it… and there are some days when it still feels unnatural to have it. I look back on pictures of myself before I got the tattoo, and I wish I could look like that again.

I can’t afford to have it removed, and don’t want to do that anyway. I chose the design that I did because it would always remind me of my closest, most-loved family.

Maybe I’m just having trouble adjusting to having a large design on my arm. I don’t like it when complete strangers ask me about it, or when men think it’s a sign that I want attention and hit on me.

I live in a fairly cold part of the world, so I can hide it most of the time, but it’s more unsettling to me that I’m not 100% ok with my decision.

I don’t want to get rid of it; I want to love it. I want to learn how to accept not only this part of my body, but other parts of myself. I have a lot of body issues, and I’m seeing this tattoo regret as a way to practice self-acceptance and learn to love myself as a whole.

Are there Homies out there who have regretted tattoos? How have you dealt with them and learned to love them?

Comments on My tattoo is beautiful… so why am I regretting it?

  1. I have many tattoos, and I understand where you’re coming from. When I got my first really big one two or three years ago, I loved it… but I also kind of hated it. It’s in the center of my back, between my shoulder blades and features a koi fish swimming through a bunch of stargazer lilies. It’s beautiful, but I had this weird detachment where I just couldn’t accept that it was a part of me. I had it modified a few times thinking that might help– I added some color here and there, but it still didn’t feel like me.

    I got another big tattoo some time after that– a big panther on my right calf. That one I love, love, love, while my other tattoo I’m now just sort of okay with. I’m not sure why I have those feelings. I think what helped me move to being okay with it was just seeing it like a scar. Like something that is just a part of you and you don’t have a choice in the matter. You can’t get rid of a scar, just like you can’t get rid of a tattoo. I guess you just have to slowly incorporate it into your identity.

    I don’t know if that helps, but know that you’re not alone!

    • Yes — I love this outlook.

      I have three smaller tattoos and one large tattoo. The large tattoo was also my most recent tattoo (around two years ago), while the smaller ones I got over a period of a few years in my youth.

      My first tattoo is also my ugliest tattoo. It’s a star on my lower back. I got it on my 18th birthday, right after I moved to Seattle. I was alone. I knew no one. It was my birthday and I wanted to do something to commemorate it.

      Even though the tattoo is (honestly) ugly as sin (it looks like the freaking Carl’s Jr. Happy Star, minus the smiley face!), I wouldn’t change it for anything.

      I’m 32 now and a completely different person that I was then, but every time I catch a glimpse of it, it reminds me of that young 18 year old girl — all alone in the big city, determined to make a life for herself — and I love the tattoo for what it represents.

      My other tattoos (my name on my ankle, done on a drunken whim one 4th of July, another star on my shoulder blade, done Sharpie-style when I was in my too-hipster-for-you phase) are just meh. I don’t feel strongly about them either way. I don’t love them, I don’t hate them. They’re just part of me.

      My most recent tattoo, the large one on my leg, is completely symbolic and I *love* it. I put a lot of thought into it — it’s a large floral motif, each flower representing a person or place or time in my life that is important to me.

      There’s a golden poppy for California, where I grew up. Edelweiss for my maternal German grandmother. Iris for my paternal grandmother, whose name was Iris. A dark purple tulip for my husband, who brought me a bouquet of dark purple tulips on our first date. Forget-Me-Not flowers so that I always remember where I’m from and where I’m going. Plumeria for Indonesia, where I live now. A dahlia for Seattle, the city I consider home and where I did all of my ‘growing up’. Star Jasmine, because there was a giant star jasmine plant outside of my maternal grandmother’s house and the smell of jasmine takes me back every single time.

      There’s also the words ‘Gadis Pantai’ mixed in the arrangement — gadis pantai is Indonesian. It translates to ‘Girl from the Coast’, or more literally, ‘Beach Girl’, but I included it because it’s the title of a book written by a famous Indonesian author named Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

      It’s a book he wrote about his grandmother and my floral tattoo was inspired by the death of my paternal grandmother and my desire to honor her memory, and the memory of my late maternal grandmother as well. The novel includes this quote:

      ‘Such was the love of this grandson for his grandmother that two years after the death of his mother, when she herself fell gravely ill, he vowed to her that someday he would try to tell the world her life story.

      ‘But why?’ she asked humbly. ‘I’m no one, just a girl from the coast.’

      ‘But you are everyone, Grandma,’ the young Pramoedya told her. ‘You are all the people who have ever had to fight to make this life their own.’

    • I just got my first tattoo a few hours ago and I’m really torn. I LOVE the design, and it was done beautifully, but I’m really feeling the buyers remorse. I hate the feeling because the design is what I wanted, and to some extent I don’t love the position, but mostly I can’t yet comprehend that it’s NEVER going away. I really want to love this new addition to my body, but right now I’m wishing I could go back in time so I can chicken out, say “never mind” to the artist, and go home. Luckily, it’s on my thigh so I can hide it easily, but I’m sad that I don’t adore it. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

      • I have 3 large pieces.upperback sunflowers, Russian doll, and upper arm flowers. Each tattoo I got I hate through its transition period and the really enjoyed them on me after they settle into your skin. They really become part of you. You start to not notice them when you walk by the mirror…. All I can say is…, I just got a court tattoo and I hate it !! Lol but this is the beauty of it. It’s a way of showing resilience and flexibility … We mold and change constantly can’t fight it

        It will get easier trust me!!!

