Eyes are the window to the soul – as much as the saying is true, there is much more (to be perceived) than meets the eye – in a person’s physical appearance as an indicator of their personality, experiences and beliefs. For example, fashion items such as clothes and accessories have stayed with us as a steadfast form of self-expression in portraying authenticity. But what about others like body modifications, a permanent adornment as a reflection of someone’s distinct identity?
Tattoos and piercings have gradually moved past the state of being tolerated and accepted, into being normalized and celebrated. Today, many walk on the streets of countries and cities worldwide, sporting limitless forms of body art invariably imbued with motive, meaning and novelty. Behind each eyebrow-raising tattoo or piercing, a seemingly superficial addition to one’s appearance, is a chasm of profundity in emotion, significance or artistry.
In this article, let’s take a glimpse into the deep-seated symbolism of body modifications that may spur individuals to explore this unique form of expression.
Personality and Individuality
Tattoos can serve as a visual display of an individual’s beliefs, experiences and values by using the body as a canvas to showcase personal and meaningful designs. Many times, custom tattoos are unique and genuinely individualistic. These can be representative of stories or ideas crafted around life events, gained perspectives and personal style. Piercings, similarly, are often used to solidify an individual’s sense of identity, adding on to their innate collection of characteristics that make them unique.
Seen as an investment in their appearance, tattoos and piercings can be impactful and empowering, allowing individuals to portray themselves in their rawest, most authentic form to the outside world. This yearning for self-expression can also be aspirational, helping the wearer stay true to themselves and their practices, ideas and beliefs. By honestly communicating their mindset and thoughts through body art, individuals may experience higher levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as pride and ownership over their physical attributes, fostering better body image.
Honoring and remembering special people in our lives, or momentous events are among some of the most common motivations behind getting tattoos or piercings. Functioning as an everlasting tribute to someone or something close to our hearts, these body modification methods hold deep and personal meanings that can guide us through the ups and downs of life, providing comfort, support and constant reminders.
The process of getting a memorial tattoo or piercing can be therapeutic to some. In engaging a professional tattoo or piercing artist, and beating out the steps towards the final product, individuals remember, acknowledge and come face to face with their loss, challenges or milestones. The whole process allows them to work out their emotions and insights in a natural manner, letting matters resolve and come to a close of their own volition, with the potential of gaining a sense of continuity following significant life events. As healing progresses, individuals attain newfound resilience and growth, along with a bittersweet token of survival and triumph.
Demonstrating Artistry or Creativity
Whether it is simple line art or realistic portraits, the artistic value in tattoos is undeniable as they encompass the same numerous principles that govern other creative mediums. From proportion and harmony, to color and contrast, much technique and skill go into the art of tattooing to effectively capture the essence and vision intended by the wearer.
When perfectly executed, tattoos are a great way to flaunt an individual’s creative flair. Embedded with profound depth, tattoos are also frequently narratives, experiences and ideas that are transformed into symbolic and meaningful designs. Some individuals who are artistically inclined may take this to the next level by coming up with their own design before assigning a tattoo artist to refine and implement it for them. In this way, tattoos as wearable pieces of art are more than skin deep, unlocking emotional fulfillment and accomplishment with one-of-a-kind masterpieces for individuals.
Painting rich religious tapestries from motifs of gods, deities to mythological creatures, tattoos seem to always have been associated with the huge landscape of cultures and traditions across regions. Aligning with an individual’s cultural or ethnic identity, tattoos and piercings have been used as markers of ancestry, social status, achievements, rites of passage and even devotion. In some cultures, these body modification methods are also believed to offer protection, shielding the wearer against malevolent entities and bad luck.
While the importance of culturally motivated body art is no longer as enforced, the number of individuals choosing to embellish themselves with sacred symbols and images hasn’t been met with a sharp decline. Instead, presently, many choose to reconnect with their roots by asserting their cultural identity in the form of tattoos and piercings. In seeking out artists who share the same culture, individuals can also work towards reviving past traditions to preserve and retain their heritage.
Tattoos and piercings can indirectly connect individuals with like-minded people who share the same interests, values and experiences. These art forms serve as effective conversation starters that invite others who have encountered similar situations or are in specific subcultures to come forward and identify with each other.
Tattoos and piercings have also presented themselves as a way to celebrate relationships in the realm of social bonding. Couples, friends and even family members get matching tattoos to symbolize their special connections while creating unique and memorable experiences. At the same time, these bodily adornments act as a pleasant reminder of unification, commitment and belonging that can strengthen existing ties and deepen relationships.
Thrill and Excitement
Experimenting with body modifications requires a leap of faith. As with most risk-taking behaviors, this can result in a rush of adrenaline in a combination of anxiousness, nervousness and excitement. The thrill and novelty of this experience can be appealing to some, making getting tattoos and piercings a relatively addicting activity.
While this is mainly based on chemical reactions within the body from a fight-or-flight response, others may find a different kind of surge from getting their body art done. You may be surprised to find out that some individuals seek a stronger sense of connection within themselves in the midst of pain, where soul meets body. With the sensation being a universal human experience that’s heavily linked to mindfulness and spirituality, experiencing the discomfort from getting tattooed or pierced can prompt a philosophical quest for existential answers, self-reflections and emotional processing.
The alienation of body modifications such as tattoos and piercings have persisted for far too long. As a collective society, it is time for us individuals to embrace and adopt acceptance and inclusivity for bodies of all shapes, features and sizes.
With the prevalence of body art and the celebration of individuality, tattoos and piercings have been running at the forefront of the body positivity movement as it swells with momentum, especially in recent years. From challenging stereotypes, defying societal norms to recognizing the power of art, even on skin, tattoos and piercings are a timeless mode of expression in art, culture and the self.
Learn more about tattoos and piercings with us at Ink by Finch, a studio that specializes in helping clients manifest the most extraordinary parts of themselves on skin.