      • This is the exact feeling I’m having right now. I love the design and it’s pretty easy to hide, but I just haven’t come to
        terms with the permanence of it. Part of me wishes I could go back in time and not get it, even though I planned it for a while. Did that feeling ever go away for you?

    • I stumbled upon this post because I was feeling the same way. I already have a large piece on my ribs. I got a large piece on my inner left arm. It’s really beautiful – it’s a watercolour mermaid sitting on a rock with the ocean under. I was going to get it under my ribs, but I loved it so much, I decided (over 2 months) to put it on my arm. When I look at it, I think it’s beautiful, but when I catch it out of my left eye, I don’t like it.

      The first time I got a tattoo it felt like a claim on my own body. It was art. This one was also art, it was a claim, and a representation of finding balance in this world. I feel like there is a reason I have it, even if I don’t know it now. I think you are absolutely right with body acceptance. For a long time I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, looking at my body as its weight, and neglecting the other parts that are there. Maybe this tattoo is here to help me accept and look at my body as its own piece of art. All of it. Thanks, in the end, I’m so happy that I’m not the only one who has these feelings.

  2. I haven’t had tattoo regret myself, but your reaction would not be uncommon among my group of friends who have had large pieces done. It can take a while to get used to looking down and seeing something so different from before, and so permanent. You know how when you get a hairstyle, or a new visible piercing, and you can’t stop looking at it? And I know I always have an adjustment period after changing my look up even a little, and thats with things that are temporary.You drastically altered your body, I would be concerned if there wasn’t some adustment period. You say you had this done earlier this year: it may not have been enough time yet. Check out the thread from a couple weeks ago about tattoos, and you’ll find some witty comebacks for those annoying men, and as you become more comfortable with your new ink you may find that you notice other people’s stares less. That said, if you’re really worried about never feeling comfortable in your new skin, it may be time to start putting a small amount of money away each month for removal (and if it’s the idea of permanence that is bothering you, you may find that having an “out” helps you adjust).

    • I was going to say almost the same thing! It has taken me a significant amount of time to adjust to many of my tattoos once the “honeymoon love” phase has past. For over a year after getting text on my forearm I would get catch the black in my peripheral vision almost daily, think it was a spider and freak out a little!!

      I would liken it to a new relationship, theres always that first part when you are totally lovestruck with your new partner and you commit more to each other and move in together….and then the rose coloured glasses come off and you realise that you have to learn to live with all their little habits and all the things that drive you crazy – maybe you lay awake at night thinking about smothering them with a pillow just to make the snoring stop! But you love them and so over time you become accustomed to the way they have changed your life.

      After time I have found that each has integrated itself in my identity in its own way, I hope with time that yours does the same

    • Today is wednesday. I got my first tattoo on saturday and I am in a full blown panic. I’m 54, I thought about it for a long time, but now that it’s there, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s an infinity sign with my 2 kids names in it, so it’s meaningful, but I just don’t feel like myself. I have already looked up tattoo removal. It does give me some comfort to know that others have felt regret, even though they really wanted the tattoo. Thanks

      • Hi Karen, long time since you posted but wondered how you felt now … I’m 44, just got a tattoo 2 days (symbolic of my kids) and also in full blown panic! TB

  3. I think it’s a little bit natural to take some time getting used to yourself looking different. I’ve had adjustment periods to new tattoos, where I’m just surprised to see something on my skin that I’ve been used to seeing undecorated, and it takes a little while to not be startled by it. And I won’t lie to you and say that the bullshit that comes from having tattoos…people assuming you want attention, people deciding to talk to you about it on days you really just want to be left alone, people touching your skin…ever goes away. There is a stigma attached to being tattooed, and that might be part of your problem.

    I won’t say I “regret” any of mine, though I do have a couple that are less than stellar. I have a big one on my back that was done by a friend in his basement when I was 21. He screwed it up (it’s an Indian mandala) by trying to get creative with the design. In doing so, he made it not mean what it’s supposed to mean anymore. And there was really no fixing it. For a long time, I was annoyed by it, though it was on my back so I really didn’t see it very often. I planned to save up, have the screwed up portions hit with a laser a couple of times and then fixed to preserve the meaning of the piece. Then, the friend who did it for me died; and suddenly, the fact that he did it for me became more important than the original symbolic meaning, and I found myself showing it off more often than wanting to cover it up.

    Maybe, every time you look at it and feel that bad response that society has instilled in our brains about tattoos, remind yourself of your family and how much they (and the tattoo commemorating them) mean to you. I hope you figure it out.

    • BlueCanary –
      This is great advice. I don’t think about my tattoo that much because it’s on my lower back, but sometimes I am still surprised when I see it in the mirror. And I think you’re right that some of my feelings toward it are based on how other people respond to it (“tramp stamp” etc) versus how I originally thought about it.

  4. From the sounds of it, maybe some of your changing feelings is less about the tattoo, more about how others treat you now that you have one (and maybe that is colouring your self-perceptions).

    I think @Emily is on to something in that having only one tattoo leaves you really focused on that, especially if you see it. I admit that didn’t happen for me, but my tattoo is on my shoulder blade and I rarely see it and other people rarely see it. But when there’s just one, it can feel a little like it isn’t really who you are. You aren’t a tattoo-having person. But what does that mean?

    And we’re back to perceptions. It really is an identity thing I think. How do you perceive yourself differently because of that tattoo? Has your self-identity changed to make that part of it and normal for you, or are you still focused on a previous identity.

    This is one reason that a lot of people test out a tattoo ahead of time, so they know what it’s like to have it. It really does change your appearance in a permanent way, unlike many other ways we change our appearance that can be reversed (hair grows out, piercings can be switched or removed, surgical implants can be taken out, glasses can be switched for contacts, clothes can change).

  5. I have nothing to contribute to this other than I AM SO HAPPY this post went up today. I have an appointment later this month to get my first big tattoo (on my upper left arm, I have four other small tattoos) and I’m totally not sure how I’m going to feel about it after it happens. I’m really excited about the tattoo and it should be beautiful, but I totally freaked out when I got bangs two months ago and I knew those could grow out. I have tiny fears that I’ll get this big, beautiful tattoo and then cry for six months.

    • I completely agree. I’ve been in the process of planning out my next tattoo for a bit. At first, it was going to be something to remind me of my mom and sister, who I were/are two of my best friends. Then, my mom passed away, and I still want to do something, but now it will be in honor and memorial instead of just in honor. I can’t afford to get done what I want right now, and I’m terrified that I will have tattoo regret, even though I know I will love it.

    • Temporary tattoos! Your appointment being later this month it won’t really give you time to get used to it (and even so the permanence is still an adjustment) BUT I find that temporaries really have helped inform my placements and how it affects clothing choices and such. When I found myself worrying about sleeveless dresses in front of my mother, it made me reconsider a bicep tattoo. When I’m worried about the design rather than just placement (or if I have time), I have had the tattoo artist draw the entire thing in colored permanent markers–it takes a few weeks to wear off so you want to try it a few months before your intended tattoo date, but it has definitely helped me think critically about the tattoos before I decide to get them.

      None of that helps the OP obviously but maybe someone else!

    • I know this post is a year old, but I’m just reading through your comment and I’m kind of feeling the same way right now. I just booked my first big tattoo session for my shoulder and upper arm, they’re roses and I carefully selected an amazing artist so I know they will look amazing! Problem is I don’t have any visible tattoos (other than 3 tiny stars on my wrist) and the ones I do have are not visible to me and kind of small. I’m so scared, but I’ve wanted this for a while. I’m going to go through with it, but I’m just wondering how you made out with yours? Did you have regrets?

  6. I got my first tattoo when I was 19 and it sure is silly. A big old ugly heart with wings and some terrible font in latin. When I was thinking about my halter wedding dress and it being in my wedding pictures I wanted to rush to the tattoo shop and say “FIX MY 19 YEAR OLD MISTAKE!” but I didn’t have the money or the time. I had to come to terms with myself that these tattoos (especially the ones with the latin words in script that no one can read) are a moment in your life. Whenever I start thinking about how ugly it is or how uncomfortable it makes me, I try to think what about what I got it for. Exactly how I felt when it was finished. And I also look for those who are tattooed around me so I don’t feel “freakish” and I feel more a part of the club.

    I totally agree with Emily above me. You do have to incorporate it into your identity.

    • I totally agree with this.

      I have one tattoo, of birds flying across the back of my neck/upper back. I got the tattoo at a point in my life when a lot was changing – I’d moved by myself to a new city, I was neck-deep in eating disorder recovery, and I was trying to understand who I was as an independent adult. At the time that tattoo was incredibly important. Would I get the same tattoo now? No. But it’s still beautiful and I consider it a physical reminder of that time in my life, like a scar. I remind myself sometimes that even if I wouldn’t get the same tattoo today and even if I don’t love it aesthetically like I did when I was 23, I respect the choices I made back then and I wouldn’t want to take them back or change them by removing the tattoo.

      • I have moved around quite a bit the last several years, and every time I live in a new state I get a tattoo there. They all have other meanings attached to them, but they also serve as a reminder of my experiences where I was living at the time. I feel like even if one day I regret the tattoo for some reason, I will still be glad of the reminders of how I grew and changed in each place I’ve been.

        • I’ve studied a bit of neuroscience, and learned that the human brain (particularly the prefrontal cortex which is the primary decision making part of the brain) is not fully developed until age twenty five. This explains why so many young people in their teens or early twenties frequently make decisions which are not necessarily in their long term best interests.

          Prior to the tattoo/body piercing craze (which is very likely temporary), people would maintain photo albums to remember the various phases of their lives without needing a permanent tattoo to serve that function.

          In recent years I have seen some tattoos that are genuinely interesting and beautiful, but feel that permanently altering one’s appearance via tattoos is probably not the wisest of decisions. There are many other ways to express one’s uniqueness.

          • First of all, how temporary is this craze? Because it has certainly been going on for many decades, at least.

            Secondly, I never buy into the theories that people in their teens and twenties can’t make life-long decisions. Partly because it isn’t science. It’s a theory. And the ages presented are always different. The other reason is that a lot of people over the age of 25 make a lot of stupid mistakes, while a lot of teens make really stellar choices, sometimes about tattoos, sometimes about careers, sometimes about things even more important, like social activism. I loathe ageism.

          • Heres a question: Could ones decisions before 25 directly contribute to developing their prefrontal cortex? There are so many nuanced and beautifully human stories here from people who’ve accepted their history and, arguably, grown from it. Cheers

    • Wow. I feel exceptionally better about my tattoo after reading your words. Thank you. Maybe I will reconsider a cover-up.

  7. Maybe this is making myself feel better, but I think it’s totally natural to regret electing to make a big, permanent change to your appearance. I can cut my hair and mourn my lost hairs as if they’re never, ever coming back. So of course the pigment in my flesh is going to occasionally make me pine for the days when my skin was plain.
    I have two tattoos. One behind my right ear (which is rather hard to cover up considering that I hate wearing my hair down and which my godson insists is a monkey from Barrel of Monkeys fame) and one on my left inner arm (which people always ask me whether or not is done in Sharpie–even though it’s purple–and it’s in Latin so everyone wants to know what it means, but no one seems satisfied with my explanation.)
    Like any other facet of my appearance, I have good days and bad. But like any other part of my appearance, it’s a part of me and it’s a part of what makes me so fantastically, awesomely ME.

  8. It’s because of this I have waited so far ten years before I will get my half-sleeve. I wanted one the moment I turned 18, but after getting a few little ones, I told myself to wait. That if I still loved the idea of a half sleeve when I was nearing thirty then I’ll get one. I got three relatively small tattoos in my late teens, and to this day I still love them and find them beautiful and love showing them off.

    The main reason I’m glad I waited was that it gave me time to truly think through exactly what I wanted and make it custom to my aesthetic and have parts of it that mean a lot to me. I’ve also been visualizing my arm, telling myself “soon this will be tattooed”, and I can’t help but look forward to the day.

    • I love this! I got all four of my small ones in a 6 month time span. I still really love two of them, but the other two I can take or leave. I told myself to slooooooow down and wait a little while before getting something huge so I could think it through, but I’m still a little anxious about it.

  9. I totally know how you feel. I already had two other tattoos and both are on my back so I don’t really think about them too much. For my 30th birthday I got two tattoos on the inside of my forearms that were very special to me and represented a lot that I had gone through. They were even more beautiful than I could have hoped for, but as they healed I started to feel weird about them. I didn’t regret them, but I would look at pictures of me in my wedding dress and think, “I’ll never look like that again.” But of course I wouldn’t! I’ve aged, I’ve bought a house, started a business, gone through so much, why would I want to look like I did over 3 years ago? I’m always going to look different. Although my wedding was awesome I wouldn’t go back to being that person now. I’m stronger and wiser and my tattoos are a part of that journey. I also did this stupid thing where I would be watching a tv show or a movie and see a beautiful tattoo-free actress and think, “Now I will never look like that…” OF COURSE I WON’T!! She’s a famous actress who weighs 110lbs with professional hair makeup artists who made her look perfect! Tattoos are not the only thing holding me back from looking like Karen Gillan.

    Time helped. Just getting used to them and allowing them to feel like a part of me. Also looking at tattoo websites or the tattoo tag on Tumblr. Seeing other women with tattoos made me feel less like a freak. Maybe going to a tattoo convention and seeing other people’s ink will help you feel less alone. I’ve also come to realize that I may never feel 100% behind any decision I make, about my life or my appearance. There can be room for doubt without feeling guilty.

    • Thank you for this! I just got a half sleeve started yesterday and am having serious regret because of the drastic change. You really nailed how I’m feeling and put a positive spin on it. Thank you!!

    • I completely related to this comment.. It summed me up 100% and my feelings towards my tattoos and what I have gone through the last 3 years! Lol

    • You nailed it, Chantel. I guess the key feeling here is “I will never be the same,” but that is the beauty of tattoos, in my opinion. It is a reminder that we are always changing, that some of the choices we make are irremediably permanent.
      I just got a new one, my 6th actually, but it is the biggest one of all. It’s in my right forearm so that makes it more “disturbing” to me right now, but it was beautifully done and I actually really like it. It’s the getting used to seeing it on my that is taking me some time, but reading your words is so refreshing. We humans are all the same.
      I just had this thought. Us who are here sharing this are inked people. We are already amazingly fearless and stand out from the crowd. I bet that most of us, if not all, are open minded, edgy, equality supporting, fun loving characters and having those pieces of art on our bodies set up apart in the same way our voice, thoughts and behaviors do, so all I can say is I’m feeling about 100% better now that I see I’m not alone. Everytime I look at my stunning Aries Ram outline (in red!) I will now think of all of you and I will never feel regret again. Thanks!

    • “I’ve also come to realize that I may never feel 100% behind any decision I make, about my life or my appearance. There can be room for doubt without feeling guilty.”

      This is such an important concept throughout life! I love this!

    • Thankyou so so so much for this answer! I will always remember your words if I’ll ever regret my tattoo!

    • Chantel, Your lovely positive outlook has totally transformed how I feel, I have suffered regret extremely badly since having a tattoo on my upper back. My mind has done the rounds, I decided against removal (removal-leaves scars and upsets family members, I still have the scars from a previous incomplete lasering where I even surprised myself by crying when the ink dispersed!) After my new addition I had ‘my skin will never be the same again’ syndrome and ‘isn’t her bare skin lovely, I’ve ruined mine’ etc, etc, and had good days and bad days with it, a love/hate relationship, I feel comfort that I have not suffered alone as non-tat people do not understand and just say ‘you chose it’. If only they knew!! Well, after reading your uniquely wise opinion, I feel totally different, have stopped the mental punishment I was giving myself!! When I start to think negative, your words cut in and I see sense! I can’t thank you enough! X

    • When I finished the first of my two half sleeves (upper arms) I had a similar, yet also different reaction. It was my first large visible tattoo, and right after the piece was completed, I had looked it in a mirror at the tattoo shop, and it seemed so right that it was there, and of course I had just sat for several hours and watched it being completed,so well, of course it was there. And I was in a tattoo shop, and everybody there was tattooed, or getting tattooed, and so was I. So, yeah, no big deal, right?.

      But the next morning I got up and immediately started my cleaning routine. In the process, I glanced up and and saw myself in the bathroom mirror. It was the first time I that truly saw my tattooed self in my normal life context. It really shocked me – it was like I was looking at another person, a stranger. Somehow seeing the tattooed me in my normal routine, made it suddenly very real, and very foreign. My sleeve seemed huge, bigger than I remembered at the shop. At first it freaked me out, and I thought, “Omigod, I did this?”

      I went closer to the mirror sort of looked at myself for a while, and I do remember saying out loud, “My skin will never be plain again. My arm is going to be like this forever.” But I also remember smiling after saying that. I was actually exhilarated by the thought that it would never be the same. I liked that feeling. I made a choice to alter my body forever. “Yes, I did this!”

      It did take me about a year to get over the surprise of seeing it in the mirror in the morning, or catching it out of the corner of my eye when I was in the middle of doing something else. When I took a shower I sometimes scrubbed at it especially hard. just to prove to myself that it was indeed there forever. But now it is just a part of me, both physically and emotionally.

      For me, that is part of the appeal of tattoos — you have to go through process of healing until your body finally accepts the tattoo as a permanent part of your skin, and you also have to go through a mental healing process, until your brain finally accepts them as permanent part of you. You have to adjust to being different. I love that.

  10. My very first tattoo was ginormous. It covered the entire front of my right thigh, from hip to kneecap. I love it, it’s beautiful, but for months after I got it, it FREAKED me out. It was like, holy shit, my leg will never look the same again EVER. It took time to adjust to such a big change in my body. I didn’t really see it as regret so much as I saw it as a period of adjustment. It’s a big change to something as personal as your body. I’d give it more time, I’ve had mine now for 6 years and I honestly sometimes forget it’s even there, it’s just like the freckle on my shoulder or the scar on my left knee. It’s become a part of me.

  11. i have three tattoos. one i got when i was 18, and i still love it, although it’s top-center of my back so i often forget it’s there unless i catch a glimpse of it in the mirror when i’m coming out of the shower, or someone comments on it when i’m wearing a tank top or something. my other two i got within four months of each other when i was 27 and are memorial tattoos for my late husband. one is beautiful (a swallow with sprigs of rosemary and forget-me-nots, and a ribbon with his initials and “ego dilecto meo et dilectus meus” in his handwriting on the left side of my chest) and the other always always always sparks questions, because it’s mostly in binary (it’s ALL numbers) and i put it on the inside of my left forearm, about halfway down, so only long sleeves cover it. people constantly ask what it is/means. in some ways i regret not putting that one up higher so at least 3/4 sleeves would cover it, so i can avoid questions and also avoid having to wear long sleeves in summer when i go back to work. the swallow, i regret not putting up higher so you can see all of it when wearing things other than a bathing suit or just a bra. usually only the tail of the swallow pokes out, and it’s so beautiful. whenever i see them though, i think about what they represent and how much that means to me and the regrets fade…the memory is worth it.

    either way, there’s always an adjustment period, especially for larger pieces and for pieces that are visible on a daily basis. i would wager that the less time you gave yourself to get used to the idea of a particular tat before getting it, the longer the adjustment period is. my first tat i’d picked out when i was 14 and still loved at 18, but i still count myself lucky that i still like it at 30 because i was so young. i’m planning a large back piece to represent my own perseverance during the very tough time in my life following the death of my husband (it should cover all of the upper left quadrant, plus trail a little into the lower right and over my left shoulder/down my left arm a little), but i’ve been planning it for close to 3 years now. try giving yourself a little more time to get used to it. i also like the idea of putting a little money away each month for removal, even if you don’t think you’ll use it, because having that out can take some of the pressure off and help you feel more comfortable with it. also, remember what it means to you and what it represents. good luck.

    • I agree with the majority of your advice and appreciated your story. I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy here….but “tattoo removal” is not something that is ever going to bring your skin back to the state that it was in before you were tattooed. You’re either looking at a cleaner slate for new work to go over….or a fairly gnarly looking scarred area. For better or worse, once the decision is made to put ink in the skin, it will never again look like the fresh virgin skin it was before no matter what you do.

  12. I totally understand being caught off-guard and maybe put off by the attention. It’s actually one of the major reasons I decided I don’t want a larger tattoo. My hair has been dyed blue for the last 6 months, was yellow for 6 before that, and to be honest I am super sick of talking about it. To the point that I’m contemplating dying it brown again just so I don’t have to have any more conversations about how my hair matches my eyes / shirt / car / sky / etc.

  13. I agree with most commenters about having a natural adjustment period. My reaction to my biggest tattoo was the opposite, I hated it at first but it’s growing on me. I was so excited to get it, but it did not turn out the way I wanted. I cried so hard realizing my arm would never look the way it did before and thinking about how I had ruined my skin. Other people seem to like it, but positive comments don’t mean squat if I don’t like it. I’ve learned to accept it since then though, and plan on adding to it to make it a half sleeve.

    What helps me is kind of a depressing thought, but true: in the end, it doesn’t matter. One day, I won’t be here anymore. My skin won’t be here anymore. What I looked like while I was on this Earth will not matter. Good or bad, you will probably have your tattoos for the rest of your life, but when thinking about the scope of eternity, life is not that long, and I might as well enjoy getting inked while I’m here! It’s as much about the experience to me as it is about the resulting artwork. Also, I think of every tattoo like a piece of a map telling the story of where I’ve been. Tattoos become a part of you that like everything else you have to learn to love:)

    • I really enjoyed your comment. I don’t have any tattoos myself, but sometimes I think – “well Me, you only have one life – maybe you should just go for it!”

      • Just be ready for an emotional roller coaster:) My first ones were small and on my back, that way I thought if I did end up not liking them one day I didn’t have to look at them. Now my attitude almost a decade later is “screw it, let’s do it”! They keep getting bigger and bigger (that’s what she said) and in more visible spots. But it’s not for everyone either. People might say the same thing about other body mods but there are some that I would never personally do.

    • When people say “how is that tattoo going to look when you’re old and wrinkly?” this is what I think about. Sure, I wanted to wait to get tattooed until I knew I was ready and loved my artist and design, and I’m glad I didn’t rush into it. But when I was in the early stages of considering whether I actually wanted to go through with a tattoo at all, I tried to imagine what I’d feel like, as an old woman looking back on my life, if I had never taken the plunge. I think I would totally regret NOT getting my tattoo! It’s so meaningful to me, it’s something I wanted to do in my life, and I’m happy I’ll get to have my tattoo for many, many years. And eventually, tattooed or not, we all end up with baggy skin, and then with no skin at all. I’m going to be one badass 80 year old.

      • YES! I sat on the bus next to a woman who had to at least be in her late 60s, and she was COVERED in tattoos. Brightly colored ones, text, designs, etc. Some of them were better than others, but they were all so cool and she looked really amazing. The best part (to me) was that she was totally wearing a regular ole grandma-style pantsuit and hat, totally dressed in a very regular, non-attention attracting way, but she had so many tattoos. It was really cool to see.

    • Wow. I’ve screen grabbed this as it’s just calmed me down after getting a rather large tattoo that I’m not happy with. Wise words.

    • Thanks for this comment, it helped me a lot. I don’t hate my tattoo but it’s just not how I expected it to be, and I don’t feel how I expected to feel. I feel very, very weird, and emotional, I can’t eat or smile, I just feel numb and all I can think of is this thing on my back. Your comment gave me hope. thanks

  14. I have a large, very pretty flur de lis tattoo on my back that i got in rebellion to a boyfriend who didn’t like tattoos. I didnt really love it for a while. But now, a few years later i am married (dif guy) and very happy and i realize my tattoo is pretty, and represents a time in my life where i stood up for what i wanted.

    • I have a “got it in defiance of a boyfriend who hated tattoos” tattoo, too! And even though it’s not one I’d get today, I still love what it represents to me.

      • Why would you do that to someone? My wife (57) just got her “first” (says it’s going to be her only. yeah right) and I have been depressed since. It’s been a week. I can’t eat, sleep, I don’t want to do anything. My passions have lost all of their meaning. I just want to sit in solitude and be sad. All of this and I don’t even “hate” tattoos. “Honey. It’s a nice looking tattoo. Everyone will love it.” I told her. “Except you.” she replied. I almost cried like a baby.
        It’s probably going to take me longer to get used to it than her. And it’s not something that I can just ignore. She knows I feel this way but I don’t know if she has any regret.
        I don’t want her to taint her view of it so I keep it to myself and suffer.

        • It’s 100% not a normal response to feel depressed about someone else getting a tattoo, especially as you said you don’t even hate them. Your wife is just doing something for herself/expressing herself and that’s a great thing! You should definitely talk to her more seriously about this so you can get to the bottom of why she got the tattoo and why it makes you feel this way.

  15. I have a huge back tattoo that was in tribute to my mother who passed away a few years ago. It was my way of finalizing my grief. I based my design off of a Japanese literature horror story about two souls that were so in love they were destined to be together forever. They would meet once, fall madly in love with one another, spend one night together never to see each other again; till the other comes haunting the living one gradually killing them, over and over again in every reincarnation they have. It may seem kind of odd, and I get a lot of looks about it when people see it and ask me about it, but it made the most sense to me when I read the story. Thus far I haven’t regretted this tattoo. I have regretted others in the past. In fact this one is covering one I am sorry I got. My tattoo is not done, it was 5.5 hours in the chair just to outline it and will probably take at least another 10-15 to color it. It gives me solace to see it, and to know it’s there, to carry it around with me. Typically with a back tattoo most people don’t see it regularly, but I am not very typical I am a burlesque performer and belly dancer so people see it a lot. While I am not offended when people ask me about it, it gets really annoying. And I am totally not down with the touchy, touchy. This was also my first large tattoo. And I am proud of it and I refuse to feel sorry for something that brings me so much peach and joy.

    • That story sounds incredibly beautiful. I can completely understand being inspired by it! (Do you mind if I ask for the title/author?)

  16. I have two half sleeves and a huge one that goes right across my shoulders. I also have a small cupcake on my left wrist. My designs are very feminine, mostly flowers, and all for someone in my life that I love. Most days I don’t even think about them, I’ve had them for so long. But when my tattoos are exposed, I become so self conscience. Like the world is looking at me. I’m rockabilly, I’m far from the only person in my scene with tattoos, but still sometimes I feel like I’m on display. It’s an odd feeling.
    People also have no boundaries, they ask inappropriate questions, they grab, they touch, they just over step any limit. My right arm is a memorial to my past finance who died at the age of 25. I didn’t put his name, I put what we called us a couple which was Rohn. I have to explain who Rohn is all the time. Which in turns makes people feel either embarrassed they asked or feel sad for me.
    I also work at a really conservative job, REALLY conservative job. When my boss saw my cupcake for the first time, she flipped. I had already had the tattoo for two years before she noticed mind you. (She doesn’t know about the rest of them)
    It makes it hard to be accepting of the art you picked out when people around you seem question it. I love my designs, but sometimes, I want to hide them.

  17. Trigger warning for this comment! Scars and causing them, nothing graphic.

    I didn’t regret my tattoo after I got it, and I thought I was prepared for how it would change when my body changed. It’s on my hip-bone, so it’s in an area that’s known to stretch and deform tattoos with pregnancy. So it is a physical representation of he fact that my body changed, grew and stretched parts of me including my tattoo, and it wasn’t because I was growing another human being. That change and the lack-of-higher-purpose for it has been very difficult for me to handle, and loving my body because of it has been very difficult. So on the one hand, there’s a little sadness about the tattoo being stretched funky, and sometimes wishing I’d gotten it elsewhere (actually half of the desire to have it elsewhere is just because I want it seen more often!). On the other hand, I don’t actually REGRET it in the sense that if I could I would go back and change it. But I still plan on getting pregnant at some point, so I’m not planning or saving for any big tattoo fixer service any time soon. It is what it is, and it’s going to be what it’s going to be for a good long while.

    So I too am using the tattoo as a focal point for the difficult self-love. Surprisingly, the only stretch marks that bother me are the ones inside the tattoo (I had so many from puberty that all faded out and other than being itchy sometimes which can make me panic, they don’t seem to bother me emotionally). It helps me remember to put lotion on to make the stretch marks less itchy because “gotta treat the thirsty tattoo” but hey the rest of me gets lotion too! It helps me remember to touch my body which in turn helps me be comfortable with it, and the scars through my happy memory are pretty representative of my life so it helps me curb the occasional desire for self-harm. Remembering to love on myself and the choices I’ve made that affect my physical self have helped me remember to love on myself and the choices I make with my emotional self.

  18. I got some lyrics tattooed on my forearm about a year ago and it freaked me out for a long time. I still get angry when people touch it without permission or make asinine comments about it but I love my tattoo and I let that other shit roll off me.
    I learned to love it/accept it/not mourn the skin it covers by looking at it a lot. I’d look at it, freak out, and then really look at it: think about how beautiful it is, think about the day I got it, admire how well it was healing, etc. Whenever I worried that I was going to regret it forever I’d sternly tell myself that I could either regret it or decide to love it, but either way I was stuck with it.
    So give yourself some time, don’t fight your misgivings but deal with them honestly and if you have to, go the tough love route.

  19. I had serious negative feedback from family after a couple of my tattoos- so much so that I had regret about them. In this sense, I can empathize with what you’re going through. I want to be able to completely love them. They are beautiful designs that I loved as personal sketches and am proud to have contributed to. It’s hard to deal with negative self-talk or negative other-talk about them. I deal with it by reminding myself that my skin is my skin, and I love myself. I love my body, including modifications and scars that are left behind by life, or by the decision to get a tattoo. I found that embracing the image as my skin instead of as an image on my skin was the tipping point for me.

  20. My first tattoo was two large colourful swallows on my chest. I’ve had them for about 3 years now. When I first got them, I found it hard to deal with the attention, but its really just part of having a visible, and sometimes different, tattoo (especially if you live somewhere that’s on the conservative side, like I do). You can’t avoid it, and at the end of the day, most people who get tattoos get them somewhere where others can see them, so its best just to brace yourself for questions and comments, and realise its just part of it! For people worrying about getting tattoos, and if they will like them or not like them in the future, my best advice is to get a really good quality tattoo by a really good artist. At least that way, even if its not your favourite in the future, it’ll still look good and be a lovely piece of art!
    I treated my tattoo like an item of clothing I’m wearing for the rest of my life – if you were going to buy a dress that you had to wear forever, you probably would buy something extremely good quality, right?! 🙂

  21. I have 9 tattoos currently. 4 I got when I was 18-19, and 5 I’ve gotten in the past few years (late 20s-early 30s). I don’t regret the ones I got when I was younger, none of them are embarrassing, but none of them are things I would choose to get now, and I’m glad that I went for less-visible places at that point in my life. They still mean something to me and I’m glad I have them, but also glad I have them in places that are more hidden (lower back, stomach, back of my shoulder, back of my ankle).

    The tattoos I’ve gotten more recently are all very large and/or visible. And I love, love, love them. But I’ve still had those moments, especially when I got the first one–3 lines of text covering my whole forearm–of being unsettled by the prominence and permanence of it. I’m planning on getting a half-sleeve whenever I can afford it, and even though I’ve got very tatted-up looking arms already, and I’ve wanted this half sleeve for a long time and my artist is amazing and I know it will be gorgeous, I still feel apprehensive sometimes when I think about that large of a part of my body being covered in ink. I know I’ll still do it, and I know I’ll love it. But I also think the apprehensions and the mixed feelings are normal when making such a huge and permanent change.

  22. When I completed my masters I had a huge panic attack about 2 of my 3 tattoos (very small but visible) in a professional setting. I started the process of having them lasered off. After one or two appointments, I had a serious accident. So serious, I’ve not been able to work since. Eventually, I went back to have the removal completed, but I have to admit that I regret having one of them removed! I got it at a time in my life when I was happiest. It was a post-card to myself that I’ll never have again and it really makes me sad that I no longer have it.
    Maybe if I was able to actually start a professional life I wouldn’t regret it, but since I was injured immediately after graduating, I only mourn the loss of the image and the happy memories around it. Something to consider if you decide to do forward with removal!
    I should add that tattoo removal is a very long and expensive process too. Not to mention painful. A lot more painful than the application of the tattoo! The bigger the piece and the more colour involved, the longer it will take, the more expensive it will be, and the removal may not be complete. Blacks/blues remove fairly well. Reds/oranges do not. You may end up with splotchy marks that will never go away. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s good to know!

    • I’m sorry about your injury. My step sister is an English professor at a university and she has visible tattoos. One of my college professors also had a big one on her thigh and wore skirts every day. I think society is getting a lot more comfortable with them and won’t judge you as harshly as you might think. I do know where you’re coming from though, which is why I was hesitant to get one in a visible place until I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I hope you recover and I hope you get your tattoo back if it makes you happy!

  23. Thank you so much for this post! I am in the exact same boat and I was embarrassed to feel this way so I’ve never told anyone. I thought I was the only one, so I’m relieved to know I’m not. Over a year ago I got a half sleeve that is a combo of two of my favorite childhood things (Wizard of Oz and Rainbow Brite), and it’s a tattoo I’ve been thinking about for 10 years, so I figured there’s no freakin’ way I wouldn’t love it. Right? I do love the tattoo, it’s adorable and exactly what I wanted, but…I miss my inkless bare arm. Tattoos are awesome, but naked skin is beautiful too. I dunno… Certain outfits just look so differently on me now. I really like when the tattoo is fully showing (like when I wear sleeveless clothes) but it bugs me when it’s only half covered by short sleeves. I want all or nothing, and that’s impractical. Part of why I don’t like it half showing is because the majority of the bottom half is green, so it’s just too much green. When the top is showing too then there’s more beautiful colors and I’m more proud of it and enjoy seeing it more. I don’t regret it, and I do love it, but I feel like I should’ve gotten it somewhere less visible. I wouldn’t ever consider tattoo removal because the skin will never look “normal” again, and I’d rather have art than what crappiness would be leftover after removal. Plus, I love it so why would I remove it anyways. I’m just really hoping that all these feelings will go away with time.

    As far as the attention it gets, I don’t mind that at all. But I don’t like people touching me. That’s just rude and quite frankly creepy. At a wedding a couple weeks ago, some creepy dude came up to me and started giving me his opinion that he didn’t like that I had put Rainbow Brite in Oz, as if I give a shit of his opinion. Then he told me I should have her elsewhere and proceeded to touch me to show me the other places. Like, my back, other arm, and chest (yes, CHEST! WTF dude?!).

    Anyhoot, I hope (for both of us) that it’s just a matter of time for us to have it become such a part of who we are that we don’t think twice about any of it.

    • I’ve *just* got a tattoo of two of MY favourite childhood things (Mary Poppins and Totoro). I was super excited about it but then the appointment kept getting post-poned and I developed an irrational fear of getting the tat. I have 9 tats and I really wanted this one so I decided to go ahead. It’s only just healing now and it was a bit of a tricky heal – I’m still waiting to see what will need to be (and hopefully be ok to be) touched up. I do really love it though but I think I’m going through what everyone else has been saying – it’s my first big, full colour so I am learning to embrace and love it.

  24. I have 9 tattoos, and all but one are very large and very colorful. Some of them are not particularly well done (although not terrible), and some of them are fairly well done and aesthetically pleasing. I got them between the ages of 18 and 22. I had decided I wanted to be A Tattooed Person. I was young and didn’t think much beyond that, and I had the money and just went out and got them when the fancy struck me. Then I stopped getting tattoos because it just hasn’t been in the cards, financially, and since then, I have come to regret my tattoos.

    I am a very private person, at least with people I am not close to, and I have realized I hate the attention it brings me. I never want to discuss the meanings of my tattoos with people standing in line at the grocery store or the bank or customers at work. And yet they always lift up my sleeve (or skirt!) and ask me about the personal meanings behind them. And then they want to give me their opinion on the design, the execution, and the meaning. Sometimes they are positive, but just as often they are not.

    I also regret them because honestly, I don’t have the same interests that I used to. I wouldn’t get the same things over again that I did when I was 18. And that’s why I haven’t gotten more – I don’t know if what I want at 25 will be what I want at 35. I’m so impulsive, I just can’t say if what I love right now will be what I love in 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years.

    But…on the other hand…they are going to be there forever. There is no way I am getting 9 tattoos removed, and you know what…they’re apart of me now. They are who I was, part of who I am, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. I am sort of committed to tattoos now – I am A Tattooed Person, even though sometimes I would rather not be, maybe. So I am sure I will get more tattoos in the future, although they will have more thought put into what they are and where they go.

  25. I know how you feel. I am heavily tattooed (I’m talking sleeves, chest, face, neck, throat, palms) and now and then I get a bit jaded about my tattoos and wonder if they were worth it. Then I get a timely compliment on them and people fascinated by it and I get to make new friends because of it! And I browse pictures of stunning tattooed women and get inspired again. So, trust me, it will pass and it will come back, then pass again. It’s always difficult to adjust to a permanent change.

    And if you do really get sick of it, you can do what I do. Some of mine look a bit disjointed and outdated, so I’m getting them covered up with something new! I agree that tattoo removal always comes off looking shoddy, so change it up if you really need to! Or just remember that it must have signified a very important point in your life, and is therefore a permanent reminder that change is a part of life.

    Good luck!

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